Do you often find yourself struggling to make ends meet? Are you coming up short a few days before payday? Maybe you’ve given up on money saving tips and have started to turn to credit cards or even payday loans. While it may not be easy, it is possible to save money all while living paycheck to paycheck – it’s just going to take some cutting back and a bit of motivation.
The first step in saving is having more money to save – when was the last time you tracked your spending week over week to figure out where your paycheck keeps going? Start by cutting back on your spending.
First, remember that there is a difference between being frugal and being cheap.
Being frugal means that you focus on maximizing value with your spending. Being cheap means that you only focus on getting the lowest price possible at the expense of your own needs and reasonable comfort. Sometimes, being “cheap” is not the best way to save money, because it may result in you spending more money over time.
For example, if you purchase an old, run-down car for 1.000€ that car might require a couple thousand euros of maintenance each year. On the other hand, if you frugally purchased a slightly newer car for 10.000€ with a monthly payment of a few hundred dollars each month, you might not have to pay as much in maintenance costs, and the car would likely last you much longer.
A few easy ways to cut back on spending while being frugal but not cheap are meal prepping, dining in, discount shopping, and downsizing.
Even if you don’t think you spend much on restaurant bills, it adds up quickly. Let’s consider that the average Starbucks coffee costs more than 3€ and that the average fast-food combo meal ranges from 4€-7€. Seemingly small, but when you do the math, that daily coffee and takeout for lunch and/or dinner can total over 3.000€ each year.
A good way to curb this expense is by meal prepping. Preparing food ahead of time for the week will prevent you from buying takeout during your lunch break or on your way home from work. Practice self-discipline. Only allow yourself to eat out a fixed number of times per month (or per week, to start).
Discount shopping can go a long way. If you’re on a budget, you should avoid paying full price whenever possible. It might take a few minutes longer to do your shopping, but it will be well worth it. Here are some discount shopping tips:
Do you need all that space? Does your home location make sense? Moving can be a pain, but when you do the math on how much you could save by moving somewhere else, it may be worth it. However, don’t forget to look at all the possible outcomes. Will moving somewhere with slightly cheaper rent lead you to spend more on gas and utilities?
In many cities, renting is becoming more expensive than paying a mortgage. Credit scores and interest rates aside, the biggest barrier is making that down payment. Saving for a down payment may not be easy, but it is not impossible, and it can result in your monthly housing expenses decreasing by a few hundred euros. One way to start is by opening a savings account exclusively for a down payment.
Regardless of whether you rent or own your property, you may also want to consider getting a roommate or two. Splitting the cost of rent and utilities can make a huge difference for your wallet – you just have to decide if it is worth the hassle for you.
How much are you spending on meal delivery? Music and movie streaming? Cable/satellite? Unlimited data on your phone plan? Tally up your subscriptions and rank their importance, then cut out the services you don’t need.
Find out how much your car is costing you in maintenance and monthly payments each year. Compare that against the down payment for a new car – it might actually make more sense to invest in a new vehicle rather than pouring money into your old one. If that’s the case, make sure you weigh your long-term costs when purchasing a new car. It might be better to pick the newer model that is going to cost an extra 50€ per month but require less maintenance.
On the other hand, though it may be less convenient, public transportation can be a much cheaper option than owning a car. Even if you do own your car, it can be cheaper to ride the bus to work than to pay for gas every week.
If you forgo car ownership, remember that you’ll be saving not only on the cost of buying your car and on gas, but also on car maintenance (oil changes, tune-ups, fixes) and mandatory insurance.
Impulse spending is one of the biggest ways that you might accidentally neglect your budget. Impulse buying is when you go into a shop to buy one thing and walk out with twelve. Some stores are great at marketing and can convince people to buy things they don’t need.
The key is to take a breather and ask yourself, “do I really need this? Can I reuse it? Is there a cheaper option?”
You can also try using the 30-day rule. This means you “spend” the amount you were going to pay for that item by depositing it in your savings account instead. If after 30 days you still want the item, only then you can withdraw the funds to get it.
If you don’t have a savings account, now is the time to open one. Not only is your extra money safer in a bank than under your mattress, but saving accounts also come with a host of benefits, such as interest and member perks.
Believe it or not, fee-free banks exist. Fee-free refers to no monthly maintenance. These types of accounts are often available via a website or an app, so you don’t even have to go into a physical bank to sign up. Digital-only banks can be cheaper because the banks save a lot of money by not having to pay for their branch locations.
Set up an auto-deposit to a savings account scheduled for the day your paycheck hits. If you force yourself to save in this way (the same way you force yourself to pay your bills each month), you’ll realize it adds up fast. Saving just 100€ per month will give you 1.200€ annually, plus interest!
While it can be tempting to put everything on your credit cards or take out loans when you’re having a hard time making it from paycheck to paycheck, these methods can put you in a deeper hole than you were in when you started.
If you currently have multiple streams of debt (short-term loans, credit card debt, etc.), try to at least consolidate your debt into one account. In other words, start small! Start by paying off one credit card or one loan at a time. If you make paying off your debts a priority, soon you won’t need to take out more loans or use more credit and the cycle will be over!
Keep in mind that it is better to use Rain to access your wages early than to take out another loan.
Saving Money by Avoiding Loans
One of the quickest ways to spend money without realizing it is signing up for short-term loans (like payday loans). Payday lenders are good at advertising. Their signs say “Get 500€ today” and “no initial fees,” but what you don’t realize is that when all is said and done, the 500€ cash you can get today can actually cost you over 180€ in interests and fees. That means that you would get the 500€ today but have to pay over 680€ back.
Rain offers an alternative, you can collect some of your wages early instead of having to wait until payday. That means that instead of paying over 180€ to get 500€, you might be able to withdraw 500€ from Rain and only have to pay a fair and transparent subscription fee to access the app services.