Money doesn’t mean happiness, but it definitely can make your life easier. Learning how to manage money and spend less is something many young adults aren’t taught or don’t think about. Thankfully, people make mistakes, so you can learn from them. It takes discipline and knowing some small tricks to save money, especially on a lower income.
„Where did my money go?“
It is a question we often ask ourselves at the end of the month, despite not being lavish spenders.
Most of the money disappears unnoticed because of small purchases, which on the surface seem insignificant to even consider them as budget threats.
So, let’s discuss some money traps and strategies, which can help you spend less and save a part of your salary.
#1 Going shopping right after you got your salary
You worked hard, and finally got your money transferred to your bank account. While you were waiting, you had enough time to find some pretty things that you want to buy. It is tempting to go shopping right away, because you feel financially secure in that moment and also want to reward yourself.
This feeling of financial security can easily fool you, because very often we forget to subtract all our expenses. And after we pay all the bills, the reality looks a bit different.
Another reason why you shouldn’t go shopping right away are unexpected expenses.
Maybe you will need to go to the dentist or your water heater stops working. You can get fired or your company goes bankrupt. Life plays tricks on everyone, and we can’t predict what will happen. But you can have a small emergency fund – which is better then saying „I wish I didn’t buy that new pair of sneakers.“
Take a part of your salary as soon as you get it and transfer it to your saving account and try to leave nonessential purchases for the end of the month.
#2 Upgrading your lifestyle when you get a raise or a bonus
Getting a raise at work or any other increase of your income (like freelancing or a side job) feels great. It’s easy to fall into the trap and increase your spending as well. But doing so won’t change your financial situations at all.
Yes, you will own the latest gadgets, eat at fancier places but this way you will still struggle at the end of the month. (Keep this in mind. I had to learn it the hard way *sobs*.)
#3 Going to the market „ just for one item“
You probably know how this usually ends. You need milk, bread or maybe you just want to buy a refreshing drink and instead end up buying more than intended.
The best think you can do is to create a schedule for grocery shopping and a shopping list. If you really need to buy one particular item then it is better to leave your credit card at home and bring just enough cash to buy that one item.
#4 Bring your lunch, drinks and snacks to work/school
You are on your way to work and you feel a bit hungry so you stop at the next pastry shop. Then you need a morning coffee and another one in the afternoon.
These little purchases are really sneaky because you don’t have the feeling that you are spending too much, but when you calculate your monthly expenses you will see that you actually leave a good amount of money at work – and that is without counting your lunch.
You can save a lot of money by bringing lunch, drinks and snacks to work or school.
#5 Buy groceries by the „99-cents store“ method and build a base for you recipes
You’ve probably been to a 99-cent store before and left with a bunch of random items.
I like making us of this principle when I buy groceries. I search for the cheaper items which won’t cost me a lot if I buy multiples of them and use them as base ingredients when cooking.
For example, I buy canned tunas, rice, peas, tomato juice, cooking cream and pasta. I also buy some fresh vegetables like peppers, carrots and onions and store them in the freezer.
When I want to cook something, all I will occasionally buy some chicken breast and cook a creamy pasta with the rest of the ingredients that I already have stored at home. Not only will this save you money, but also prevents food waste.
Build a base for you recipes with cheaper items and add one or two fresh ingredients when you want to cook.
Remember to thing about your health, even when you are saving money. Try to find a balance between frozen/canned food and fresh ingredients.
#6 Build your recipes around the groceries you already have
When you decide that you want to save money, the first thing that comes to mind is cooking more often at home.
You go online to find some ideas and you make a grocery list based on a recipe. If you don’t take local and seasonal prices into consideration, you can end up spending even more money. A tomato-mozzarella salad is fine in Summer but more expensive in Winter.
I really love chicken curry, but coconut milk is really expensive so I use regular cooking cream instead.
This might sound obvious but when you’re young and just get your first jobs then you don’t really think about these things.
Use ingredients that you already have at home and build your go-to recipes around them.
