How to Save When You’re Broke
If you think saving money is a waste of time, think again. It all comes down to having the right mindset and strategy – even if you don’t have a penny to spare. Here are some ground rules that have proven effective for many. All you have to do is be willing to dive in, change your choices, and revisit the way you approach your finances.
Create a budget and track your expenses. Yes, you’ve probably heard this a million times and you might be thinking: how can I save money if I don’t have any? Here’s what you do. For the next 30 days, try this experiment: track every dollar that’s coming in and going out. Here are things to consider:
- Except for the basics, where did you spend?
- Were there items that were wants instead of needs that you might cut?
- Did you buy name brands or lower-cost options?
- How can you reduce your spending by 5 percent or 10 percent?
After you’ve digested all this, you’ll have a better picture of what’s going on. A good next step is to consider the zero-sum budget. This method gives every dollar a job and keeps money from slipping through the cracks. Yes, this is pretty micro – but it works.
Grow your income. This might sound like a beat-down since you’re already burning the midnight oil, but remember that this is temporary and a means to an end. If you have an extra room, you might think of renting it out for a few months. If this is outside your comfort zone, find a side hustle that’s fun like dog walking or pet sitting. Or think about jobs you can do on your computer like answering paid surveys. Part-time weekend jobs also are an option. Greeters at Costco make around $24 an hour!
Automate your savings. Again, you’ve heard this, but taking this money off the top before you even see it is key. You never see the money so you don’t ever miss it. And any amount saved can add up over time. Even $5 a paycheck can make a difference.
Have no-spend days. Of course, you have necessary expenses like food and shelter. But what about those days when you don’t want to cook and grab some drive-through grub? Or you see a Starbucks, your car turns around and suddenly, you’re there ordering a Double Mocha Frappuccino? Certainly, we all want – and need – treats every now and then. But be judicious about them because if you’re already broke, these spontaneous splurges can derail your savings dreams.
Sell things you no longer need. Start by cleaning out your closets and your garage. You’ll most likely find things you no longer have any use for, or want. Host a yard sale. Or even better, snap pics of your items and put them up on Facebook Marketplace, eBay, Craigslist or Nextdoor. For more pricey things like clothes or jewelry, try Thred Up or Poshmark. You’ll be surprised how quickly this all adds up. Then put this money toward your savings or your debt. Slow and steady always wins the race.
Write down your 10-year lookahead. How do you want to be living a decade from now? On the beach? In a townhouse in a European city? Completely out of debt? All of your dreams, no matter how crazy, can absolutely be achieved. All you have to do is take the long view. Have tunnel vision about your destiny. What this all comes down to is daily financial decisions.
So now that you have a few ways to get ahead, it all comes down to you. Take a deep breath and be intentional – embrace this new way of living. When you see yourself making new choices and realizing what you can achieve by tweaking how you spend, there’s no stopping you.