It’s a commitment that we make to ourselves—to stop spending money… after we make just one last purchase, of course. It is a commitment that is much easier said than done. While changing spending habits is a deliberate decision, there are some ways to sort of “trick” yourself into saving until your habits have changed for good.
1. Buy a Keurig. No, really.
The coffee addiction can be a hard habit to break, but think about it. If you are spending $4 a day on a cup of coffee from your favorite gourmet coffee shop on your way to work, 5 days a week, you are spending $20 each week on coffee. If you do this for the entire year, you’re spending close to $1000 each year!
By making your morning cuppa at home with a fancy coffee maker, you can literally bank on the savings. Whether you buy bags of ground coffee, or the individual cups for a single serve brewer, you can make coffee all year for less than $300. Take advantage of a membership to a bulk consumer goods store and you can save even more.
2. Skip the After-Work Happy Hour
Sometimes you just need to unwind after work and really, it’s not going to break the bank to go out once in a while. But if heading to a bar is a daily trend for you, it may be costing more than you realize. Even though drinks and appetizers are typically on special this time of day, a $5 appetizer every day is as bad as a daily latte. In fact, you may even be spending more than you would eating out for lunch every day.
3. Take out a Return-of-Premium Term Life Insurance Policy
This is unique because you are not just spending money on insurance for a rainy day. This is a type of insurance policy that will give you a lump some of the premiums that you paid in on the policy at the end of the term, if no death benefit has been paid out. This is a great way to have peace-of-mind for your family, along with a life insurance policy that is basically a forced savings account.
4. Stop Spending Your Change
Most of us hate to carry around a lot of change in our purses or pockets. Here is a solution: every time you pay for something with cash and get change back, put it in a change jar. Let all that change accumulate and when your jar is full, take it to the bank and deposit it in your savings account.
5. Make a Budgeting Spreadsheet
Put together a spreadsheet (or download an app like Mint) that outlines your monthly cash-flow and budget. Knowing your financial status at all times is the best way to get things under control. It’s also a great way to keep your mind on your money, and not on spending.
To make a budget, take your monthly income and subtract out all of your monthly bills. Anything that is leftover is disposable income, which you can put towards your savings goals.
6. Enroll in Your Employer’s 401k Program
One of the great things about investing in a 401k is that the money comes out of your paycheck, typically pre-tax. Along with the tax break, many employers have a matching program in which they will match your contribution up to a certain percentage.
So if your employer will match your contributions up to 3% each year, you should maximize the benefit and put 3% of your pre-tax paycheck each month into the company sponsored plan. Your employer will also contribute 3%, which means 6% of your salary is being saved each year for retirement. Who doesn’t love free money?
7. Pay Yourself When You Get Paid
Make saving money each month a priority, and have money directly deposited from your paycheck into savings. Look at paying into your savings as you would any other monthly bill–important and something you can’t forget.
Put your money into savings and then forget about it—don’t dip into the account each month to pay bills or use for entertainment. If you find that difficult, set a goal for the money, like vacation or Christmas fund, so you’re less likely to touch it.
This is all about putting a purpose on all of your funds so that there’s nothing unaccounted for, and so you’re less likely to overspend.
Related article: Benefits of a Zero-Sum Budget
8. Pack Lunch from Your Pantry
Yes, it is nice to go out to eat and get away from the office for an hour. But a habit like that can cost you over $1200 each year, and that’s if you are only dining at fast food restaurants. If you are going to nice restaurants where you are ordering a meal and including a tip for service, then you may be spending well over $2500 per year, just on lunch!
Packing a lunch each day will not only keep you from spending money, but will likely save you money. Think of all the foodstuffs in your pantry, waiting to be eaten. Or the leftovers that sit in the back of the fridge until they go to waste.
Try MoneySavingMom’s “Eat From the Pantry” challenge, planning your meals based on what you have on hand. Pair the baked goods, canned foods, and grains sitting in your pantry with fresh items like fruit, lean meats and dairy for some seriously cheap lunches.
9. Quit Your Bad Habits for Good
Some of the most common bad habits are also the most expensive, and we’re not just talking about smoking cigarettes. Check out a few of these habits that are costing your more than you realize.
Skipping breakfast: Skipping a meal, any meal, often leads to overeating later in the day. Do your body a favor and eat breakfast before leaving the house, so you don’t end up at a drive-thru later.
