Saving money tends to be one of the more difficult life skills to master no matter what your income or your age.
It takes special dedication and planning to save money – whether you want to save $100 a month or $10,000 a year.
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We live in a consumer culture that constantly encourages us to spend, spend, spend!
Psychologically, spending money on buying something we like releases happy hormones in our brain.
Retail therapy is sort of a real thing!
Only, it is incredibly short lived and unsustainable in terms of true happiness.
Plus, it makes you broke.
Whether you have something in mind that you want to save for, or you just want to make sure you have that coveted six-month emergency fund, it is essential to start a saving habit now.
For me, the catalyst for saving money was that I was unexpectedly pregnant. I was in a situation that I HAD TO start saving money.
I had no idea how I was going to manage to save the kind of money I would need.
I simply didn’t have it.
Except I did.
I managed to save $10,000 in 8 months during my pregnancy.
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First, I will tell you what I didn’t do. If you do these things differently, you could save even more money.
I didn’t change jobs. I didn’t move. I didn’t sell my car. I didn’t give up cable.
Those are all options to choose to save even more money. What is important about what I didn’t do is that I didn’t give up everything that made my life normal for me.
Right, okay, so what DID I do?
1. Gave up Going Out
So this one probably seems obvious since pregnant women can’t drink. But I was going out to dinner, the movies, Starbucks, shopping, and to baseball games fairly often.
I didn’t have a ton of expenses, I had a fairly decent salary, and I had lots of free time. Of course, I did all those things!
But it’s amazing the kind of money I was saving by cutting those things out. I cut pretty much all of it out and only did an occasional birthday dinner with a close friend and literally nothing else.
I saved nearly $500 a month just by staying home and watching Netflix.
2. Transferred All Money into Savings after Paying Bills
I am possibly the last person on Earth that still uses a paper planner to keep track of bills. I pay bills online, but I organize them in a traditional paper monthly planner.
I like the way I am able to wrap my mind around my finances visually that way.
What that allowed me to do was see exactly where my checking account balance was after bills were paid during a pay period.
Anything leftover, I immediately transferred to my savings account and didn’t touch it. It’s much easier to not spend money when you don’t have access to it.
3. Shopped Discount Everything
One of the reasons I panicked pretty hard when I started saving money was that I wasn’t blowing tons of cash on designer anything. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t room to save money on what I was buying.
All of my discount shopping I learned while saving money are still things I do today.
Aldi is one of the best ways to save on groceries.
Shopping for my groceries at Aldi easily cut my grocery bill in half.
I stopped buying a lot of clothes, but the clothes I did buy I searched for on sale or clearance. Online versions of your favorite stores are GREAT for this, which brings me to my next discount point: coupons!
Coupons, Groupons, Promo Codes, Oh My!
I didn’t buy anything online (and still don’t) without a promo code.
All you have to do is Google it and you’ll find a way to save some money.
The last discount item I switched to was my phone service. There are a few very cheap cell phone plans out there.
Instead of one of the bigger carriers, I chose an off-brand carrier that utilizes a major network. That allowed me to save over $75 a month on cell phone bills.
4. Downgraded My Dog
My dog was my first baby. He was pretty spoiled.
I paid for dog walkers, fancy dog food, gourmet treats, and doggie daycare.
Yes, my dog went to a full day of doggie daycare at least once a week while I was at work.
He got downgraded a bit, but I made more of an effort to take him on good long walks and hikes myself, and hired a neighborhood kid to take him on occasional walks too.
Total savings per month was about $100.
If you’re spoiling your pet, consider cutting some of that extra spending and put it into savings.
5. Worked More and Put My Tax Refund Directly into Savings
As mentioned above, I did not change my job, but I did work more hours.
I made a conscious effort to put any extra money I made directly into savings and did not touch it. Additionally, when I received my tax refund, it went right into savings as well.
Obviously, a tax refund amount is going to depend on your income and tax bracket. But it’s easy to spend that cash when it comes in.
Make sure you set up a direct deposit right into your savings account, not your checking so that you don’t even perceive access to it for spending.
6. Negotiated All Costs and Payments Possible
The negotiating I did with bills and payments was very close to embarrassing. I called my car insurance, rental insurance, phone company, cable company, credit cards and more on a monthly basis to negotiate a lower payment or a better deal.
It took up a lot of time, and I annoyed a lot of people. But I saved money!
All of these companies depend on you never looking at your bill. That way, they can raise your rates and add extra fees without you noticing. I noticed every time and made a phone call to have it removed.
I also called to let them know I was a loyal customer, and if they wanted to keep me, they were going to have to lower my monthly bill, give me an extra service, or lower my interest rate.
It worked a lot!
One More Thing I Would Do Today: Digit
The app world was not at the level it is today when I was becoming a Super Saver.
It is a free app that helps you put money into a savings account. You connect your checking account to the app. Then Digit tracks your bill paying and spending to determine how much you can afford to put away into savings.
And then the best part: it does it for you!
Sometimes all you can afford is $2 a month, but it’s something, and everything adds up. The best part about the Digit app is that it auto-saves your money. You can transfer that money back to your checking if you absolutely need it.
But chances are, if you’re too lazy to put it in savings to begin with, it’s not moving from savings either. Use that to your own advantage for once!
By the time my baby was born, I had over $10,000 saved in my bank account.
You don’t have to wait until you are pregnant!
In fact, I don’t advise that.
Whether you want to save $10,000 a year, $100 a month, or just a few dollars a day, take one or two of these methods and start doing it today!
Make a call to the cable company to lower your bill, or make a trip to Aldi to see how much money you might save by getting groceries there.
Or go all out and start doing them all and have a Super Saver year like I did!
Guest Writer Bio: Tara Bosler is a professional writer and freelance blogger committed to helping individuals, small businesses, and entrepreneurs realize and reach their potential through strong content and a smart online presence. Virtual coffee and Skype is all she needs to get you on your way! Check out her writer blog TBoslerWriting.com for more.