One of the most common questions I get asked is “How can you afford to travel so much?” Even from my parents! These days it is a pretty common question especially for a single girl supporting herself while living in one of the most expensive cities in the US. But seriously, if I can save money to travel anyone can do it!
My #1 secret to saving money…
Drumroll, please….Commit to Priorities! Yes that is all you have to do. Whether you want to save for that Bali beach vacation, a new crib or that swanky new ride, you can if you commit to making whatever you want your #1 priority.
All my money-saving tips will be much easier once you have prioritized saving and decided what you want to spend your money on. Saving money should be a goal and accomplishing goals feel good!
My list includes some quirky, some obvious, others practical but all useful tips. None of these tips are specific just to me. I’ve done additional things that are but here I’ve rounded up all the general ways anyone can start saving money now.
1. Creating a monthly budget and worksheet to track all expenses
This is key! It puts everything into perspective. I created a basic excel sheet to track monthly income and expenses to see what I was actually saving. Once I realized it was squat, I broke my expenses down even further into categories (rent, food, car, toiletries, gym, entertainment, clothing, minuscule ect.). This helped me understand where my money was going. From there I gave my self a monthly budget for each category based on what my savings goal was (this changed often). If I went over in any category I would subtract the overage from the following month’s budget. If I was under budget I would add the extra savings to the following month’s budget to allow myself to spend more if needed.
My original excel worksheet looked like the below.
Using simple formulas to compute savings and debts helped me understand exactly where I could cut back. My budgeting started right when I graduated college. I started using my excel sheet religiously in 2014 when I moved to Miami for a new job. Over the past few years I stopped using a monthly breakdown and switched to focusing on income-expenses=savings.
2. Get organized!
This has got to be best way to allow yourself to see what you have to avoid buying things you don’t need. After organizing my whole apartment and cleaned out every drawer I finally saw what was cluttering up my life and bank account. I gave away stuff I didn’t use and uncovered a lot of stuff I needed to use. As in four 1/2 empty shampoo bottles and a bag of toothpaste tubes and lotions I didn’t realize I had. Until I started to create shopping lists a “quick” stop to buy toiletries or household goods didn’t exist for me. Each shopping trip always turned into spending more money on things I saw while I was shopping for what I actually needed. Organizing helped my soul feel lighter and created a desire for a more minimalistic lifestyle.
3. Stop eating out
This is an easy one. Everyone knows avoiding restaurants can save a TON of money. Living in Miami a dinner out, including one drink, sharing an app and a main was an easy $60.00. Even if I didn’t order a drink $40-50 with tax and tip was too much for me to be spending on one meal. Boozy brunches also came with a hefty price tag so I made the conscious decision to eat out less frequently. Nowadays it is mainly only for special occasions.
The eating out thing goes for delivery too. Uber Eats, Postmates, Grubhub usually tac on delivery fees and with tip usually at least $5-$7 dollars would be added per order. A few orders and I already spent what a whole new meal would cost in tips and fees. Now I make it a habit to do the pick up option if I’m ever craving something special from a restaurant.
4. Create shopping lists
Once you stop eating out so much you have no choice but to go grocery shopping more. The shopping lists applies for Target runs or in my case CVS runs as well. I realized I can’t allow myself to “shop” or I would just spend senseless money on, I don’t even know what. Probably those grab and go buckets and end caps filled with goodies that seem cheap but always add up!
With groceries I noticed I would have to throw food away if I didn’t plan well enough and if I ever went grocery shopping on a hungry stomach I’d over buy as well. Once I started planning what I was making for the week it was much easier to cut expenses. Everything I bought I knew I was going to use. More money saved!
5. Stop drinking
This ended up being an easy one for me but I will say I have friends that wold rather drink than eat so to his their own. The cost of drinking in Miami is an easy $12-$25 dollars a drink, beer probably cheaper but I rarely drink beer.
I knew I was spending way to much money going to happy hours multiple times a week and having 3+ drinks on a night out. Drinking for me is a social thing. I never drink at home and could care less about wine after a long day. That’s just me. So that fact that I am a picky drinker coupled with $20 dollar drinks gave me good reason to stop. I still go to happy hours to catch up with friends I just order sparkling water with lemon and mint. I tend to crave that mix now! This has been one of the best money savers for me and has helped with my fitness game as well!
6. Stop buying clothes
My 2018 New Year’s resolution was to stop buying clothes. After organizing my closet to uncover a lot more clothes than I remembered and watching The Real Cost; a documentary on clothing and the impact it has on the world, it was a no brainer. After I saw the savings each month I wanted to shop less and less. Now it’s pretty easy not to buy fast fashion and ONLY purchase clothing when I absolutely need it.
7. Reevaluate monthly memberships
Memberships as in…
- Gym memberships
- Beauty, clothing, shoes or monthly meal kits
- Apps for photography, music, gaming, exercising
All of these things add up so I decided to drop them all and see how life was like without them. I promised to only add them back if I really was going to use them. I even dropped a $5.00 monthly subscription to a travel club that gave you discounts every month on travel related products. It was only $5 but what would happen is each month I’d spend time looking at the deals and convincing myself I needed something which lead to purchases. Of course I didn’t really need it. No good for someone who was trying to save money!
Gym memberships are those pesky little things everyone has that most of the time don’t get used. It started to become a false sense of motivation for me. I thought I’d go more if I was spending the money on it but sometimes life happens and I just didn’t feel like it.
