Spend less, save more. They’re as common a set of goals as eating less and exercising more. And they’re actually quite similar. Each requires denying spontaneous urges, and each can have significant long-term benefits. But what practical steps can you take to put more money in your piggy bank? Good question, you savvy saver, you.
Forget change; save your Lincolns.
The change jar. Many families had one. Quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies, piling up for years until a momentous trip to the bank or Coinstar machine. But there’s a more modern approach to the cash hoarding trick that can add up quickly. It’s those fives. Collect them in an envelope anytime they make it into your hands. At the end of the year, you could have a thousand dollars or more that you didn’t even miss.
Go old school with the envelope system.
Sticking to a budget was much, much easier before plastic made us barely notice the shrinking size of our wallets. With an envelope system, each category of your budget is withdrawn in cash and placed in a labeled envelope. Coffee break? Take it out of the eating out budget. Movie ticket? Entertainment. When the envelope is empty, your spending stops.
Waiting to buy necessities until they’re urgent necessities is a good way to spend more than you intended. So when non-perishables go on sale, stock up. Toilet paper, deodorant, canned goods, and toothpaste are great examples of purchases that won’t go to waste. Buy them in bulk when prices drop (and never pit out again.)
Read it? Sell it.
Even the most minimalist among us can have hoarder tendencies when it comes to books. Once you’ve read it, sell it. Your local used book store might give you credit for your next read, or you could sell your books to Amazon for instead credit to the Everything Store.
Make a meal plan.
Single-use ingredients can sap a grocery budget with a single Food Network-inspired dinner. Fancy oils and obscure extracts purchased for a mere tablespoon in a special occasion recipe should be avoided like the plague. Instead, make a weekly meal plan that uses overlapping ingredients. Chicken, cheese, beans, tomatoes and lettuce can turn into tacos, quesadillas, nachos, and baked potato toppings without waste. Remember, few things taste as good as frugal feels.
Okay, keep the change, too.
Just when you thought we were putting the spare change trick to bed, it’s back. We’ve all been guilty of sweeping up pennies and tossing them in the trash at times. But keeping your change is about more than the stockpile itself. Maintaining an internal value for pennies here and dimes there can change the way you view your overall spending. Pennies really do add up.
Buy out of season.
Some items are best purchased in season: strawberries, for instance. But others should be snatched up weeks after its prime time is over. Case in point? Christmas decorations, swimsuits, and patio furniture. If you know you’ll need it a year from now, get that wrapping paper when it’s 75% off in late January.
Know what you spend.
Regardless of the brilliant strategies you enact, none will be effective if you aren’t accountable to them. Knowing where your money is going each month, week, and day is the most effective mechanism for sticking to your plans. A simple journal will do, or even a note on your phone. When you make a purchase, write it down. You’ll quickly learn of your biggest budget busters.