As someone who has associated buying things with the feeling of joy for most of their life, I’d always struggled to build a savings account with more than $50 in it.
People who love to save money (and I know they’re out there because I’ve met a few) are as perplexing to me as people who can fit in a cardio session before their morning coffee—like—how?
Individuals who find it challenging to save aren’t entirely to blame; it really is the American way to spend and spend; it’s practically in our blood.
Sheldon Garon, Princeton sociology professor and author of “Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves,” says that its part of our nation’s “character” to react to significant events like wars, recessions, depressions, and pandemics by collective spending which is ultimately encouraged and shaped by our government.
On top of that, we’re now constantly bombarded by ads through social media outlets, and shopping for anything online becomes more accessible every day. We are part of a culture that glorifies buying into each week’s new trend and digitally flaunting it.
It’s no wonder that spending our money rather than saving it has become second nature to us and instinctively brings us joy.
But I know I’m not the only one who, coming out of this pandemic, came to the shocking realization that not having an adequate emergency fund can be perilous.
And, most importantly, we can find joy and entertainment without spending money (and saving some of it along the way).
So, here are 5 tangible ways to start saving your hard-earned bucks without sacrificing your joy.
5 Ways to Save Money and Enjoy Life Too
1. Pay Yourself First
We’ve heard this one before, but here’s the trick: don’t just put the money in a savings account put it to work for your future.
Before paying bills, getting gas, or buying anything else, think about a percentage that you can comfortably move each month to a Roth IRA and make it a part of your monthly budget.
You’ll then be building up a nest egg that compounds growth over time with the ability to withdraw it in the future tax-free to fund a happy, healthy retirement. I know some of us aren’t at the place where we’re thinking about retirement, but everyone needs to be investing for it.
Putting your savings into a wealth-accumulating vehicle is a lot more gratifying than simply putting it into another bank account or hiding it under your bed where it just sits there. It’s exciting to take that money out of your paycheck each month because you know you’re accumulating wealth for your future.
2. DIY, seriously
This applies to more than just brewing your coffee each morning. Making your own stuff can potentially save you hundreds in the long run. The trick is to survey everything you buy and determine what you can make at home.
For example, you can make:
- Cleaning products, hand soap, air freshener, and baby wipes easily, AND they’re better for the planet.
- Homemade yogurt, bread, jam, pickled foods, or any other food you eat every week and can find a way to make on your own.
- Beauty products like lotion, face toner, and soap. Making them in bulk will add up to significant savings.
- Purchase reusable home items to stop spending on disposable repeat purchases. This includes cloth napkins, reusable coffee filters, menstruation cups, cotton pads, q-tips, and much more.
3. Splurging vs. Compromising
Make a game plan for how you want to spend your money—bills and other obligations aside, obviously—by making a list of things you can’t compromise on.
We all have our guilty pleasures and things we like to splurge on when we can afford it—it’s part of our human rights.
So, layout those things and try to keep them to 3 categories. For example, I love good coffee, high-end skincare products, and drinking top-shelf martinis when I go out.
After solidifying what I can splurge on, I can be cheap with almost anything else, like:
- buying the generic brands when I grocery shop (except for my coffee)
- ordering the most reasonable thing on the menu (except for my drink of choice)
- making my hair products
- getting the most inexpensive gym membership because I could care less
- picking ONE streaming service because I prefer to read
- thrift shopping when I need new clothes because I can live without wearing labels
But EVERYONE is different. It’s about being transparent and firm with what you won’t give up and with what you can live without and save your money on.
4. Marie Kondo—But for Shopping
We’ve all either read Marie Kondo’s life-changing book about tidying up or watched her on Netflix tidying up other people’s homes (and if you haven’t, I strongly recommend checking her out). Her most famous tactic when tidying up is getting rid of your excess belongings by only keeping whatever “brings joy.”
During the beginning of the pandemic, I started to apply this concept to shopping. I found it exceptionally effective in curbing impulse and unnecessary purchases and helping me stick to my budget by only buying things that I genuinely need.
The trick is to create lists for everything you need to buy: weekly grocery lists, lists of clothes you need, lists of any home improvement items, lists of big purchases you need to make, and any other list you can think of.
When you feel like you want to buy anything that’s not on your list, ask yourself (in the words of Marie Kondo) if that item truly brings joy.
Sit with the thought, and if you can’t decide whether it does or doesn’t, sit on the decision for a few hours or even days. Hint: Not being able to decide quickly can signify that you don’t really need the item, and it won’t bring minimal use or joy into your life.
5. No-Spend Saturdays
The key is to pick a no-spend day on the weekend in which you do exactly that: you don’t spend money (or as little of it as possible).
We picked Saturday because, according to this study, Americans spend the most money on Saturdays—an average of $76. With there being 52 Saturdays in a year, you’ll save an average of $3,952 a year if you decide to challenge yourself to no-spend Saturdays.
After spending a year quarantining, I’m sure all of us have found a plethora of ways to pass the time and enjoy ourselves on the weekend without going out and spending money. Now that we know we can do it, why not make an effort to plan out a day in which you intentionally and creatively save your money.
Discover ways to explore your city, whether it’s picnicking at a park you’ve never been to, looking up free events, or hiking on the outskirts of town.
Find more ways to enjoy yourself at home by setting up a movie marathon with friends, using that grill you haven’t dusted off in a year, planning a potluck dinner, or themed game night.
Try riding the bus or other public transportation to keep the spending to a minimum and plan ahead; keep your fridge stocked and eat in on the weekend for a change.
I want to point out that it can be a bit socially unmanageable not to spend a single dime every Saturday in the year; the occasional friend’s birthday and social outings that sometimes demand you to shell out cash are occasionally unavoidable—this is okay!
Make some exceptions. You can always move your no-spend day to Friday or Sunday that week.
Changing my mindset from glorifying spending to prioritizing and, dare I say, enjoying saving is something that didn’t happen overnight.
The trick about these steps is to ease in and go easy on yourself. The way to save money without sacrificing joy is to make it work for your lifestyle.
Try to see these 5 tips, not as directions set in stone, but as guidelines you can rework and mold into your spending habits.
Ready to begin investing some of your savings? Check out our recommended investing course to get started today!