by Hillary Patin

Life Hacks to Save More Money Each Month

If you’re strapped for cash every month, it might be time to reconsider your game plan. From being smart about spending to eliminating guilt about saving, here are a few life hacks to help you save money.

If you find yourself constantly strapped for cash, have no account buffer, or have your eye on a lifestyle upgrade, finding ways to systematically save money each month can help you reach your goal. Here’s how to get started.

Work with yourself, not against yourself

Saving more money doesn’t have to be about cutting your daily coffee, feeling guilty about spontaneous buys, or trying harder. Before you start slashing expenses left and right, start with these three steps to set yourself up for successful saving.

  1. Recognize that saving is not about more willpower. You may have tried and failed to save money in the past. If trying didn’t work then, don’t expect it to work now. Trying harder to save, or summoning more willpower to save, is not going to work. If you’re serious about saving money, putting systems in place that make it easy for you to save is the way to go.

  2. Be realistic. When planning on how to save or how much money to save, be realistic. For instance, if you eat out most nights or buy a daily morning coffee, don’t plan to go cold turkey in order to save money because it’s likely you won’t stick to it. Making gradual changes over time to your habits will make it more likely that you’ll stick with them.

  3. Automate your savings. Automating your finances is the best step you can take to save money with ease. You can have your employer funnel your money to two accounts instead of one, have your bank automatically move a small amount into your savings account every month, or set a Goal specifically for saving with your Simple account. Whichever you choose to do, the idea is that you have money you want to save monthly automatically funneled into a place separate from the rest of your money. Automating your savings makes it effortless to grow your savings and more difficult to spend the money you’ve saved.

Focus on big wins first

If you’re trying to save money by cutting costs, focusing your attention where you can save the most money for the least amount of effort is a great place to start. For instance:

  1. Negotiate your car insurance. If you own a car you’ll be better off negotiating your car insurance than trying to cut back on small expenses, like your daily coffee. Think of it like this: trying to decide whether or not to buy coffee everyday is a daily $3 decision whereas negotiating for lower car insurance takes one day and could save you hundreds of dollars every year. Even better, if you don’t own a car at all, you’re probably saving thousands every year by walking, biking, carpooling, and using public transit.

  2. Lower the cost of your cell phone plan. Similarly, with a few phone calls, you can negotiate your cell phone plan to save more each month. Make a few awkward phone calls today and you could be saving money on your phone bill month after month into the infinite future.

Gradually change your lifestyle

Once you’ve automated your savings and reduced some monthly expenditures, consider making some lifestyle changes to save more money each month:

  1. Plan out your meals weekly and grocery shop with a list. If you eat out often and find yourself wandering the grocery store aimlessly, try looking up a few recipes and creating a grocery list. You’ll not only save money making home-prepped meals, but also by not buying expensive food impulsively.

  2. Weekly “no-spend day.” While practicing a weekly no-spend day can save you money, it’s real power lies in its ability to make you conscious about your spending. For instance, if you know no-spend day is tomorrow, you’ll have to think ahead of all of the things you might buy tomorrow–like lunch–so you can take care of them today.

  3. Buy generic. If you don’t currently buy generic, give it a shot. If you’re not convinced, check out NPR’s studies on how pharmacists are more likely to buy generic medicine and chefs are more likely to buy generic food.

  4. Start freelancing. If you’ve made it all the way through this list, then you’ll soon be entering the penny-pinching zone of saving tactics. If you’re in the penny-pinching zone, it could be because you are living beyond your means. If you don’t want to cut your regular expenses and downgrade, consider earning money on the side. For every person out there that’s thinking, “I couldn’t freelance! What would I even do?” I promise you: there is something you could freelancing. From being an after school tutor, professional organizer, or dog walker, there are plenty of ways to make some extra money on the side. Becoming a freelancer is definitely easier said than done, but it might be worth considering if you’re running out of ways to cut costs.

  5. Stop feeling guilty. Whether you’re pinching pennies or not, it’s time to stop feeling guilty about money: spending it, saving it, having it, not having it. If you’re feeling guilty, get in the habit of managing your finances, even in a basic way. Knowing about your money should help you feel confident and guilt-free.

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