Sometimes it feels as though there’s never enough money to make it through the month. Use these seven practical tips and see how much extra you can save in the next 30 days.
Below are 7 practical ways to find an extra $500 this month
Use a written budget
You can only consistently save money when you know where all your money is going. Start by writing down your total monthly take-home pay. Then allocate every dollar of income to a budget category until you get to $0. This way, you have a written plan for how your money will be used. Instead of using past spending habits to determine how much you’ll budget for food, clothes, and entertainment, set a reasonable amount for each and move the extra you save to a savings account.
Reverse meal plan
Food is by far the biggest budget buster, but the good news is anyone can get their food expenses under control with a little strategy. Typical meal planning calls for making a list of meals you’d like to make and then shopping for those ingredients. With reverse meal planning, you make a meal plan based on the food you already have in your pantry and freezer. Then, buy missing ingredients to complete the plan. This way you waste less and save more. To make your food budget stretch even further, dedicate one meal a week to using up leftovers, shop for fresh produce that’s on sale, and make simple meals from scratch instead of buying pre-packaged meals at the deli. You can even make double batches of dinner such as chili, and freeze it for later use, so you always have something on hand when you don’t feel like cooking.
Use cash for purchases
Spending with a credit card leads to higher spending, whereas cash discourages spending. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon, MIT, and Stanford discovered the reason for this: they used fMRI to see what happened to participants brains when they made a purchase with cash versus with a credit card. When participants used cash, the “pain center” of the brain lit up. However, nothing happened when swiping a credit card. The immediate, though subconscious, feeling of loss from handing over cash was enough to influence participants’ decisions about the value of an item, and made them think more carefully about spending money. Conversely, credit cards appear to have an anesthetic effect on spending.
Hunt for a better deal
It’s easy to get set in our shopping habits. Try this exercise: before heading to your regular store, take five minutes to price compare online to see if you can get a better deal elsewhere. You might be surprised at the deals you can find when you look for the best price before making a purchase.
Declare a spending freeze
Nothing helps to gain clarity on needs versus wants like a self-imposed spending freeze. Whether for two weeks or a full 30 days, give yourself permission to buy only what is absolutely essential: food and fuel. If you want to go to the movies, borrow one from the library for free. Instead of going out for Mexican food, make your own taco bar at home. Use your free time to volunteer to help someone, read that book you’ve been meaning to pick up, or clean out a closet. You’ll be impressed with how much you didn’t spend and how much you were able to accomplish and save.
Save money on car insurance, phone, and internet
Once a year, shop around for better rates on car insurance, your cell phone service, and internet. Sometimes if you just call your internet provider and ask for a better rate, they’ll give it to you. Well-known cell phone carriers are facing tough competition from lesser-known names such as Ting and Mint Mobile, which are compatible with many smartphone models and offer better rates with no contract. Finally, get two or three quotes on car insurance so you know if you’re really getting the best deal. The savings could add up to a couple hundred dollars every month.
Cancel unused subscriptions
Going through your list of subscriptions is like going through that spider web-covered corner in the garage: you never know what you’ll find! Sometimes you’ll realize you’re paying for subscriptions you completely forgot about and never use. Cancel those, along with the ones that aren’t worth it to you anymore. Even $20 a month is $240 a year that you could use to buy something you care about more.