In the current economy, with so many people unemployed and underemployed, saving money may seem impossible. A great deal of the population in the US right now lives from paycheck to paycheck, so saving money is the last thing on their minds. They are too busy trying to keep their heads above water to even contemplate saving money. But, believe it or not, even if you only put away a tiny bit of money each pay period, it adds up, and the end result is not only that you have saved money, you feel like you have a little room to breathe.
The first step to saving money is to make a list of everything you spend money on, and I do mean everything. Try it for just a week. From gas in your car, to a candy bar from the snack room vending machine, just write it down. At the end of the week, not only will you see where all your money went, but you will be able to see some areas where you spent money on something you really didn’t need.
When I talk to people about saving money, one of the first questions I ask them is if they make coffee at home, or buy it at the local convenience store, or worse Starbucks or Panera. If you are stopping at the local convenience store, a large coffee is going to cost you about two to two and a half dollars. If you go the gourmet route, that same large coffee might be costing you five dollars a day. At best, that’s ten dollars a week, at worst, that’s twenty-five dollars a week! For less than ten dollars you can buy yourself a good travel cup and make coffee at home for a fraction of the price. The money you spend on the cup will pay for itself within a week of making the coffee at home, even if you have to buy an inexpensive coffee maker because you don’t have one. That’s a savings of anywhere from $520 – $1300 a year.
Another easy way to save is to bring your lunch to work. Most work places have microwaves to heat up leftovers or can make sandwiches or salads that don’t need to be heated up. Depending on where you eat lunch every day, you are probably spending at least $5 even if you are just eating McDonald’s (which isn’t good for you anyway). Meanwhile, last night’s leftovers or a sandwich will cost you less than $2 when you make it at home and brown bag it to work, $3 if you are a guy with a big appetite. So now you are saving an additional $104 – $156 dollars a year, and all you have done is make your own coffee and lunch.
I will be the first to admit that some things, the name brand is simply worth the cost. However, most store brands are made by major brands and given the store’s generic label. The trouble is, we have a tendency to get in the habit of buying certain brands and not even thinking of trying the generic which sometimes can be as much as half the cost. So when you grocery shop, try a couple of the generic brands and see if you like them. Personally, I have found there are some generic brands that I prefer to the brand name. There are also some generic brands that were so horrible I had to throw them out. In the long run, you are likely to find you don’t throw out most generic or less expensive brands, and once again, without any effort at all, you have saved yourself a couple hundred dollars a year by using a less expensive brand.
Just those three little things listed above will save you $800 – $1656 a year. If you put that money in a savings account, you are probably not even going to earn a dollar in interest these days, but you still have close to or more than a thousand dollars that you saved without really suffering or depriving yourself at all.