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How Saving Money Is Still Possible Even If You’re on a Tight Budget

How Saving Money Is Still Possible Even If You’re on a Tight Budget
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We have all been there. Checking our bank accounts obsessively, fruitlessly hoping that money will just show up. Maybe you’re in the midst of a job transition, or maybe you don’t have a steady job at all. Whether you make your money through odd-jobs, a steady salary or part time work, there is a way to save money, despite the budget.

It’s scary, right? Trying to make ends meet while not turning into a recluse and always having to make up excuses while you can’t go out. You can start to feel like a bad friend and a lame person. But that’s just not the truth. We’ve all struggled with money, despite our age or profession. It takes time, effort and a whole lot of patience and self-forgiveness before you can figure out the right way to save. But there is hope!

When You Get Money in Your Account, Pay Yourself First

Even if you don’t earn much at the moment, there is no excuse of spending more than you save. Have you ever heard the expression, “Pay yourself first?” Whether you have a salary in which you automatically contribute a percentage of your paycheck to a 401k or your savings account, or even an old-school piggy bank where you store loose change, it’s so important to pay yourself (aka: put some money aside) before you spend on anything else. And if you use the solutions below, it can be easier than you think.

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Saving Money Can Be Easier Than You Think If You Do These 8 Things Regularly

1. Negotiate new rates and fees

This one can be scary for people who aren’t used to asking for things, but it’s so important and it really does work. I hate owning credit cards, but with an upcoming wedding, it’s sort of a necessary evil for me. But I was really sick of the high APR on the card I used often because I had been a long time customer and always paid more than minimum. Once I had paid the card off, I called and told them they would either lower my interest, or I would take my business elsewhere. Guess which one they chose?

You can also do this with utility bills. Call the companies and ask if they can work with you on the fees. If not, threaten to go to their competition. Don’t be hateful, I’m not encouraging you to start fights, but stand your ground and let them know you’re willing to pay someone else.[1]

2. Unplug the unused electronics (It’s not only an environmentally-friendly practice!)

Well, unplug all the electronics in your house. Did you know that if something is plugged in, regardless of whether or not it’s being used, it’s still sucking up energy and increasing your bills? So unplug your phone charger, the blender, the coffee machine, the TV, your computer charger…. you get the point. You’ll be amazed at what you start to save.

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3. Draft a list before you go shopping

Everyone knows to avoid grocery shopping when they’re hungry. It’s a sure way to buy way more than you intended, all because of your growling tummy. But the same thing happens when you don’t have a list/you don’t stick to your list. Plan ahead and stick to your shopping plan. More so, buy in bulk for cheaper prices and download some grocery store rebate apps on your phone!

4. Balance your checkbook

I know, I know, I sound like your parent. But balancing your checkbook is a great way to know how much money you actually have. Financial apps, like the one your bank no doubt offers, are great, but they aren’t always current to the minute. This can lead to hefty overdraft fees if you aren’t paying attention and spend more than you have. Seriously. Do it.[2]

5. Use cash before your card

The budget I created for myself involves reserving envelopes of cash for specific things. For instance, $200 specifically for groceries, $50 for restaurants/coffee shops and $25 for miscellaneous. I would only spend according to those envelopes, and if I ran out of cash, then I’ve spent all I can. Too bad. This is done in hopes of having a certain amount leftover at the end of the month to be put directly into my savings account. While it isn’t always realistic/smart/safe to carry around envelopes of cash, the idea is a good one. Really limit yourself to what you want to spend, and use cash before your card. There’s something about the feeling of handing over paper money that hurts a lot more than swiping some plastic.

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6. Bank on other people’s poor spending habits

You know that one friend you have who is always spending money on the latest trend and winds up with a box of stuff he/she no longer wears? Maybe they donate it as a tax write-off, or maybe they just throw it out. Tell them you want it instead! You’ll have a constantly changing wardrobe and it won’t cost you a dime! If you don’t have a friend like this, then buy used in general. Thrifting used to be taboo, but now second-hand is all the rage. eBay, Poshmark, ThreadUp and more are all great options to get new items for less.[3]

7. Get a programmable thermostat

This is one of those options that requires you to spend some money in order to save it, but for around $40, you can get a basic model and cut your energy bills by 15% ($45 a month!!). Some of these apps even sync to your phone, so you can adjust the temperature from anywhere. That’s a great feature for someone like me who constantly forgets to set it to 78* before leaving in the morning!

8. Pack your lunch

It can be so tempting to go to lunch nearby every day, especially if you work in the city. But have you ever calculated what you spend in a week on lunch or coffee? It’s sickening! If you go out to lunch 5 times a week, pack your lunch three times next week and see how much you save. You’ll be shocked and your bank account will thank you!

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So what do you think? Doable, right? I told you. Have other money-saving tips not mentioned here? Make sure to share!

Reference

More by this author

Heather Poole

Heather shares about everyday lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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