When we first went from two incomes down to one after Sofía was born, I sort of played the “we can’t save money” game. Looking back, had I decided that we should put X amount away each paycheck, we would’ve been in a better position. It also shouldn’t have been that hard to do a few spending freezes here and there, and I could have done some freelance writing while the baby was still really little and sleeping nearly 18 hours a day.
I was convinced that my husband didn’t make enough money for us to save money. I believe that most people probably have similar thoughts, especially families living on one income.
Putting a little money aside, especially when you don’t make a hefty income, can be a burden. It pushes you to sacrifice, and I believe that most of us don’t want to give up good things now so we can have a better future.
© mikola249 / Dollar Photo Club
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How to Save Money When You Don’t Have Any
The only two things you can do when you don’t have enough money to save each month is to cut back on expenses or make more money. You could try to win the lottery, beg for money, or become heir to your great uncle’s estate, but more than likely you will have to be diligent about increasing income or decreasing expenses.
Since we have been in a tight financial spot over the last several months, I have learned that there are plenty of ways to both save and make money. Sometimes it takes a hardship to finally make changes that should have been made long ago. Now that I have learned that we don’t need much money to survive, I will be using this knowledge to my advantage even when we make a more decent income.
Ideas for saving money (that we’ve implemented):
- Cut back on groceries
- Drive only for necessary reasons
- Lower the temperature for the heater to kick on or raise the temperature for the A/C to kick on
- Take shorter showers
- Be resourceful with diapers and wipes
- Learn to live without appliances if they die on you
- Spend little to nothing on gifts for Christmas and birthdays
Ideas for making money (that we’ve recently done):
- Care for other children
- Participate in a research study
- Buy low, sell high
- Earn cash back by shopping through Ebates*
- Freelance writing
- Side hustle
- Tax refund: Ok, so we didn’t technically earn this money, but we got a nice refund this year.
Financial Philosophies to Adopt to Help You Save Money
Putting all your energy into making more money and cutting back on current spending isn’t going to do you any good until you learn to put a bit of money away while you’re at it. Whether it’s a $1,000 emergency fund or a $500,000 retirement account you’re reaching for, some savings will help you sleep better at night because you know you have a little cushion if something bad happens.
These 5 financial philosophies can help you save more money even when you think there is no room in your budget:
I’ve noticed that as I’ve appreciated the little things in life more, I’m much happier. I no longer wish I had more stuff. When you can be happy with how your life is at the present moment, you won’t have to spend more money to make yourself artificially, and very temporarily, happy.
2. PAY YOURSELF FIRST
You probably know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck. It’s one of those practices that “everyone is doing.” But you can break out of that cycle by implementing this habit into your life: pay yourself first. If you get paid by direct deposit, make sure that a portion of your paycheck is put directly into savings each time. You might not think you have a lot to save, but it will add up if you consistently do this. Even if it’s just $20 every 2 weeks, that’s $520 more in your savings account each year that would probably be gone if you didn’t save it.
3. USE IT UP, WEAR IT OUT, MAKE IT DO, OR DO WITHOUT
This philosophy is one that comes from those who lived during the Great Depression. If they didn’t have money for something they needed, they used it up, wore it out, made do, or did without. They didn’t have credit cards and loans to fall back on. It’s obvious that if you start living this philosophy, you will have plenty of extra money each month to put into your savings account.
If you want more great info on this philosophy, check out this blog post from Six Figures Under or this one from Le Chaim (on the right).
If you already have a bunch of stuff and that stuff is just sitting there being an eyesore, start simplifying your life and get rid of it. You can sell it and make some money! When you don’t have a lot of stuff, they say that you don’t really want for stuff anymore. This can be a huge benefit to your wallet. It means that every paycheck you can save money that you used to spend on stuff that you didn’t really need.
I loved this article from The Budget Mama and this other article from Don’t Waste the Crumbs. So inspiring!
