We’ve all been there – the feeling of invincibility when your direct deposit hits your bank account, and the sinking feeling a few days later when you realize you’ve spent most of it.
According to a study from Career Builder, nearly 78 percent of full-time workers live paycheck to paycheck each month.
Are you one of them?
Get tips for reducing your spending and setting aside more money for the things that matter most when you focus on the three big areas below.
#1: Saving Money on Groceries and Food
Everyone needs to eat, and there are plenty of options for feeding yourself. Take a look at how much money you spend on food each month. Do you buy your lunch every day or bring something from home? Do you routinely pick up a drink at Starbucks on your way to work?
Cutting down on the amount of food you buy versus make at home can have a substantial impact. One report estimates that you could save $1,500 each year just by brown-bagging it instead of picking something up. If packing a lunch sounds too time-consuming or boring, look for quick suggestions that will help you eat healthily and save time.
Meal-prepping is a popular trend that’s popped up all over social media and can be one answer to easier meals.
But don’t let the fancy Instagram photos fool you – meal-prepping can be as simple as making a large casserole each week and working your way through the leftovers until it’s gone. And with appliances like slow cookers and Instant Pots, cooking doesn’t have to be time-consuming.
While you’re hitting the grocery store, did you know the USDA shares the yearly average costs of groceries per family? Use their chart to determine if you’re spending over or under the average for families of your size. If it’s time to cut expenses, consider switching to generic brands, buying fewer pre-made foods or reducing the amount of red meat you buy.
#2: Saving Money on Bills and Fees
Bills can be another huge expense in your life, ranging from cable and internet to fitness memberships. If they’re putting a huge dent in your wallet, it might be time to evaluate what you’re actually paying.
First, is there anything you’re paying for that you rarely use – maybe a pricey membership to the gym although you rarely go or premium TV channels you don’t watch? If so, these are places to cut.
Second, see if there are lower-cost options for some of these expenses. Consider ditching cable and going for a streaming TV service. Your phone contract might be costing you big money, too. If you can get out of the contract and don’t mind a simpler phone, a prepaid phone could save you money on your cell phone bill.
Finally, if there are bills with variable costs – like gas, electric and water – see if there are ways to reduce your usage: The average American spends more than $2,000 per year on energy bills.
Even simple fixes like installing energy-efficient lights, unplugging “vampire” appliances when not in use and keeping your thermostat a few degrees cooler (in the winter) or warmer (in the summer) can make a big difference.
#3: Saving Money on Entertainment
Saving money doesn’t have to mean staying at home every night – it just means being smarter with the money you spend. Try some of the tips below for simple ways to save money while still enjoying yourself from time to time.
– Cut down on the money you spend at restaurants. Skip soda or tea and order water, go out for breakfast instead of a larger meal or get dessert on its own.
- – Alternatively, plan a potluck at someone’s home and invite guests to bring a variety of dishes. This not only saves money but keeps one person from having to do all the cooking!
– Look for free or inexpensive events to attend near you, like concerts, plays or festivals. If you live near a college or university, there are often many open-to-the-public events to choose from.
– Don’t forget about your local library. You’ll find more than just books – magazines, DVDs, electronic equipment, and sometimes even household items like cooking supplies can all be had there.
Find savings on ticketed activities with coupons, group discounts or special promotions. Especially during the holidays, you might find many places that allow free or discounted admission with the donation of canned goods.
More Saving Tips from Minster Bank
Saving money each month doesn’t have to mean changing your entire lifestyle – it just means putting a little more thought into the choices you make.