I don’t know about you, but money has been on my mind a lot recently. Probably because I’m anxiously awaiting several end-of-year payments from work I did last year, and also the fact that it’s the NEW YEAR and I’ve got to start planning for the future…I guess.
As a freelancer & business owner, I’m always a little anxious about my fluctuating income. And with the volatile market the past month, my future is increasingly…worrisome.
One of my top goals for the year is to save more money. Just feels like the responsible thing to do and with the past year I had, it seems totally possible. Years of living in Europe meant a lot of expendable income thanks to social safety nets, but in the USA, you’ve really got to protect yourself.
Here’s what I’m doing to save some cash for the next year…
10 Creative Ways to Save Money
1. Sell your used books & other little things
I keep a generally light home. I don’t own too much because, well, I travel a lot and I’ve moved around a lot. But after a while, you inevitably collect stuff. I’m no minimalist but I do like to keep things decluttered, so every now and then I make sure to sell off the things I no longer need.
Marie Kondo helps people tidy up their homes in a new 2019 Netflix show (which is spectacularly silly), but I don’t donate everything that I give away. My used books and other small things, little gadgets I’ve collected over the years, have some value for someone somewhere, so I simply sell it!
In the summer, I used the LetGo app pretty frequently to let loose some objects I didn’t need (and also used it to buy some stuff, too!).
It’s location-based so you can find what’s available in your direct area – much easier than dealing with shipping or the complications of selling via eBay. The Facebook Marketplace is also a great place to buy used and sell what you don’t need.
The first step to saving money is always to start by decluttering. And to buy used!
2. Use Acorns to save money easy
I’ve written about the Acorns app before. It’s a really handy app (free for college students, or else $1/month) that makes it very easy to save money. There’s a “found money” feature which, when you click through the promotions, provides you with bonus cash for your purchases
Companies like Uber, Airbnb, Casper, and even Amazon offer cash back when you purchase through the Acorns app. I’ve already made over $20 in the past few months with nothing more than a click before buying! Acorns is especially useful for frequent travelers because there are so many travel and hotel brands that provide special offers through the app.
Once you’ve made your bonus money through Acorns, it gets invested into a savings investment account—which you can set up according to your own personal finance goals. It’s a really simple interface and a good way for beginner investors to get started.
3. Track your budget
The number one thing every personal finance expert will suggest is the need to track your money. I’ve done this off and on over the years, and now that it’s the start of a new year, there’s no better time to get into the habit.
For the lazy among us, there are plenty of apps which make it easy to automatically track your expenses. My Bank of America checking account already provides me a breakdown at the end of the month categorizing my spending. But other apps like You Need A Budget connect to multiple bank accounts & credit cards to provide more detailed spending reports.
Once you know where you spend your money, you can better plan on how to save. You’ve just got to know what you already do so you can learn and adapt.
4. Get into stock-trading easily with Robinhood
The stock market has been going a little wild the past few weeks and investing in stocks isn’t necessarily for everyone. But it can be an important step in personal finance.
Many millennials like myself have been skeptical of the stock market (thanks to the 2008/2009 recession), but at the same time, investing in the stock market can be a valuable way to make extra money. While trading accounts with Vanguard or Fidelity offer a number of long-term investment solutions, the Robinhood app is especially useful for beginner investors.
Robinhood allows investors to trade stocks with zero commission. For beginners, that kind of flexibility is tempting and makes it easy to get your feet wet in the complicated world of the stock market. The Robinhood app, though, doesn’t just allow you to trade stocks, they actively provide articles free within the app for those interested in learning more about how to save and invest.
Personal finance is a lifetime skill and Robinhood makes it easy to learn the ropes. And bonus! When you refer a friend through the app, you each get a free stock at random. I’ve received over 10 free stocks from recommending friends & family already! Try it free with this link.
5. Cut down on Amazon spending
Oh, Amazon. We’ve all become so dependent upon it for anything and everything—for better or worse. I’ve got an Amazon Prime account and I use it pretty regularly, but recently I’ve also made a habit of using Amazon sparingly.
There’s something about forcing yourself to physically walk to a store to buy something. It makes you stop and really think, “do I need this,” or even better, “do I need this right now?” Credit cards already allow us to spend money more easily, and Amazon with its one-click buying and same-day delivery have taken that tenfold.