A thrifty person will not buy something unless he knows it is the absolute lowest price he can find. A frugal person will not buy something unless it is a great price and she actually needs it. So if you want to become thrifty and/or frugal, you must start waiting to buy things. As you wait, you will notice that you probably don’t need as much as you thought and you’ll be able to save even more money.
Have you ever been through a financial hardship that helped you see just how much you actually can save on a small income?
Linked to: Thrifty Thursday and Frugal Friday (2nd time)
Amazing ideas! I am a huge believer in paying myself first, because otherwise I wouldn’t have any savings! Love love love this post!
Charlee Anne says
Thanks, Reelika! We’re the same. Even if “savings” is in our budget, it never works out unless we put money there first!
Being content is crucial! The grass isn’t greener on the other side! I have soooooo many financial regrets but looking to the future and really learning from past mistakes is better than dwelling on what can’t be undone.
Charlee Anne says
Well said, Chels! Thanks for the reminder!
Miranda Jameson says
“Tax Refund” shouldn’t fall under money earned or money due. Anyone truly seeking to save as much money as possible, should not be receiving a tax refund at all. Getting a refund means that you overpaid taxes for the previous year. That’s money that was yours all along, but instead of putting it into savings and getting it to work for you, you gave the government an interest-free loan. If your refund was $1500, for example, think of all the interest you could have earned on that money if it was in a savings account that whole year. You would never lend a company $1500 and then be happy to get it back a year later with no interest, but that’s precisely what you are doing when you pay too much in taxes and get a refund back: you’re only hurting yourself. Instead, check your deductions to make sure you’re paying only exactly what you owe. Or, better yet, don’t take any deductions, and put all the money in savings, so that it earns interest for you until you need to pay it to Uncle Sam the following year. Of course, that last bit can be challenging when you’re still trying to make ends meet, so it’s a tip best saved for the future. 😉
I agree with you that people should be using that money through out the year to pay on their debts and then when they are debt free to put put it to savings. BUT for the people that I have seen just throwing money away all along it can be a boost in the right direction. It can benefit them if they just use the tax refund to pay cash for a second hand car they may need , to buy meat to can and put in the freezer, use it to start an emergency savings etc. The problem is that if people don’t have the discipline to use their money as they go, they won’t use the tax refund wisely either. I have done some budget coaching and believe me if you can just talk someone into putting their tax refund to a GOOD use it is a HAPPY day.When people start to see how nice it is to not have a car payment, how nice it is to not worry about buying meat for a while, or they are amazed when they run into a snag and have the money in savings to help for the rest of the year, it starts to change their mindset to a looking ahead and planning mentality. For most people it’s all it will take to start seeing how they can plan ahead in using money, instead just using is for anything they want as it comes and then whining when they don’t have money to pay the electric bill. It’s hard for me to not get discouraged with people but if I don’t help them who will. Sorry for the long rant but trying to show it from a different perspective. It can take years to change people’s habits that they have been taught from their parents for many years.
Charlee Anne says
Pretty much our entire refund was from child tax credits because we have two daughters. I understand what you’re saying about putting the money away to earn interest for the year, but how are you supposed to predict whether you will owe or not? Unless you have a steady income (and we do not), I don’t think you can know that ahead of time. And, sure, I should not have listed that as a way to “earn” money, but it was what helped us recently.
Cara @ Fashionably Frugal says
Great tips! I am a single mom and work hard to make sure we have enough. I really agree with the mentality of make do or do without. There are so many things that we are told that we ‘need’, the latest phone, the current fashions, etc. Everything I and my children wear comes from the second hand store or I make it myself. Once you start thinking about making do, it’s amazing what you can come up with, or find that you can do without.
Thank you for sharing these!
I really dig #2 and #3.
Putting our saving and investing first has helped us to both retire in our early ’50’s.
As for #3, I’m really into wearing stuff out. In additon, we’re both driving paid for 2004 vehicles. We won’t do another new car in our life times.
Looking foward to reading more of your stuff!