- I realized I needed to save more money to reach my financial goals, so I got strategic.
- I stopped mindlessly shopping online every day and gave myself some parameters.
- I pre-plan my meals for the week so I don’t overspend on food, and I look for free events near me.
Before last year, I was the type of person who could never set a budget and stick to it. Every month, I’d overspend on things I didn’t need, bought on impulse, or didn’t spend the time to think about whether or not I could afford. After realizing that I wasn’t saving enough to meet my future goals, I decided I’d need to start saving an additional $1,000 a month in order to get back on track.
The catch was that I didn’t want to completely alter my lifestyle or cut back on the things I really enjoyed. So instead of ditching all my spending habits, I decided to get strategic about how I spent my money and how I planned ahead to make sure that I was still saving, even as I continued to spend.
Here are the three ways I’ve been able to save more every month, without cutting back on everyday things I enjoy.
1. I changed the way I shop
Recently, I realized that I was carelessly spending money on regular purchases because online shopping was so easy and accessible. Since I work remotely, and I’m self-employed, I would take daily breaks to browse my favorite stores and buy an item or two a day without even considering if I had room in my budget for this expense or if I actually needed to make this purchase.
Along with weekend trips to the mall or local stores, I found that I was spending between $600 and $950 on household items, clothes, and random accessories every single month.
In order to cut back my shopping spending by at least 75% every month, I’ve made two changes. First, I limit my online shopping to just one day a week. Instead of browsing my favorite stores, I make a list of must-have items that I need to buy and purchase those. If I find an item I want, I first make sure it fits into my budget and then I hunt for coupons using free browser plugins like Honey or Coupert. If it’s not on sale or I can’t find a discount for it, I don’t allow myself to make that purchase.
I do the same for in person shopping. I limit my shopping trips to just twice a month, make a list before I go, and only buy items when they are on sale. This has helped me cut back on mindless spending and allowed me to save money, without cutting shopping completely out of my life.
2. I pre-plan my meals and dining
Another major monthly expense of mine is grocery shopping and restaurant dining. I don’t enjoy cooking, so the weeks when I get lazy I rely on takeout, which can cost $350 to $400 a month. Plus, with inflation impacting the cost of food at grocery stores, I’ve found that my grocery bills every month are at an all-time high (averaging around $600 a month).
In an effort to spend at least 50% less on food every month, I’ve had to get strategic. I spend every Sunday meal planning for the week ahead, determining which meals I’ll cook (and save portions as leftovers) and which meals I’ll get takeout (and order a big enough portion so I have leftovers).
When it comes to grocery shopping, I now spend time looking for coupons before I go to the store, splitting groceries with neighbors, buying some items in bulk, and stocking up on frozen vegetables and fruits, since those items last longer than fresh produce.
When I want to do takeout, I make sure I look for coupons on different local delivery apps, order from restaurants known for their large portions (so I can get two meals out of one), and limit my weekly takeout to only three times a week (instead of four to six times a week).
3. I find free opportunities to do fun things
I enjoy spending my weekends going on adventures, trying new things, and tasting delicious food. When I looked at how much I was spending every month on treating myself to a Saturday at the spa, the movies, or a concert, I realized that there were ways to tap into fun without spending hundreds of dollars a month.
At the end of every month, I spend 30 minutes researching free local events, food tastings at new restaurants (who want people to give them feedback before they open), and pop-up activities. I use websites like Eventbrite and Timeout, and look at local Facebook groups for ideas. Then, I fill my calendar with as many free and interesting events as I can.
Last month, I went to a free movie in the park, a comedy show at a local bar, and a free tasting that a food truck was offering in my neighborhood. I’d been spending $500 to $650 a month on activities, and now I’m trying to supplement at least 50% with free ones instead.