There are websites like Supercook that will create a recipe based on the ingredients you have. It’s really helpful if you are just starting cooking at home.
If you do want to follow a recipe then consider that:
You don’t need to have every ingredient
You can replace expensive ingredients with cheaper ones (like I did with the coconut milk)
#7 Eat before you leave the house. This is a quick tip. Make it a habit to eat something before you leave your house to avoid spending money on expensive meals to-go.
#8 Cheap clothing eats your money
If there is something that you should invest more money in then it is your clothing.
It’s tempting to buy clothes from fast fashion brands, but in reality you will buy more often because the quality isn’t meant to last. The colors fade away, jeans easily rip around your inner thighs and those nasty fuzzy balls appear on your T-shirts. As a result you will have to purchase clothing more often.
Quality doesn’t necessarily mean expensive. Look for lesser known brands which don’t market themselves aggressively. These types of brands typically specialize in one type of clothing, like shoes, jeans.
You will spend a few bucks more, but you will save more money in the long run.
#9 Having unused space in your house or apartment
Maybe you just got your first job, and you decided to rent yourself a nice apartment with a living room, bedroom and a separate dining room.
The bigger your apartment the more you pay for the rent. Finding a roommate can cut your monthly bills in half and if you have some extra space you can turn it into a bedroom.
When I got my first apartment, it had only one bedroom, a living room and a separate dining area connecting to the kitchen. I turned the living room into a bedroom, so I ended having two separate rooms. This way I could have a roommate.
There are also many students who can’t afford a separate bedroom, so they will sleep on the couch. If you don’t use your living room that much, you can also rent it out.
#10 Don’t hide that you are saving money or have money problems
People don’t like to talk about money, especially if they are struggling with it. Not telling your friends, family or colleagues that you want to spend less can trap you in your old spending habits.
If you are used to going for a drink with your colleagues after work or class, it’s likely that you will keep doing it, if you don’t tell anyone that you want to save money.
Maybe you will meet them less often, or they will offer you to share a meal. You can simply suggest a less expensive activity, like going for a walk.
It is enough to say that you are planning to save money and you don’t need to go into details.
#11 Always know how much money you have
The fear of checking your back account is a real thing and it typically starts after a bigger purchase.
Maybe you are familiar with the following scenario: you know that you are running out of money and are afraid to look over your bank account. You become anxious and for some reason you go shopping again (human logic).
This can affect anyone, especially if you didn’t learn how to manage money.
I also had this problem and went shopping without knowing the numbers in my bank account – until my card got rejected. (At that point I knew how much I have.) Now I get a notification each time I make a purchase so I can see how much money I have left in my back account.
Some will learn the hard way, but you don’t have to. Just know that, if you are experiencing this type of fear, you’re not alone. It can be scary but avoiding reality won’t do you any good.
#12 Know what you are saving for
Having a goal and knowing what you are saving for will not only motivate you but also make you feel less bad about yourself.
You will change your lifestyle by eating cheaper meals, going out less often and not having the latest gadgets. Goals like investing in your education, starting a business, traveling the world or simply building your dream house will help you not to give up.
Which skills are also important when saving money?
Learn time management.
If you decide to save money knowing how to manage your time will be important. You will need some planning for scheduling your visits to buy groceries, cooking at home or eating before leaving your house
Improve your cooking and meal prep skills.
Eating at home and bringing lunch to work can save you a lot of money and you don’t need to be a master chef to do so. There are a tons of meal prep videos on YouTube to get inspired. But remember to adjust te recipes and ingredients to your location.
Consider an additional source of income.
There are so many ways to earn money on the Internet if you are willing to invest some time and patience.
You don’t have to build an online empire if you don’t want to. Having a blog, YouTube channel, freelancing or selling your designs can earn you some extra cash.
Spending less money can be a bit difficult at the beginning, and you will have an adjustment period. You can also feel bad about yourself because you will downgrade your lifestyle. But always remember why you are saving in the first place and use it as a motivation. Also remember to take small steps.