Snacking when you’re not hungry: “If you disrupt your regular eating pattern, then your body will no longer send hunger signals and you may end up eating even when you are full” (The Times of India). This also means that you’ll find yourself wanting to eat, buy more snacks, and run to fast food just because. Retrain your body by eating at specific times each day.
Staying up all night: Who doesn’t love a quiet house all to themselves? But if you’re spending your time watching QVC or shopping online, it’s time to stop. Instead, get up extra early for the calm of a quiet house, without the temptation to spend money.
Not living a healthy lifestyle: Binge watching TV, sitting on the couch for hours, loading up on cheap foods, drinking alcohol… You’re doing more harm that simply growing your gut. Money spent on these bad habits could easily go towards healthier foods, a cheap gym membership, or a physical hobby that keeps you feeling good and living long.
No “bad habits” list would be complete without including smoking. Quitting smoking may not be easy, but the health benefits and savings are worth it. The cost of one pack of cigarettes ranges from $4.95 to $14.50 in various parts of the country, with the average cost being approximately $6.98! Just one pack a day is costing you $2547 per year—and if you are a two-pack-a-day smoker, then you are spending over $5000. It may be costing you more in health insurance premiums too, as many companies are now offering discounts for nonsmokers.
Related article: 4 Surprising Ways Quitting Smoking Can Save You Money!
10. Stop Hoarding Store Coupons
Just because you get a coupon for $25 off a $75 purchase doesn’t mean that you have to use it. Unless you need something from the store that sent the coupon to you, and the coupon would cut down the price, don’t use it.
Saving money on items that you don’t need in the first place isn’t actually saving you money.
11. Only Clip Coupons for Grocery Items That You Use
It’s always a good idea to try cheaper, generic alternatives to your favorite products. Bu just like with store coupons, “saving money” on grocery items that you wouldn’t normally buy may actually increase your grocery bill. Only clip coupons for grocery items that you currently use. Search out stores that double coupons or have in-store specials going on to increase your coupon savings.
Better yet, use your grocery store’s mobile app if they have one. You can highlight items you frequently buy, and get alerts when those things are on sale–no sifting through tempting “deals” on things not on your list.
12. Replace Your Credit Cards with Large Bills
While using a credit card may be convenient, it is way too easy to spend more than you mean to on things you don’t need. When you open your wallet or purse to find a checkbook and cash, you may think twice before spending it.
Unlike the ease off sliding plastic through a machine, writing out a check or breaking a $100 bill is hard!
13. Use Cash to Make Purchases
If you worry about bouncing checks, then start paying cash for everything — it is impossible to overspend. Once your money is gone, the buying stops. If you have trouble sticking to a budget, this is one sure way to be able to commit to it.
14. Do Your Seasonal Shopping after the Season
Very simple concept here: when new items come out in stores, just before the season, they are full price. The longer you wait in the season, the lower the price goes. If you can to wait until the next season of items come out, you will get the best deals when stores are trying to move out the old inventory to make room for the new.
This works for everything from clothing to school supplies, to holiday decorations and seasonal lawn equipment. Even car dealerships have model year sales.
15. Grow a Garden, Make Your Own Clothes, Learn to Cook…
You know what they say about idle hands… They’re debt’s tools! With nothing to do but work and spend money, it’s no wonder your spending hobby is flourishing while your savings account is dwindling. Instead, develop a hobby that pays off like growing your own vegetables and herbs, or learning to sew. Remember the last time you got excited to try out a new recipe? That was money you didn’t spend on eating out!
Whenever you can occupy your time and mind with something positive, you can distract yourself from bad habits. You might even replace them entirely.
16. Set up Automatic Savings
Not only is automatic savings convenient, but it also works. You don’t have to think about it and it’s treated just like a bill, and it is much harder to spend (or miss) money that you don’t even see. Even better, many banks gives perks when you set up your checking account to auto-transfer funds to your savings account. Learn more about it with Save More Money with an Automatic Savings Plan.
The journey to fiscal responsibility is not always easy. Changing old spending habits can certainly take a while, however, when you start reaching savings goals, like for a vacation, or don’t have to pay down a massive credit card bill anymore, you are going to feel the positive effects that financial freedom brings.
Keep up with staff writer Gina Young on her blog Money Savvy Living, where she gives advice on budgeting and frugal living.