Common financial advice is to pay yourself first; set aside your own savings before you pay any bills. Yet, what happens if you don’t have enough money to pay yourself first? What if you can’t set aside $100 or more each month? How can you continue to save for your goals whether they are establishing a $1,000 emergency fund as Dave Ramsey recommends, saving for a replacement car so you can avoid a car loan, saving for a down payment on a home or simply saving for a vacation?
My husband and I are temporarily in a tight financial situation; he is finishing his Ph.D. and I am staying home to take care of our three children while doing freelance work at night. While I expect our financial situation to improve in a few months when my husband graduates, we are now in the situation where we have little to save, yet we would like to begin to save for a down payment for a house. We have found unusual, creative ways to save. Utilizing these methods won’t get us to our 20% home down payment, but they offer a great way to start saving, and we will add to the savings when our income increases. If you are trying to save more, try some of these strategies:
- Save all of the $5 bills that you get. You are at the grocery store and you buy $33.22 worth of groceries; for your two twenties you give the cashier, you get back one single and one $5 bill. Put that $5 bill into savings. My husband and I have been doing this since June 1, and already, in less than three months, we have saved $175. That is a savings rate of approximately $60 a month. More importantly, that is $60 we didn’t think we had to save. Sometimes it is painful to put that money aside, but in the long term, it is worth it. Of course, this method works best if you routinely pay in cash.
- Save all of your change. This is a similar strategy to the $5 bill strategy, but it is a little less painful because you will be saving less overall. However, your savings will still add up quickly. My husband and I used this method a few years ago to save for a weekend vacation. We saved $300 in a year’s time.
- Save one dollar a day. Another blogger I read was told at her wedding that she and her husband should save one dollar a day. She and her husband did just that, and at their 10 year wedding anniversary, they had $3,650 saved, which they used on a 4 day second honeymoon. Talk about a painless way to save, but what a great reward at the end.
- Save the money you would have spent on an impulse purchase. Do you really want a pop when you are checking out at the grocery store, but you resist the urge? If so, take the $1.59 you would have spent and put it in your savings account. You would have wasted it on an unhealthy, impulse purchase; why not instead use it to your benefit and put it in your savings account?
- Have $5 or 10 automatically withdrawn from your pay check. Even if money is very tight, you can probably sacrifice $5 a week. If that is the case, arrange to have the equivalent of $5 a week automatically withdrawn from your paycheck and placed in your savings account. Over the course of a year, you will have saved between $260 and $520.
Of course, there are many ways to save when on a tight budget; you just need to get creative with how you do it. Also, don’t worry that the saving method you choose is not adding up quickly enough. Saving something is much better than saving nothing, and once you become disciplined to save money regularly, as your income increases, you can save more.
Melissa is a writer and virtual assistant. She earned her Master’s from Southern Illinois University, and her Bachelor’s in English from the University of Michigan. When she’s not working, you can find her homeschooling her kids, reading a good book, or cooking. She resides in New York, where she loves the natural beauty of the area.