Photo: Matthew Henry/Burst
No matter whether you’re super-rich or living from paycheck to paycheck, all of us love to save money. There aren’t many better feelings than knowing you’ve saved yourself a significant expense.
The problem is that not a lot of us know how to save money. We find it all too easy to slip into bad habits that prevent us from taking control of our finances.
Thankfully, saving money doesn’t have to be hard. It’s much easier than most of us think. Frugality gets a bad rep at times, and while you don’t need to count every penny you spend, if you don’t take notice of what you’re spending, you’re going to find yourself in the same spot at the end of the month wondering where all your money has gone.
The simple advice is to spend less in order to spend more, but this doesn’t often work in reality. Instead, applying some out of the box thinking is better to help you save money.
Many of the everyday things we spend money on, such as grocery, coffee, and water, are the things that end up costing us the most. It may seem counter-intuitive, but if you were to go through your bills and add up your expenses for the month, you might get a shock.
Instead of looking at the obvious, I implore you to look at different ways to save money. Some of them will have you thinking, why didn’t I think of that? While others will have you scratching your head and wondering what I‘m talking about.
I guarantee that all of the tips I list below will help you save money in the long run — money which you can put to better use, instead of dropping through your fingers every month.
These tips may be unusual, but there’s no doubt they work.
Buy a reusable water bottle
You may be reading this and thinking, how the hell can a reusable water bottle save me money!? It’s a fair question, but the reason is simple.
If you want to drink water but don’t own a reusable bottle, odds are you’re going to buy bottled water. And what happens once you’ve drunk all the water from that bottle and you feel thirsty? You go and buy another one!
This purchase is detrimental for two reasons. Firstly, it leaves you out of pocket. Regularly buying water is a surefire way to drain your finances.
The second reason is that buying water in a plastic bottle is terrible for the environment. Many of these bottles end up in rivers or the ocean, and with it estimated that there will be more plastic on the ocean than marine life by 2050, this only exacerbates the problem.
When you have a reusable water bottle, you save yourself money and help keep plastic out of the ocean. You can fill up your bottle at home and on the go. Shelling out $10 for a one time purchase will save you a lot of money throughout the year and beyond.
Eat less meat
Eating meat is something that many people are passionate about and don’t want to cut back on. However, if you don’t eat meat for a few days a week, you can save a decent amount of money.
I haven’t eaten meat for two years now, and I’ve noticed that I spend a lot less on groceries than I used to. Depending on where you live, Chicken, Beef, Pork, and any other meat can be expensive.
Most of us eat meat with our meals without even thinking about it. I used to do the same; I’d find it strange if a meal didn’t have some form of meat in it. Now, I think nothing of it.
Of course, I’m not asking you to stop eating meat altogether. That would be impractical, and I don’t advise anyone to dive off the deep end straight away.
Simply have one or two days a week where you don’t eat any meat. You can cook some fantastic meals using vegetables, and the bonus is that they are much cheaper than meat.
Doing this will feel like you’re being frugal, but if you save $5 to $10 from your grocery bill every week from eating less meat, that soon adds up once you get to the 52nd week of the year.
Automate your finances
This is perhaps the easiest win out of all these suggestions. Sticking your finances onto autopilot mode is the easiest way to save money. It’s so simple; it baffles me why more people don’t do it.
From my perspective, here’s what I do with my finances every month. When money comes into my account for the month, a certain amount is automatically moved to my savings account. This allows me to save a set amount each month, that gains interest once the financial year is over.
Then, I have some more money that goes to my trading app, allowing me to invest in stocks and shares. Finally, I have another lump sum that goes into a retirement fund every month.
This sounds like a lot, but you don’t need to do anything else once you set it up. The money comes in, and then it’s shuttled to where you want it to go, earning you interest.
Even if your paycheque doesn’t equate to much, you can still do this. Put what you can into your savings accounts first, and what you have left should cover your expenses and anything extra for the month.