After some debating, I realized for me a gym that offers some classes is best. I now belong to a gym that is $105 which is expensive in some cities. For Miami its a deal. My gym also offers HITT classes I use weekly which can cost up to $30 a session at some gyms. I used to be an avid yogi but I haven’t done yoga in a while. When I’m up for it I go straight to YouTube and pocket the $18-$25 I’d once spend on a class!
8. Stop excessive use of products
This means be conscious with how many paper towels, how much hand soap, tooth paste, moisturizers ect. you use at one time. Self care items and household goods add up. Now I consciously use these items sparingly when I can and boom, more money in my pockets. I also make sure to use the whole entire bottle first before I buy anything new!
In addition I took a hard look at my beauty routine and the hair products I was using and thought “do I really need three serums and finishing spray”? Now I wash my hair less and only have three hair care products on rotation (shampoo, leave in conditioner and dry hair silky serum.) Having less mess in my tiny bathroom has worked wonders for me and helps save time too.
As far as beauty I had uncovered a lot of samples and products that were 1/2 used in a forgotten about beauty bag. I used them all before I went and bought anything new. Today I still only use 1 cleanser, two moisturizers (one day one night), and two kinds of under eye products (also a day and night). I’ve been using this simple routine for the past year and went from spending $50-$80 a month to no more than $200 a year on my whole skin care routine. You can go cheaper with drug store brands too (sometimes I do this when traveling) but I mainly use the Cosmetic MD line by Justin Piasecki. I love the customer service, what the doctor is all about and the purpose of their line. They also give great discounts and incentives. Its like designer skin care with out the price!
9. Cut the cable and streaming services
Super easy decision for me-cable is expensive! Many streaming services give you a free trials and allows multiple devices to be logged in so why not take advantage of that and do some login sharing? You can also try a $70 antenna, it didn’t work for me but some swear by them!
10. Understand credit card fees
I cancelled all of my credit cards that had a fee…it was only one but I was paying $40 a year and wasn’t getting perks because I was not spending enough so what’s the flipping point? I applied for a cash bonus card and have been happy with that. Some say they don’t give you as much cash as they would in points but if you are forced to use the points on things you don’t really need or want, I’d rather have the cash. So just make sure what ever card you use it really benefits you!
11. Cut out the daily snack breaks
Hello Starbucks I’m looking at you! Yes there was a time I was guilty of 1-2 Starbuck runs a day probably out of habit. I mean I don’t even drink coffee. I would get tea and snacks and any other random thing they were offering. Costly that is for sure. Now I ask myself do I really need it? Sometimes the answer is yes but mostly I stay away…unless work is buying!
12. Limit ride share usage
This was becoming a problem for me. Hoping in Ubers was convenient but a short ride was now costing $5-$7 at minimum and that 4-6 times in a night? It adds up. Just another thing I started to be more conscious about. I made sure friends split the fare and cut down my rides a lot more by driving my own car when I could. I even started asking for rides to the airport and looked into public airport transportation.
13. Suggest best gifts for yourself
How can this save money? “I love gifts cards to Whole Foods” thats how! I learned not to be shy about telling people what I really want when they ask and by people I mean my family. Once I made it clear I was trying to save money and wanted useful things they got over the initial “well thats not a meaningful gift”. Turns out it is and it always puts a smile on my face.
14. Pre-plan gift giving
So not spending money is probably the best way to save money right? Well its hard when you feel like you have to. Souvenirs and gifts around the holiday once stressed me out so much. I felt obligated to bring back trinkets from travels and I don’t know why. They end up broken and at the bottom of junk drawers most of the time anyways. Even for myself the souvenirs have pretty much stopped. Unless its memorable and meaningful I’m not buying.
As far as holiday gifts I’m guilty of waiting until the last minute and scrambling for anything I can find which sometimes ended up being costly. Now I think about gifts during the year and pick stuff up I know someone will like within my pre set budget. Sometimes I make exceptions for special occasions but I don’t feel inclined to gift give as much as I used to and I don’t think anyone even notices.
15. Spend more time at home
Not going anywhere is a really good way to save money! But who wants to be a hermit all month long? Instead of going out every weekend and multiple times during the week try having pot luck style dinner and brunch parties. How about a happy hour at home? Dollars are definitely saved. Most of the time I was just going out to catch up with my friends anyways so this way I could do that and not break the bank!
16. Sell your stuff
Once I organized my condo I set up an eBay account and two other clothing resell accounts. It is a lot of work but I was able to sell some barley used backpacks, purses, hats and a little bit of clothing. I got so many low ball offers but settled for some because it beats giving it away if you are in need of some cash. My plan was to only use the money I made to buy new things but in the end I realized I didn’t need anything new so pocketed that money instead!
17. Switch to cash only
This is such a lifesaver if you have a credit card problem. During the time I was going out a bit more and needed to budget I would leave the credit card at home and only carry what I was willing to spend for the evening. It works really well! But there were a number of times I needed a dollar or less more and didn’t have it which kinda put me in a bad mood so it didn’t last long but hey it forced me to save!
Wooo, now that’s a list. If you made it all the way down here congrats and thanks for reading!
I hope at least one tip helps you with your savings goal. There are additional things I do to save money and some other quirky things I do to make it work for my specific lifestyle but I’ll save those for another post.