Young & Broke Girl: How I Saved $3000 in 3 Months
When it came to saving money on my income, it was a tough hill to climb but with some changes of habit and some discipline I was able to save over $3,000 in just three months.
I’ll share some of my money-saving tips and how I threw out habitual spending and focused back on living on necessities.
I think the first rule of saving is organization: knowing what bills you have each month and each week and how much you spend a month outside of your bills.
Open up an excel spreadsheet and start your list.
Try to create it starting from the 1st of the month. Include these things:
- Credit cards
- School loans
- Car payments
- Health insurance
This list should be all of the things that you can set up an automatic payment if you haven’t done so already.
Many of these utilities and card companies will have penalties if you miss payments, so set up auto pay directly from your checking account for the withdrawals. Then organize by week and try to spread out your payments where possible.
For example, most rent is paid on the 1st or the 15th of every month. Depending on that date, create credit card payments accordingly so it is evenly spread out.
You can usually do this easily online at the card companies’ website or by giving them a call. Then, you will have extra money each paycheck rather than having to roll over that amount to the next week to pay the big bills.
Once this is complete, sum up the total of these bills and see how much is left over. Most people are surprised by what they find and are thinking, where did all of my money go this month?
Find Out How You're Spending Money
This brings me to the next step of serious saving. I use my debit card for practically every purchase, which most people do nowadays, so a perfect history of your spending habits are right on your bank statements.
Print out the bank statements for your debit card for the last 3 to 6 months and add up the following categories for each month:
- Eating out
- Personal hygiene purchases
- Shopping for luxuries
I was shocked that one month I spent a staggering $350 on eating out alone. I couldn’t understand how my account wasn’t in the negative hundreds of dollars.
That money could have been in my savings account. It was time for a big change so I opened an online savings account where I could deposit money directly from my checking into my savings.
Cut Out Luxuries
When you think of “young” and “broke” very few people think of the word “luxuries,” but it’s important if you’re serious about filling that savings account. I would even place eating out under the luxury category. Basically, purchase only what you need to survive.
Luckily for me, I started my money saving experiment the 1st of January, right after the holiday season. This is the time when you’ll have gifts (that can be returned) and gift cards (that can be traded for cash or spent).
I sold most of my gift cards on giftcardgranny.com for cash or saved them to spend over the year. Again, this is where the organization comes into play.
Create a list of your gift cards and trade-in the luxury ones and keep the ones you can spend on necessities.
For example, sell the cards for stores that just sell clothing but keep the big department store cards so you can still buy the socks, underwear, etc. you might need throughout the year.
Sell any items you don’t need at the moment on Ebay. You can always use the money later when you break a plate, need shampoo, etc.
Use Up Everything—Ask Yourself, "Do I Really Need This?"
Another great tip is seeing how long you can go without buying personal hygiene items. Use your eyeliner to the nub. Use all your blushes until the bristles are coming out and basically don’t buy anything you already have in your closet. Resist all urges!
I was also able to save a large chunk of money because tax season came and went. A lot of people use their tax return to pay off some bills or book a great vacation.
The vacation is a luxury and, sorry to tell you, most of your credit card bills will still be there by next tax season. The trick is to take every penny from your tax return and put it into your savings account.
Then set up payments on your credit cards throughout the year a little above the minimum so you can pay them off sooner. Every credit card statement will tell you the amount you need to pay in order to pay off your balance in 3 years. Just go with that amount.
Go Grocery Shopping
As I said before, eating out is a luxury so avoid it at all costs and eat at home. This is why your grocery shopping needs to be organized and rigid. I don’t suggest clipping coupons, at all!
Coupons are usually only for expensive brand name items where the generic or store brand version is even cheaper than the discounted amount. My huge tip for shopping is to not make a list of items but rather make a grocery list with the days of the week.
Let’s say you go food shopping every Monday night, you will write on your list:
- Four weekday dinners
- Two weekend dinners
- Four lunches for work and snacks
- An at-home snack for the week
- Breakfast for seven days, etc.
Sample Shopping List
4 Weekday Dinners
4 Lunches at Work
1 Snack for Work
2 Snacks for Home
This way you can shop optimally to reduce the amount of expired foods in your home and know you will have enough food until the next shopping trip. Also, become a member at your local grocery store and use any coupons they may give you at the register there (again, no clipping).
So, how much was I up to so far? Well, by the end of February I was already at $2,000, but I still had $1,000 more to go. I stuck to the plan and stayed on top of my excel spreadsheet with all of my bills and avoided luxury spending, even if it was a $1 cone from the ice cream truck.
It adds up. When you feel the urge to go shopping take a look in your pantry, clothing closet and bathroom cabinets and say instead, how much money can I put in my savings account today?