The problem with not automating your finances is that you can forget to move money to your savings account. This used to happen to me, and when it came to doing it every month, it was a pain and something I hated doing.
Automating this process takes away the mundanity and simplifies your life, allowing you to focus on what’s important in life.
Consume less alcohol
You might think I’m a killjoy by suggesting you should eat less meat and consume less alcohol, but the truth is that consuming less meat and alcohol will save you a lot of money.
In particular, alcohol is one of the easiest ways to blow a lot of money in one go. The drunker you get, the looser your inhibitions become, and soon you have no problem spending loads of money on drinks. I’ve seen this happen to my friends so many times I’ve lost count.
When I ask them the following morning how much money they spent the night before, the responses are usually in three figures, followed by a look of regret on their faces.
I’m not against drinking alcohol. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with it for a while. The older I’ve got, the worse hangovers have become, and the desire to wake up feeling fresh has overridden my desire to drink more than one or two drinks a night.
If you stopped drinking for a month, you’d be amazed how much you’d save. If you don’t believe me, give it a try. I’d hazard a guess, nine out of ten people would save between $50 to $100 a month doing this, if not more.
Sure, a drink now and then is fine. But do you really need a drink every night after work? Do you need to spend $100 on a night out? I think the answer is no.
Grow your own vegetables
This tip is often an overlooked answer to how you can save yourself some money. Growing your own vegetables is a simple and easy way to reduce your expenses. Not only is it good for your wallet, but it’s also good for your health.
You might be reading this and thinking you don’t have anywhere to grow vegetables because you have a small garden or live in a flat. It’s a valid concern.
In the UK, where I live, you can rent an allotment for as little as £10 a year. This might not be the case for everyone depending on where you live, but if you want to grow your own vegetables, look into this.
For a small fee, you get a plot of land where you can grow numerous vegetables. Carrots, potatoes, onions, tomatoes and many more. This will save you a lot of money on your grocery bill.
It’s fun to put in some work and be rewarded with a big harvest once your vegetables are ripe for picking. You can grow them throughout the year, too, if you plant seasonal vegetables.
You might still have to go to the grocery store to buy the odd vegetable, but growing your own will mean you spend less money in general, and those savings will compound with time.
Make your own coffee
This activity saved me a lot of money when I was living in New Zealand and Barcelona. Before I went to work, I always used to buy a coffee to perk me up.
Without fail every day, I would go into the same shop and get the same order. Slowly, I began to realize this was draining my finances. $3 for a coffee every morning soon adds up.
When I moved with two Italians, they taught me how to make my own coffee at home. All I needed was a coffee maker, some ground coffee, and I had a perfectly good cup of joe in the morning.
All it cost was the expense of the coffee maker and the ground coffee every third week. Not only did this save me a lot of money, it meant I didn’t have to rush to work after I’d got my coffee.
Coffee is one of those expenses that can creep up on you. Slowly the cost of a coffee adds up, and you’re staring at your bank account, wondering where all the money has gone.
This is disheartening, especially when you love coffee. Thankfully, the solution is simple; just make your own. Once you start doing this, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it earlier!
Go to the dark side
No, I don’t mean channel you’re inner Darth Vader and join the Galactic Empire. What I’m proposing is much simpler, switch off your lights and appliances when you’re not using them.
Many people don’t consider this because we don’t see the cost immediately. If you leave a light on, it’s hard to imagine how it can cost you money. But once you see your electricity bill at the end of the month, you realize how much this can hit you in your pocket.
You don’t need to live in total darkness with flickering candles channeling a character in a Dickens novel, but dimming your lights and switching off appliances when you’re not using them can reduce your bill.
I like to use a bedside light when it gets dark, as opposed to my main light. Then I make sure that every light apart from the hallway light is switched off.
Making sure your TV or computer is switched off when you’re not using them instead of leaving them on standby is another thing to consider. It might be easier to switch them on when you come back in, but they’re using electricity when they don’t need to.
Be more conscious about your energy usage, and you’ll notice that your electricity bill will come down when you do.