Illustrated by Josh McKenna.
We know, there are tons of high-tech ways to save money. And we absolutely advise you to try them out. But there are some old-fashioned no-spend strategies that can make your money add up — sometimes pretty quickly. At first glance, they may sound weird, but they work. Ahead, try one (or a few) and tell us in the comments the strangest strategies you’ve used to successfully save some extra money.
“I only use my car every week, so I think of my glove compartment as a ‘bank.’ Whenever I pull into my space, I’ll put a $10 or $20 — whatever I have in my wallet — into my glove compartment. Because it’s out of sight, out of mind, I don’t spend it. And then, when I have $100 cash, I go to an actual bank.” — Kristen, 28
I’m signed up for so many loyalty programs for stores, I Yelp everything so I have status on Yelp, and I’ve found that over time, I’ve gotten on the list for a ton of openings and promo events. When I get invited, I RSVP and invite friends to go with me — it’s a night out with free drinks and appetizers and we’re not spending anything!
Pick a denomination and save it. Always.
“I nanny, so I get paid in cash. Whenever I’d get $5 bills, I put them in a separate envelope. This money becomes my ‘fun’ money, so I know I can either take one out and buy a cappuccino, or keep adding to it and splurge for a fun dinner with friends.” —Courtney, 32
I hate when I go out to birthday dinners how the bill ends up being $100 when everything is included. What I do now is eat before and set my cap for $10. I’ll order an appetizer and will really enjoy it. I also carry $20 cash so that comfortably covers my order, the birthday person’s share and tip.
Have a spending jar for fun stuff.
“Every week, I take out $100 for fun, which includes lunch and drinks. And I put the cash in a jar I decorated on my desk. Actually having to pull money out means I’m super conscious of how I’m spending it, and also keeps me honest. For example, I only use that money, not my debit card, for fun lunches out, so if I don’t have the money with me, then I’m going to eat the lunch I brought from home, and not go out with coworkers.” — Janie, 27
When I’m actively trying to save money, I keep my wallet at home. I’ll bring cash in my pocket for emergencies, but it’s so easy to avoid spending money when you literally don’t have it on you.
Skip the coffee; save the cash.
“I am so bad about buying lattes ‘just because.’ And I know the $5 adds up. So whenever I feel the urge to buy a latte, I make the crappy office coffee, and make sure to move $5 from checking to savings. It’s a neat trick that actually makes me ‘see’ how much I’m saving.”
— Jessica, 23
Okay, this might be controversial, but I’ve found a lot of people have asked me for career advice on my freelance business. I’m happy to help, but since time is literally money, I now ask people to pay for the appointment. I’m also open to bartering — have gotten personal training sessions and social media training in exchange for my advice!
Harness the power of recurring payments.
“I was paying $333 a month for my car payment. When I finally paid it off, I kept the ‘payments’ going into my savings account. Because I’d been paying it all along, I never missed the money, and it was so gratifying to see the money add up so fast in my savings account.” — Ramon, 30
When I’m broke, I eat a PB&J sandwich at least once a day. I buy a jar, some jelly and bread and stock it in the office fridge so there’s no excuse for me not to make it.
Do your saving in short sprints.
“I feel like I can get really into savings for only a month. So in that month, I see it as ‘training.’ I bring my breakfast and lunch to work, I only do social events that are free (one time, I had a party at my house where everyone had to bring one bottle of alcohol collecting dust in their homes), and I just really push myself. By the end of my ‘spending fast’ I have a lot more cash, and I am more conscious of how I’m spending it.” — Luke, 27
I’ll spend an entire weekend at home. To make it fun, I really think of an itinerary: I’ll invite people over for Netflix, I’ll do a big job like Kondo-ing my closet, or I’ll just spend the entire day in bed reading. It sounds depressing but it’s actually a perfect recharge.
Pay yourself for Instagram posts.
“This is so weird, but thinking about how much celebrities get paid for sponsored Instagrams made me decide to pay myself. For every photo I Insta, I (at least try!) to put $1 in a drawer!” — Cassie, 22
My credit card is super easy to stop online without cancelling. When I’m actively saving, I stop it so I won’t be tempted to use it — since it’s an extra step to unstop it, I have to really stop and think about it before I commit to a purchase/
Become your own bartender.
“When I was a camp counselor, there was an honor system where you had to pay 50 cents a soda from the fridge. I do the same thing at home to this day — $1 a soda, $2 for a glass of wine. What’s funny is I made a list of my beverage ‘prices’ on the fridge to remind my husband and I to be honest with it, and now, when our friends come over, they pay too…but they don’t have to!” — Rachel, 30
I just tell everyone that I’m on a spending fast. I feel like people get it — before, I would just say I didn’t want to go out to dinner or drinks and people would assume I was avoiding them. When I say I would love to do something, but I can’t spend any money, it’s amazing how creative we can get to find cool free stuff to do.
Make it easy to visualize what you’re saving for.
“I know it sounds cheesy, but I like to see what I’m saving for, so I made a vision board of the vacations I want to take this year, which I put in a discreet place in my cube. ‘Seeing’ Greece every day makes it so much easier to not go out for a $12 lunch!” — Liz, 29
I made the decision to not order any booze at bars — it just seems like a waste of money to me. So I’ll pre-game at home and stick to water at the bar. But if anyone wants to buy me a drink, that’s okay!
Freeze your credit card. Yes, literally.
“Yes, literally, in a bag of water. I know it’s cliché, and it’s true that I could defrost it in seconds under warm water, but it did stop me from making impulse purchases.” — Marquita, 25
I had heard the term “lifestyle creep” — how when you make more money, it’s easy to spend more money. So now, when I feel like my spending is getting out of control, I dial back and remember what I did at my first job when I was making very little. I brought lunch to work, had a one drink max when I went out, and still had fun. Remembering money doesn’t equal fun or a more fulfilling life is important to me.
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