Saving money each month doesn’t have to feel like an uphill battle—we promise. Here are seven strategies to help you save up to $100 a month without putting a strain on your day-to-day lifestyle.
1. PUT AWAY $100 FROM YOUR PAYCHECK.
One of the easiest and most straightforward ways to save a hundred bucks is to schedule automatic withdrawals from your paycheck. The transfer takes minutes to set up, and will let you save money without giving it a second thought. Since the monthly withdrawals will happen on payday, you’ll still see your account balance increase, even while a portion is whisked off to another spot for safekeeping.
2. PLAN OUT YOUR MEALS AHEAD OF TIME.
Before you go grocery shopping, make a list of all the meals you plan to cook for the week. That way, when you go to the grocery store, you can be sure to buy only the food you’ll actually eat as well as stick to your preplanned budget. When meal planning and budgeting, don’t forget to factor in a couple nights each week of eating out or ordering in. That way, grabbing spontaneous dinner at your favorite restaurant or ordering some late-night Chinese food will already be factored into the budget and won’t feel like a guilty indulgence.
3. BUY FOOD IN BULK.
Buying food in bulk at warehouse stores can save you a ton of money if you make smart decisions. A good rule of thumb is to purchase less perishable foods like pasta, dried beans, rice, and household supplies in bulk, but to buy smaller quantities of fresh ingredients like meat, veggies, and fruits on an as-needed basis. And skip pre-prepared items like frozen dinners or pre-cut produce, since they often cost a lot more than their individual ingredients. For example, a container of pre-cut fruit at the grocery store often costs two to three times the price of the fruit itself.
4. CONSERVE WATER.
There are lots of small, common sense adjustments you can make to reduce your utility bills, from making sure to turn off the lights before leaving a room to turning the heat down a bit in the winter. But saving on water may be one of the easiest. Cut down on your water bill by taking quicker showers, adjusting your washing machine to its lowest water-usage setting, and checking for leaks (check your water meter before bedtime and as soon as you wake up—if the numbers have changed, you might have a costly leak somewhere). And, if you’re living in an area with less-than-tasty tap water, purchasing a good water filter instead of buying bottled water will save you hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, a year. By one estimate, a family of four can save almost $3,000 annually just by switching from bottles to filtered tap water—plus, it’s good for the environment.
5. DO YOUR OWN CHORES.
If you’re sending out your laundry, hiring someone to clean your house each month, or have a weekly date with your manicurist, then you’re handing over money you could be saving.
6. PLAN A MONTHLY “FREE WEEKEND.”
Consumer surveys have found that most Americans spend the most money on Saturdays. That’s likely because weekends are a social time: Movies, brunches, and coffee dates with friends and family really add up. Designate one weekend a month (or even one Saturday) to keep your wallet shut. Get your loved ones in on the plan, and find fun free activities in your area.
7. SEEK OUT FREE ALTERNATIVES TO YOUR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES.
Instead of shelling out $50-$100 a month to hop on a treadmill at the gym, join a jogging club. Rather than spending money on movie tickets, watch a film for free at home or check the event listings in your area for free screenings (many cities have free outdoor film series in the summer). For every bar or club with a $10 cover charge, there’s one with an amazing happy hour deal. Read the listings in local papers or area blogs to keep track of upcoming free concerts and events as well as cheap deals and promotions.