If you were to experience a minor emergency, would you be able to pay for it with cash? What about a large emergency — could your savings absorb the cost?
Building an emergency fund isn’t the only reason to save, either. There are also things like being able to add more to your student loan repayment and getting rid of that debt faster, or tucking money away for a travel fund or whatever else gets you excited. Either way, the more ways you can find to save, the more options you have in front of you. The question is, how to do it without forcing yourself into frugality?
Believe it or not, you can find ways to save money that don’t wreck your lifestyle so you won’t feel restricted by your savings goals. Read on to discover ways to save that don’t require you to become a number- and spreadsheet-loving financial guru.
Ways to save money while living the luxe life
Lovers of luxury might think there’s no way to save and get the lifestyle they want. Luckily, it’s not true. Financial writer and author of “Get Money,” Kristin Wong, talks about how she turns expensive buys into a savings trigger:
“If you tend to spend too much on restaurants (I know it’s not just me), make it a rule to save a percentage of what you spend every time you dine out.”
You could put $25 into savings, for example, if you spent $50 on dinner. In her words, “you budget for the tip, why not budget for yourself?”
And if you want to save money on nice meals so you can try this tip without going broke, look for apps that help. For example, if you live in a city served by MealPal, you can subscribe and get high-end lunches at bargain prices.
Likewise, you can try shopping for any designer items you love at a thrift store, having parties with your friends where you exchange goods you’re no longer using, and going to estate sales for interesting finds for your closet or the home. You could even consider going to a police auction if you need a new car.
These are just a few ways to live in the style you want without spending all of your cash to do it.
Ways to save money when you hate saving money
What if you love the idea of saving but don’t want to have to spend time thinking about it? There are ways to set it and forget it.
Or, as Wong likes to say it, “there are so many lazy ways to be frugal.” She points to things you only have to do once but which can have an everlasting effect, such as negotiating your cell phone plan or credit card interest rate, and even using smart power strips to save money on electricity.
There are also apps like Qapital, which can help you choose a financial goal and automate your savings, adding to your account a little at a time — or Acorns, which takes your spare change and invests it automatically.
This strategy, called microsaving, has also worked well for attorney and blogger Kevin Han:
“I’ve set it up so that, whenever I buy anything, Qapital rounds up my transaction to the nearest dollar, then saves the spare change for me. I don’t notice the savings, but my savings slowly builds up.”
Han also uses an app called Albert that builds a budget and finds opportunities to save. This app has led Han to a savings of $30 to $40 each week. In one year, he says, it “adds up to over a thousand dollars in savings that I don’t even notice.”
Finally, Wong suggests considering one big change in an area that matters little to you.
“I would recommend focusing on your biggest expenses. … When you have to cut back on 15 things, you get really tired of cutting back in general.”
For example, if you want a nice apartment, get a roommate. If you want more money for nice dinners, consider trading your financed car in for one you can pay off right away. In other words, find ways to save on the big expenses that don’t matter much to you so you can free up more room in your budget for the rest.
Ways to save money while traveling the world
It might seem like travel is an expense, not a way to save, but wanderlusters don’t have to think this way. Travel expert Olivia Christine Perez credits the sharing economy for opportunities like this:
“Housesitting … has been a game changer because it allows me to receive free housing around the world in exchange for home and pet care. Other opportunities allow you to trade labor or services for room and board. I’ve even ‘lived’ in Costa Rica for two and a half months at a yoga resort in exchange for marketing services.”
Perez also notes that travelers can earn rewards points to pay for their trips:
“Earn points with every purchase you make by linking airline rewards accounts with e-commerce platforms, or sign up for leading rewards credit cards. JetBlue, for example, offers points for every dollar spent with your linked Amazon or Groupon account.”
That said, be careful not to cancel out the rewards by having to pay interest charges. If you pay your credit card(s) in full every month, you can avoid this possibility.
Ways to save money while buying a house
If you’re at the stage in life where you want to settle down and maybe even buy a house, then stricter budgeting might come into play. David Bakke, a finance expert at Money Crashers, refers to budgeting as “the only way to know where your money is being spent each month and to identify ways to save.”
And when you can do that, you can discover extra cash to use for a down payment, a homeowner’s emergency fund, and whatever else you need to start putting down roots.
What’s more, Bakke talks about how you can write a budget even more effectively by asking the people you know, like friends and family, what they do to save money. And if they’re homeowners, they’ll have a real understanding of the unexpected problems you could bump up against.
Another way to save money while buying a house is to put away a more substantial down payment (of 20 percent), so you don’t have to end up paying private mortgage insurance. True, it won’t get you into a home faster and it does require saving more money now, but doing so will also spare you a great cost over the long haul.
Before you start, emotional honesty is key
No matter how many ways to save money you try, your best chance at success won’t come until you’re honest with yourself about what you want.
Millennial financial planner Douglas A. Boneparth touches on the importance of emotional honesty, saying that you must “know yourself and what you want in this life.” If you have to make sacrifices to reach those goals, it might seem worth it because you realize how important they are to you.
And if you don’t, it might be time to rethink your goals.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of deciding on what you want based on what you think you should want, or what you think is expected of you. But if you want to build savings habits for the long haul, you must be true to yourself.
Looking for even more ways to save money? Here’s a whopping list of 101 money-saving tips you can try today to keep more of your money in your wallet.
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