Cutting down on the money you spend isn't easy. When you work hard every day, it's hard not to feel like you deserve to spend your paycheck however you damn well please. Why not put a huge chunk of it right away on short-term satisfaction like a fancy meal, new shoes a weekend getaway or any stand-in for a shiny toy? Well, it doesn't take an accountant to know that resisting those urges can pay huge dividends down the road and it also doesn't require hiring one to learn how to save money.
Whether it's using an app that helps you save on shopping, learning more about your physical cash or appreciating the people that ball out on a budget, there are plenty of ways to get yourself in the right mindset for curbing your unhealthy spending habits. We're lucky to be living in a world where technology can empower us to be smarter about our finances, but it has also enabled more innovative and far-reaching sales and advertising techniques than ever before. If you want to get serious about saving, it requires an awareness of your behavior and, even more importantly, the ability to control it.
The path there starts with small, easy tweaks to your daily and weekly habits that you can build on in the long term. With that in mind, here's how to save money the right way:
1. Pay yourself first.
If you treat your savings account (and in turn, yourself) like a fixed cost similar to any monthly bill, you'll force yourself to accommodate your free-spending habits around saving money, not the other way around. Don't wait until the end of the month to scrape whatever's left into your savings — set an aggressive fixed amount to push in there right after a paycheck. Even better yet, you could set up a portion of each paycheck to go directly into an account you don't touch.
2. Always write a shopping list.
By walking into the the grocery store with a shopping list, you're fully aware of what you need and much less likely to buy random things you don't. Another pro tip: don't shop hungry. That one's self-explanatory.
3. Pack lunch.
According to a study conducted by Visa (via Forbes), Americans were spending almost $1,000 annually on going out to lunch as of September 2013. That's based on the average of going out twice a week and spending $10 each time, too — many people go out much more frequently and spend much more. Being strict about packing lunches is one of the quickest ways to save money.
4. Buy things used.
Too often, we spend a ton of unnecessary money on things that really don't need to be brand new. U.S. News has a great list of items like this you should always buy used.
5. Watch less TV.
Yes, it sounds weird — staying in and watching TV should prevent you from going outside and spending money, right? Well, that might be true if there weren't so many advertisements. A constant stream of ads leads us to make impulse purchases, which is easier than ever now with smartphones and tablets right next to us as we watch. Ultimately, this feeds our materialism, which has been found to lead to increased anxiety as well. Want to learn how to save money as well as avoid anxiety? Don't fall prey to materialism. Simple enough.
6. Ride a bike.
More and more cities are becoming bike-friendly, installing bike lanes on their roads, intricate posts to safely lock bikes and even planning streets around bike commuters' safety. Buying a bike and using it instead of driving or taking public transportation cuts down on your costs, traffic and impact on the environment. Win, win, win.
7. Cut extra utilities.
Being aware of your monthly bills is an easy and smart practice. Are you turning off the lights when you leave your place? Are you turning the air conditioning off? Do you really watch all 400 channels you pay for in your cable plan?
In general, asking yourself these kinds of questions about your spending habits is the quickest and healthiest way to assess where you can start saving money now. Be smart and hold yourself accountable. That's how to save money.
Cover image: Wikimedia