Let’s be real: The idea of saving money is great, but the reality of saving money? Ugh,well, you already know. It can be easy for it to remain in the idea stage indefinitely. So, how do we get better at saving?
For one, we can brush up on the financial literature c/o the internet and money experts (a.k.a., all the info we wish we’d been taught in school). And, second, we can take a cue from other, everyday people who are learning how to save on the daily.
That’s where we come in. As part of our Scrimp City series,we’ve been chronicling the stories of women across pay scales and industries as they problem solve their way through financial challenges. By no means are Scrimp City participants the financial experts who have all the answers. Instead, they’re regular women who want to have a better grasp of their finances. They set a personal weekly (or longer) money-saving goal, document their daily expenses, and share the lessons learned from it all.
In the year-plus since Scrimp City launched, we’ve heard from many women who’ve both succeeded and, at times, floundered in managing their money goals There are countless lessons to be learned from their wins and losses. So, to help you better manage your own funds, we looked to some of our favorite Scrimp City challenges and gathered six money lessons that can help you on your own savings journey.
Everyday money-saving tips we can all try
Sure, window shopping is nice. Until you see that dress you really, really like and there happens to be a temping “sale” tag attached. Or maybe you’re prone to clicking through whenever your favorite e-retailer send you an email alerting your to their “flash sale.” We’ve been there. That’s why we were impressed when one of our Scrimp City participants—a self-proclaimed shopaholic—finally checked her impulse spending. Her tactic? Using a little something called “cart abandonment.” She indulged her tendency for online shopping by adding items to her cart—and then letting them sit there without proceeding to checkout. By the end of the week, she realized she’d not only saved, but hardly any of the items she’d added to her cart seemed as enticing.
Meal-prepping at the start of the week is a common goal many of our Scrimp City participants strive for. But, we were especially impressed with one saver who has made it part of her Sunday routine. She begins her Sunday mornings with tea and writes a weekly grocery list as she surveys her pantry before getting groceries. This routine ensures she is buying only what she needs for select recipes, and avoids spoiled food.
To make sure she stays within budget, she prices her grocery list online ahead of her trip to the grocery store and makes note of any flyers or coupons. This weekly tactic, along with other regular money-saving practices, is helping her reach her goal of retiring by 40!
If you’re a freelancer, work remotely, or just prefer the ambiance that a coffee shop provides, this tip’s for you. Yes, coffee is expensive. And a fancy latte with oat milk and a freshly-made croissant is even more expensive. Ah—and you forgot your water bottle at home as well. Add that to your coffee shop bill.
It would be easy for us to suggest you make your coffee in the a.m. But if you must have a barista prepare your cup of joe, look for ways you can recoup some of the costs. One Scrimp City participant is good about racking up points on her Starbucks rewards card to get a free drink down the line. If she needs to do some work, she’ll opt for a co-working space where coffee and food is included.
There are several pros and cons to having a side hustle. At face value, it’s an extra source of income. But as we’ve noted before, a truly successful side hustle includes a lot of, well, hustle that can eat away at your precious time. If you’re not ready to commit to a side gig, but you find that your schedule is flexible every so often, consider earning cash via one-off opportunities. One Scrimp City participant looked to her university for clues. She signed up for non-invasive medical studies that required drawing blood and she was never afraid of hitting up events and lectures on campus where free food was provided. The lesson? Look for gigs that pay just for your participation.
Sometimes moving to a less-costly location can be the biggest money saver. That’s what one one Scrimp City participant did when she left New York for Colorado to save enough to pay off medical bills. But, drastic measures aside, she also practices living a frugal life by monitoring how unnecessary purchases make her feel. Doing so, she told us, helps her determine whether a “splurge” was worth the cost. For instance, spending money on a birthday dinner might cost more in dollars than a random TJ Maxx purchase, but the emotional payoff in the former outweighs the cost. As a result, she’s able to spend money more wisely and save big.
It seems like all the best savers have a budget they stick to, but coming up with your own requires being completely honest with yourself about what are essential and non-essential purchases. After years of treating her funds as a form of anxiety-relief, one Scrimp City participant decided to take a hard look at her purchasing habits. To create her new budget, she compiled her bank statements for the previous three months, calculated her fixed expenses and made note of her random purchases. And she finally opened a bank account.
By understanding how much she needed to live and what she could do without, she determined how much she could save for her apartment and moving expenses. The next time you try saving, check how much you need, how much you can save, and what you’re saving for.Oh, and don’t forget to automate that shit.
For Financial Literacy Month this April, we’re rounding up our favorite articles and resources on saving money, earning more, and spending wisely, so you can take control of your financial situation. Follow along all month for the features that’ll help you navigate money matters on your own terms—like this one.