But getting into this mindset is often the hardest part. How and where do I start saving? In this article, I’ll share seven tips I use constantly to reach my savings goals – and the best part is pretty much everyone can use these tips!
Set a Goal to Save Money
To start, I figure out what brings me more value and enjoyment – for instance, do I spend $18 on a cocktail in Miami when I could enjoy a meal in Mexico for the same price? This mentality often helps me put things into perspective, remind me about my goal, and, therefore, prevent unnecessary spending.
I also set a savings goal – maybe you want to put away $100 per week to start. By figuring out where to come up with that amount, you can set a clear vision of the changes you need to make. Maybe you normally spend $100 on a night out? Then staying in just one night will allow you to reach your goal. I like to make little changes here and there so I’m not completely sacrificing one part of my lifestyle. The next few tips will give you some ideas of areas in your life where you can spend less so you can have more money to spend while traveling.
Bring Your Lunch to Work
The price of an average lunch in downtown Miami runs around $15. If I were to eat lunch out every day, I would be spending upwards of $70 per week, and $300 per month, just on workday lunches. I challenge you to try bringing your own lunch to work, if you don’t already. Not only will your lunch be cheaper, it will probably be healthier too. There are lots of great resources for lunch ideas online. Or, if you don’t feel like meal prepping or assembling your lunch in the morning, a can of soup or a frozen burrito are only a couple dollars and require about zero prep work.
Reduce Your Grocery Bill
Living in a city with a high cost of living and eating nearly every meal at home means groceries are one of my biggest monthly expenses. Therefore, any savings I can find in this area can really affect my bottom line. The first step I took was to figure out where to buy the cheapest groceries. I quickly learned that the Whole Foods one block from my apartment is not the answer. I also learned that in my area, there is not one simple answer. Some things are cheaper at Trader Joe’s, while others are better to buy at Publix. Trader Joe’s is not as convenient to where I live, but the bit of extra time it takes to get there is worth it for me to save a considerable amount of money.
Buying the store’s own brand can also reduce your grocery bill, as can buying things like grains, dried fruit, nuts, and beans in bulk. Lastly, participate in your store’s loyalty program or savings app. My favorite program is Target’s Cartwheel app, which gives you discounts on anything from shoes to cleaning products to food. According to my app, as of today I’ve saved $79.49 by using it! New deals pop up every day and range from 20% off Siggi’s yogurt to 20% off Kettle Chips to 10% off Fresh Strawberries to 5% off the Target brand of nearly everything.
Find Free Entertainment
Cities are full of free things to do, they might just take a little extra research. Become a tourist in your own city by visiting some well-known and interesting sights – my favorite place to find ideas is Atlas Obscura.
Other suggestions for free activities include:
- Wandering around farmers markets
- Attending street festivals
- Getting a library card and reading library books
- People watching at a mall
- Having a picnic or BBQ
- Visiting a museum (many museums have free hours or a free day of the week/month)
- Listening to a free concert
- Touring hotel lobbies (industry tip: tell the front desk you’re planning an event/wedding and they might even show you some rooms)
- Going for a run or trying a free workout class, which brings me to my next point…
Sweat More and Save More
For nearly two years, I was a member at an expensive gym and never really thought twice about it. But when really digging in to each of my expenses and asking if the expense was worth it, I decided to cancel my gym membership and look into some other options. I started running, which is not only completely free but a great workout.
In addition, I found lots of options for free workout classes around the city. Lululemon, Nike, Athleta, and other athletic stores offer free community classes several times per week, and a few Miami neighborhoods have weekly run clubs that anyone can join.
I’ve also found that most specialty gyms offer a free first class or a cheap trial membership (a friend found a month of unlimited yoga for under $20). And the Miami-Dade Parks and Rec department sponsors tons of free classes in parks around the city. Look into these options where you live, and I guarantee you’ll find some cheap ways to get your sweat on!
Save Money by Staying In
I recognize this probably sounds like the most boring tip on the list, but I challenge you to find a way to make staying in fun. When I realized I could buy the same bottle of wine in a store for the price of one glass at a bar, my mindset on going out changed.
I’m not recommending becoming a hermit, but reducing your bar and restaurant spend can quickly increase your savings. To start, if you usually go out Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights (for example), try staying in one night each week. Inviting friends over is also so much fun – create a theme and have everyone pitch in. My favorite is taco night: have a few friends over, someone can bring margaritas, someone can bring chips and guac, put on some music, and you’ll probably have a better time that if you were to go out!
Promo Codes to Save Money on Products and Services
Like the Cartwheel app I mentioned above, I’ve found so many easy ways to save money on things I’m buying anyway. Before buying anything online, I do a quick search for “website X promo code” and more often that not, a promo code is available that will give me a discount or free shipping.
Also, if you have a .edu email address, there are tons of student discounts at your fingertips. If you have a student ID, even better! Here’s a great list of student discounts available in stores or online. Apple even offers student discounts if you’re in the market for a new Macbook or iPad.
Many companies also offer discount programs to their employees. For example, if your company provides work cell phones, they will likely have a negotiated rate that you can receive for personal use too. Same goes for negotiated rates with rental cars, hotels, gift companies (flowers, customized things, etc.), and office supplies. Check on your HR/benefits website or ask your HR person for more details. I’m currently saving about $30/month on my AT&T phone bill thanks to a corporate discount.
How do you save money?
Please share your money-saving tips – I’m always looking for new, creative ways to save money! Stay tuned for my next post on getting started in the credit card game: using points and miles to your advantage.