If you are reading this right now, you might be afraid of budgeting. You might have trouble with math or just hate the analytical nature of budgeting. It may even be that you're afraid you can't do it or you won't do any good anyway if you tried it. I get it. However, even if you know nothing about saving money, there are some simple things you can do that will trick you into saving, or at least make saving money much easier than you thought. Here are five quick budgeting hacks to try out even if you have no idea how to save. Do these and take those first steps toward building up your bank account.
Use Circulars to Do Your Meal Planning
This is an easy hack. No matter what you do for meals, groceries are one of the top ways to save money on your monthly budget. You can cut back on fast food and restaurants by buying groceries and planning your meals at home, but even then, there is a rabbit hole of ways to save more and more money on the way you buy groceries. Weekly circulars clue you into what the big deals are at your local store.
Pro tip: Download your grocery store's mobile app. It’s by far the simplest way to “clip” the digital coupons and see what’s on sale.
It's always a good idea to use those deals as inspiration for planning meals and creating your weekly shopping list. If there is a particularly good price for something you can use a lot of, stock up. But I would caution that you avoid doing this with items you are not 100% SURE you will use. If you buy a lot of an idea you aren’t certain you’ll use and are merely HOPEFUL that you’ll use it, then you risk wasting money. (I like to stock up mostly on items that are non-perishable and have a very long shelf life.) The most important thing about grocery shopping/meal planning is to be realistic about what you are actually willing to make. Otherwise, you might think you’re “saving” money on products but could end up wasting that money if you don’t actually ever use them.
Round-Up Your Change
You probably don't use cash for most transactions these days but that does not render change irrelevant. There are apps that will round up your change for you when you use a credit or debit card that's linked to your account. (Some banks even offer this feature with them! Simply ask your bank about it.) Now, to start with, let's say don't use a credit card. If you struggle with debt and overspending, I would recommend that you stop using a credit card (even if it’s for the points.;) Stick to your debit card. Using a debit card for all of your purchases is actually very helpful because you have a record of everything coming in and going out from your bank account. That makes tweaking and tracking your expenses much easier. An investment app that rounds up your change is the perfect complement to this kind of system. If you do use cash as a way to help manage your spending, put your actual change in a piggy bank. (Acorns is a popular app for making the most of your extra change. [this is not sponsored])
Become a Price Expert
Knowledge is power. Never underestimate the saving power of knowing what products are supposed to cost. Studying prices is much more than about price comparison between stores and brands. That is a good way to shop, but this simple hack will do more to change everything about the way you spend money. Study the price of everything and consciously evaluate the cost of things whether you decide to buy or not. Make it a ritual. You may be surprised how often you don't price things you buy.
That's the first realization. The second is that once you have prices for things on the forefront of your mind, you will start automatically managing your spending better. It will also start to help you make better buying decisions when you see necessities go on sale for a much better price.
Turn Off Your TV
This hack is so major. I strongly urge you to try turning off your TV for a few days or a week to see what happens. This hack is not about the cable bill or your on-demand TV subscriptions. This is about your time and what you do with it. TV is set-up to market to you. The shows and movies have a way of tempting you with different ways to part with your money. A lot of times the influence is subtle like “Oh! I love her shirt! I want to find one just like it!” Those nudges we don’t even really pay attention to add up big time so why volunteer to be subject to it? Turn it off and while you are looking for something else to do you will undoubtedly stumble upon productive and cost-saving behaviors.
Start a hobby that could lead to a side hustle or start a hobby simply for the mere enjoyment of it! (Hobbies don’t always have to make money!;) Put in a few more hours at work. Start to cook more and really delve into how cooking meals at home can save you more money. Whatever you do with your time while you are not watching TV (internet included) you are bound to wind up either saving or making more money.
Start Counting Calories
Okay. I'm on food again. I know there are other hacks for how to save money on things like water, or electricity. Those are neat, but they aren't the most efficient ways to save. They really do the most help if you are already budgeting and saving a ton of money but want to save more. The reason I care so much about groceries is that it saves you from spending $10, $20, $30 a meal, 2 times a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks out of the year.
Another great way to save money is as a side effect to some other thing you are concentrating on. You may not be great at budgeting money, but budgeting calories could totally be your jam. This is just an example, but watching how many calories you consume (not cutting back, just paying attention) you will naturally start to eat less and therefore spend less on something you pay money for daily. (My favorite calorie-counting is My Fitness Pal.)
P.S. If you liked this post you'll also like Budgeting: Is There an App for That? and 6 Useful Hacks for Budget-Conscious Travelers