Of course, there are some things that are just always going to be easier to buy on Amazon, but when you don’t have to, simply don’t!
Oh, and also—did you know many stores will match Amazon pricing if you just ask? Home Depot, Best Buy, Target and Walmart will all match Amazon’s prices in-store if you find it cheaper online.
6. Avoid Instagram
Listen, I’m no fan of Instagram. I’ve tried to be! But truthfully, the app just isn’t for me. But how does avoiding Instagram save you money?
I know Instagram is insanely popular, but it’s also become a spot for pure capitalism. That wouldn’t necessarily be such a bad thing, but the app has absolutely been infiltrated by endless advertisements. Those ads come through the clearly labeled frequent ads in your various Instagram feeds, but also in the photos from influencers big and small.
As such a highly visual app, it’s really just become a place to brag and show off our best selves—and that leads to a kind of toxicity which might inspire us to spend more money on lavish trips and products we don’t need—simply to show off a lifestyle. In moderation, Instagram is fine, but it you use it too much: it just makes you want to spend money in ways that are often beyond reason.
Pro tip: Within the Instagram app settings, you can set a pop-up notice for when you’ve been using the app a certain amount of minutes per day.
7. Collect air miles & points with a new credit card
There are lot of financial issues with American capitalism that make it hard to actually save money, but our credit card offers are the best in the world. Last month I finally signed up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, getting myself a bonus 50,000 travel reward points.
Navigating which credit card is right for you can be tricky. I spoke to friends and checked out the latest offers to see what was going to work best with my spending habits until I ultimately decided on the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Nomadic Matt has a useful guide on all the credit cards with great travel offers for 2019 if that’s where you’re looking to save money, but many other credit card companies offer rewards for students, business spending, or other niche interests.
8. Start a coin collection
Little things add up! I’ve always collected coins. When I was a kid, I had a large Coca-Cola-themed plastic bottle which I spent nearly a decade filling up with coins. I don’t remember exactly how much I ultimately had in there by the time I cashed it in, but I’m sure it paid for my freshmen year college textbooks.
It doesn’t exactly make sense to save coins for years, but those times you do spend with cash and get coins back, put them in a convenient place. And when you fill it up, take it to a Coinstar or your bank and deposit it.
Another way to think about this is the fact that by consciously using cash when buying things versus using credit, is the fact you’ve got that physicality to spending money; the same feeling as walking into a store as opposed to buying on Amazon.
For the more digitally-minded, get started with round-up investments through your checking accounts. Plenty of checking accounts (such as mine at Bank of America) offer the service where your purchases will be rounded to the nearest dollar and then that spare change will be added automatically to a savings account. Personally, I use the same service with my Acorns subscription since it goes into a higher-yield investment account.
9. Cook (and bake) more – the most creative way to save more money?!
Okay, I 100% understand the convenience of ordering takeout, but 9 times out of 10, if you just cook your own meals, you’re going to be saving money. Baking was recently declared to help with anxiety and stress, so why not also use the experience of cooking and baking for yourself to save some cash, too!
10. Get a library card
One of the first things I did when I moved to Brooklyn was to sign up for a FREE library card. If you’re like me and enjoy cultural entertainment, libraries are the best way to consume. They’re free and provide access to millions of things. In New York City even, with a library card you get free access to over 30 museums (including special exhibits at cultural institutions like the Guggenheim).
Many library cards often also provide free access to stream movies through sites like Kanopy or the ability to download music, e-books, and other digital resources. Get a library card and you’ll instantly have a lifetime of entertainment at your fingertips—and all for free!
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Here’s the thing about this money-saving list. I love spending money. I’m a firm believer in the idea to L I V E Y O U R L I F E and to enjoy it. I don’t enjoy being stingy with my cash which is why, really, I’m not. I still spend money on trips I probably shouldn’t; I still have a Netflix subscription (even if I’m using my sister’s account). I buy coffee multiple times a week at Starbucks or other coffee shops.
Saving money doesn’t mean you have to give up those things that bring you joy. Spend money how and where you want; just try to be smart about it.