Save Money Fast: 9 Procrastination-Proof Moves to Cut Hundreds in Costs This Month
The Economist recently wondered, in a tweet, why millennials aren't buying diamonds. The Twittersphere promptly countered with a question of its own: With what money?
Millennials face a national unemployment rate far higher than that of the rest of the population, as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has reported. Forget diamonds: Young people have far more straightforward needs, including building emergency savings and scrounging up enough cash to stay on top of credit card and student loan debt payments.
For many, the hardest part is getting started. Maybe you already know saving is important; but where do you even begin?
We've got some ideas.
In order to build wiggle room into your budget, you'll need to cut costs: This checklist will help you live on less — with relatively low effort.
1. Go on a "cash only" diet.
Sometimes the best way to spend less is to give yourself less to spend in the first place.
Studies have shown using credit cards makes spending feel more intangible, whereas paying with cash hurts a little — leading people to spend less.
For that reason, it can be a good idea to simply take out a set amount of cash each month, and try to make it last. This move allows you to budget in real time and see your money disappear, which could make you more conscientious in your spending.
Depending on how strict you are with yourself, your cash-only habit could save you between $50 and $300 monthly, Business Insider suggests, citing I Will Teach You to Be Rich author Ramit Sethi.
2. Learn to stir-fry.
You've heard it before, but cooking homemade meals isn't just a minor cost-cutter. We are talking about $500 a month for those who resist the siren song of Seamless.
Yes, preparing and packing lunch requires foresight, but compare: Thirty days of $10 lunches and $15 delivery dinners for lunch and dinner versus $50-ish dollars for groceries per week. Depending on the number of restaurant or delivery meals you forgo, you could save anywhere from tens to hundreds of dollars.
CreditDonkey recommends always shopping with a grocery list, and never while hungry. Carrying coupons and shopping on a full stomach (to prevent impulse purchases) can help you save while perusing the aisles.
Another good rule of thumb is to always look at per-pound prices on food — not just sticker prices.
3. Plug that coffee drain.
Say you go to Starbucks every morning and you buy the largest possible drip coffee at $2.25, plus tip, for a total of $3. Once a day, for a whole month, that adds up to $90.
Coffee made at home, on the other hand, requires the initial investment of brewing tools — say, a $20 french press — and the cost of beans or grounds, which needn't set you back more than about $10 for a one-pound bag equaling about 40 cups of joe. Even just in your first month of home-brewing coffee, you'll have saved $60.
Or, hold your nose, drink that free office coffee, and pocket the full savings.
4. Remix your commute.
Carpooling can save commuters thousands of dollars a year versus driving alone.
Live in a big city?
Buying a bicycle can cut costs even deeper, since you're mostly just paying for the one-time investment (plus maintenance) — and if you shop during a big sale or buy a bike secondhand, the total cost might be even less than the price of a monthly MetroCard in New York City.
5. Purge your wardrobe.
A convenient way to earn cash quickly is on eBay: Those long-untouched items of clothing hanging in your closet could translate to $40 to $100 of found money monthly if you sell at least one piece every four weeks or so, according to I Will Teach You to Be Rich author Ramit Sethi.
And, of course, if you're shopping for a new item, Sethi suggests you check websites like eBay and Overstock.com. If you absolutely must buy those sunglasses or that shirt, chances are the internet can help you find it at a way-below-retail price.
6. Cut that cord and don't look back.
Cable costs a serious dime: Nearly $100 per month by recent measures.
Subscription sites, on the other hand, each cost about a tenth of that. Netflix, HBO Now, Hulu, Amazon Prime and other services have lots of content (especially if you combine multiple services) and can meet many viewers' needs.
You'll have to pick and choose to some extent, or else you could end up back at (or close to) $100 per month, but if you narrow down one to three services that cover your favorite shows, you could cut costs by half or more.
Even better? See if your favorite shows are available to stream on their parent networks' websites for free, which is often the case for at least a limited time after episodes air.
7. Unsubscribe, unsubscribe, unsubscribe.
On the topic of subscriptions: Think about paring those down.
Sethi advises canceling all subscriptions — to newspapers, magazines, video and music streaming services, gym memberships — and instead purchasing items you want on a case-by-case basis.
Loath to let go of your gym?
As many a cost-savvy bride knows, a tiny bit of searching can unearth free yoga classes at your local library — or you could always try working out to a free online video.
8. Designate a weekly expense-free day.
According to I Will Teach You How to Be Rich, instituting one day of the week on which no money will be spent at all is an easy way to keep money in your wallet — between $5 and $75, depending on your spending habits.
As hard as it may sound, the tips you have seen so far can get you most of the way there: Just brown-bag lunch, bike to work, drink the free coffee at your office and skip happy hour in favor of a fun, free activity.
You'll go to bed feeling that much richer.
9. Rent out your pad.
If all else fails, you can always crash with a friend and rent out your place for a weekend.
Assuming your landlord permits it, using Airbnb can be a quick way to earn a big chunk of change — especially if you can command higher prices by doing it over a holiday.
Just like selling clothes cluttering up your closet, renting out your place means net-positive cash. Just be smart, and put that windfall toward savings.