Saving money is never an easy thing, even when your finances are in relatively good shape. Doing so when you’re in debt is even more difficult, but the good news is it’s not impossible. Read on to learn what you need to do to start saving, and how to save money each month on your expenses.
Get Your Priorities in Order
First things first, you need to know where you stand financially. The best place to start is drawing up a list of your monthly income versus your expenses.
- Gather your bank statements for the last 6 months
- Write down how much you have earned as well as how much you have spent each month
- Break down your expenses into categories like food, entertainment, gas, bills, etc.
- Find your average income and expenses for 1 month
You also need to look at all of your debts. List all of these according to their interest rate, starting with the highest and moving onto the lowest. Now list any savings and investment that you might have. Next, you need to plan ahead by thinking about the coming year and any major purchases that you may need to make.
- List your debts ranked by interest rate
- List your savings and investments
- List major purchases you will be making in the coming year
Now calculate how much you need each month for your debt payments, investments and major purchases. The rest of your cash left over each month should be saved, no matter how small. (You have to start somewhere!)
- Identify how much you can save
- Set goals for saving
- And save money (easier said than done!)
If you’re not a fan of using paper and pencil (and we don’t blame you), you should check out mint.com, which is a free site that allows you to pull in your debts and income, as well as your investment and banking accounts and other assets. You can then create budgets and monitor your financial progress and goals. It’s a great option if you’re looking to automate your finances.
One way to save while you are in debt is learn how to make money go further. Here are a few different areas where you can do so.
How to Save Money on Gas
Gas can be a large but necessary expense. However, there are ways to cut back.
First, drive smart. It’s simple and just takes a bit of self-control and planning. When accelerating and decelerating at necessary stops, do so slowly. You may need to leave 15 minutes early so you don’t feel the need to race from red light to red light. Also try and reduce any time you spend idling as this will just eat up your gas.
You will also save by minimizing your driving time. Plan the errands you have each week so you can do them all in one organized trip. Another idea is carpooling. You may find opportunities to carpool from helpful apps, co-workers, neighbors or fellow parents at school (if you have kids). Not only will it help everyone involved in the carpool, it’s also better for the environment. So, it’s worth a shot to see if anyone around is interested. Public transport is another option which is more realistic in some cities than others, but see what options you have in your area.
Gas Saving Apps
Lastly for gas saving ideas, take advantage of your smartphone to gain some savings. There are several great apps out there that will scan your area to help you find the best prices in real time. One good one to check out is GasBuddy. Secondly, you can’t change what you’re not aware of so try out an app like Fuelly to track your fuel consumption.
By following these, you can learn how to save money each month. Along with gas, one of the most important and necessary expenses is food. Let’s look at how we can save there.
How to Save Money on Food
Never underestimate how much money you can save on food. As with most money saving tips, everything starts with a little planning.
Before you go and shop, see what is already in your pantry so you don’t buy something you already have. Also look for coupons at your local store and plan out your meals, snacks, and drinks. An app like Mealboard can be helpful here. This will help your food last longer and will prevent you from eating out because you “have nothing to eat.” With a meal plan, you’ll be more motivated to eat at home and use up what you’ve bought for a specific purpose. A huge saver is planning lunches you can pack and take with you to work so you don’t eat out.
Buy in Bulk
You can also plan meals with some overlapping ingredients which enable you to buy in bulk. For example, a few lunches and dinners with chicken could allow you to buy a large pack of chicken breasts or two whole chickens. This can save you big time.
The next step is to look at your monthly bills.
How to Save Money on Regular Bills
Electricity and Gas
You can also save on your electricity and gas bill. Consider turning down your thermostat a few degrees in winter and turning it up a few degrees in summer. The deputy director from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy says on average you can lower your heating bill by 3% for every degree you turn your thermostat down. This adds up very quickly over time. If you are still cold, an extra layer of clothing can raise your body temperature by 2 degrees for free!
Cable and Internet
When it comes to cable, you have more options than ever with streaming services like Hulu and Netflix available along with cable replacement options. Weigh your options and see if it’s time to cut the cord with cable. When it comes to the internet, shop around for the best deal in terms of a connection or even call your own company to negotiate a better deal. Many companies have save offers they will give you if you’re considering leaving.
Saving on water bills is as simple as making a few changes in your house, as well as watching your usage patterns. Check your meter readings and monitor usage. A good place to start reducing water usage is your toilet. Did you know toilets account for 30% of the water usage in a home? Consider a water efficient toilet, followed by efficient fittings and fixtures. Also, you can perform regular inspections for leaks to reduce any wastage.
Finally, entertainment. Start by inviting friends around for dinner instead of going out to a fancy restaurant. Instead of going to the movies, have a movie night at home. Also, look at the things you can do in your area for fun like taking hikes, going to the park or visiting a public museum. This is just the start; there are so many ways of saving on entertainment costs. You may just be surprised at how much fun you can have without breaking the bank.
So if you’re in the hole of debt and feel like it’s impossible to save, don’t fret! With planning, dedication, and some creativity, you CAN do it. Start by getting organized with your finances and then use tips like these to reduce your expenses and save money.