Do you dream of traveling somewhere new, but struggle to find the money to do so? Here are my top 20 ways to save when money is scarce:
- Automate your savings: Many banks will allow you to move money into your savings account automatically when your paycheck comes in. Some even allow you to have a small sum of money (between $0.50-$5) moved from your debit account to your savings account every time a purchase is made.
- Keep the change: There’s a reason why the saying “take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves” is an age-old adage. Try putting any loose change you find into a piggy bank for safe keeping.
- Examine your finances: Do you know how your money you spend every month and what you spend it on? If not, it might be time to audit your spending habits. Using a spreadsheet, take the time to work out how much money you spend on necessities like your rent or mortgage, on your bills, and on optional activities such as dining out and clothes shopping. You may be surprised to see where your money is being spent and find easy ways to cut-back your spending.
- Keep track of your spending: Tracking your monthly expenses can help you meet your financial goals and prevent overspending. If you use a debit or credit card to make purchases, then try using a personal finance app, such as mint.com, to track your spending. If you make most of your purchases in cash, try logging your spending in a notebook or on your phone as soon as you buy something and then upload the totals to a spreadsheet. Logging your spending will help you be accountable for what you buy.
- Stop paying for subscriptions: Gym memberships, cable subscriptions and monthly magazine deliveries can quickly add up. Scrap the subscriptions and look for low-cost alternatives instead. Most libraries have an extensive selection of magazines that can be borrowed or downloaded on to your tablet or smartphone. Services like Netflix allow you to watch popular TV shows, documentaries and movies for less than a tenner a month – a fraction of the cost of a cable subscription (plus there are no commercials). Groupon fitness offers, a pay-per-month gym, or a local motivation buddy for exercise at the park can help keep you accountable towards your fitness goals!
- Stop impulse shopping: Next time you feel the urge to buy something you didn’t plan to buy, wait at least 24 hours and then ask yourself if you actually need the item or if you would be better off saving the money.
- Learn to cook: Making your own meals will cut back on the costs of convenience foods and eating out. You’ll also be able to make larger portions and freeze them for later (also known as making your own convenience foods). Get tired of your own cooking? Why not exchange a home-cooked meal for one prepared by a friend? You’ll get more diversity in your meals while saving money and time.
- Swap eating out for entertaining: Eating out can get expensive fast, especially if alcohol is involved, so why not invite friends over and enjoy a night in instead? Save money and time by hosting a potluck; make it a themed night and ask everyone to bring a dish from a particular country or with a particular ingredient in it. Or why not take turns hosting friends for dinner? If you invite three friends, you’ll get three dinners for every one meal you cook.
- Buy items second-hand: You might be surprised by how many great items are available to buy second-hand. With a little patience, you’ll find some great bargains on clothes, books and household items. There are some great bargains to be found when buying second-hand furniture too. Often these pieces are cheaper, much more durable and have more personality than flat flat-pack furniture. Check out local consignment stores, second-hand shops and online classified ads from for the best deals.
- Get items for free: Websites like The Freecycle Network help members recycle items within their communities. Keeping an eye on the listings could help you score that household appliance or children’s game you’ve been looking for.
- Buy on special and in bulk: Buy items you use frequently, in multiples, when they’re on sale. This can be a great way to save a little extra, but only works if you purchase the things you frequently use.
- Get creative with gift-giving: Not only can this be more affordable than purchasing something from the shop, but it’s also a lot more personable and can be fun to do. Need some inspiration? Check out Pinterest for ideas. Not the crafty type? Why not give the gift of time with a service rather than an item, by giving a voucher for a night of babysitting or some help with the yard maintenance?
- Join a carshare scheme: You could save hundreds of dollars a month on insurance bills, repairs and gas by selling your vehicle and joining a carshare scheme. The annual membership fees for carshare schemes tend to be quite low and you’ll only pay (a low fee) when you use the vehicle. The cost of gas and repairs are usually built in to this price, so kiss goodbye to unexpected vehicle expenses.
- Walk, cycle or carpool: The costs of driving, or even taking public transport, can add up quickly. Why not try walking, cycling, or carpooling instead? Your wallet, and maybe even your waistline and social life, will thank you for it!
- Start a garden: Growing your own fruits, vegetables and herbs can can be a lot more cost-effective and tasty than buying produce at the supermarket.
- Buy direct from a farmer: Buy your meat and veg directly from the farmer and cut-out the middle-man. Many farms also allow you to pay an annual fee in return for shares in the harvest or livestock.
- Organize a swishing party: A swishing party can help you exchange goods (most commonly clothes and accessories) that you no longer use. The idea is that you bring an item(s) and give it to someone for free in exchange for being able to pick someone else’s item to take home.
- Give up expensive habits: Cigarettes, alcohol and fancy cups of coffee all come with price tags that can seriously affect your savings. If you can’t go cold turkey though, then look at ways to cut back. Brewing your coffee at home, rather than buying expensive lattes, or enjoying a drink at home rather than at a bar, can help cut costs.
- Sign up for customer rewards programs: You may be rewarded with cash back or money towards future purchases just for shopping at the stores you would shop at anyways.
- Cut back on expensive haircuts: Forego the stylist and pay a visit to a local academy for hairdressers. You’ll get your hair cut at a fraction of the price by stylists in training. Home hair-dying kits and trimming sets for short hair, can also help with home styling.
- Find out about the benefits of your job: You may find you have access to flexible health insurance benefits or discounted event tickets through your employer.
- Get your premiums lowered: Ask your insurance company to review your coverage costs. They’ll likely cut money off your bill if a competitor is offering a better deal.
It only takes a few small changes to your spending habits to start saving towards your travel goals. The key to success is to be consistent and not get discouraged. Tracking your progress is an effective way to do this. Tally-up your progress and display it somewhere you can see to help motivate you to continue saving. With steady saving, you’ll reach your goal in no time.
Are you saving for anything special at the moment? What are you doing to save for it?