Saving money isn’t always easy. It can often feel like you have to give up things that you like, it takes time and energy to set a budget and stick to it, and many people just aren’t interested in learning about different ways of saving. Luckily, there are some very simple steps that you can do today that will help you spend less on the things you already buy with very little effort. Once you get into the swing of it, you’ll start hunting bargains like a pro!
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MEAL PLAN, MEAL PLAN, MEAL PLAN
This is the first step to make sure you don’t overspend on groceries or on eating out! Deciding your meals and groceries ahead of time not only cuts down on extra grocery trips to grab that one item that you need (as well as some unplanned items that you decide to get while you’re there), but it also eliminates the mid-week decision fatigue that so often results in takeout. As a bonus, you’ll waste less food because you’re buying with a plan and paying attention to what’s already in your fridge.
Ready to try it? Read Meal Planning: How to Get Started for the 5 simple steps of getting started with meal planning and saving yourself tons of money. Make your life even easier by utilizing your freezer too!
Don’t know if you want to invest the time to meal plan? Let someone else do it for you! At $5 Meal Plan, you’ll get varied weekly meal plans and organized grocery lists for only $5 a month. They even have a gluten free version AND they offer a two week trial, so there’s nothing to lose! Check out their sample meal plan.
JOIN RAKUTEN AND IBOTTA RIGHT NOW!
Rakuten (formerly Ebates) and Ibotta both offer cash back on the things you buy (either online or in person, depending on the app), and I’ve gotten a lot of money back just from signing up with these companies. These two are absolutely a no brainer if you want to save money without even trying!
How do they work?
Rakuten (Ebates) is an online company that offers an extension for your browser. Just sign in and your work is done! As you shop online, Rakuten will let you know if that website offers a cash back deal (often between 2-10% back, but some websites offer 15% or up to 30-40%!). They work with tons of retailers, including clothing, electronics, kids, home stores, books, and even travel! Even Amazon sometimes has deals through Rakuten. It’s seriously so easy, and if you shop online at all, you should absolutely have it. Sign up with this link and you’ll get $10 with your first shop!
Ibotta also offers an ever-expanding variety of retailers to shop with, but what I really use them for is cash back on groceries! They have offers for specific products rather than just stores, and all you have to do is add an offer to your account and take a picture of the receipt once you buy it. Every once in awhile the cash back they offer matches the prices of the item, and you can essentially get it for free!
In order to actually save money with these (and similar) apps, you need to be sure that you don’t fall into the trap of buying something just because it’s on sale!! ONLY buy things that you were already intending to buy and you’ll be sure to save money.
Groupon is an online retailer that offers significant discounts on products, services, and experiences in your local area. It’s awesome for saving money on things you already do (or have been wanting to try!). Get 80% off kickboxing classes, 50% off of a massage, or finally try one of those cookie dough places with 43% off! They also have coupons for other retailers such as Amazon, Nordstrom, or Best Buy. They have a wide variety of offers and are definitely worth a look! Sometimes you can find fun things that you didn’t even know existed. I found a sumo wrestler expo happening in Portland a few months ago, and it was great!
Like Rakuten and Ibotta, resist the urge to buy something just because it’s on sale. However, if you’re looking for a new manicurist in your area, definitely visit Groupon first!
As a bonus, Groupon partners with Rakuten! You can save money on fun things to do in your city AND get cash back for it, too!
GOT PETS? GET CHEWY!
Owning pets can get expensive fast! Food supplies, vet visits, medications…it can all add up quickly. But that doesn’t mean that your furry friends and your budget can’t coexist!
As entertaining as it can be to go to the pet supply store, you need to switch to Chewy.com. First (and most importantly!), Chewy carries food, supplies, medication, and speciality food for a range of animals, including horses, and it’s much cheaper than what you can get at the grocery store or pet store. The canned food I buy for my cats is $0.10-$0.15 cheaper per can than the grocery store. Those savings add up quickly! They even carry Halloween costumes and other clothing!
In addition, they offer an Autoship option. Choose what you want and how often you want it to be delivered, and your work is done. You’ll get an additional discount on each Autoship, and you won’t have to worry about running out of what you need! You can get 30% off of your first Autoship here.
And of course, they also partner with Rakuten! Those savings keep adding up!
Want more tips for saving money with pets? Visit How to Save Money on Pets for 8 ideas!
AUTOMATE YOUR SAVINGS
No matter how many of these ideas you put into practice, you won’t save significant amounts of money unless you are putting it into a separate savings or investment account! Trust me, if it sits in your checking account, you will spend it. Plus, if you choose the right kind of savings or investment account, you can grow your money with no effort at all!
I recently switched my basic savings account to Capital One. My bank kept charging me monthly fees, and they couldn’t match Capital One’s interest rate, so I switched. Nerd Wallet is my go-to for advice on accounts or credit cards, so definitely check out their advice. Don’t stick with your bank just because it’s what you know. Do your homework and find the right kind of account for you.
Once you choose your account, AUTOMATE your monthly deposit! I cannot stress enough how much this has changed my savings. You don’t have to think about it, you don’t have to remember to do it, and you don’t have to actively choose month after month to save your money. It is super easy to set up an automatic payment with your bank, and even if you can only put aside $25 a month, by the end of the year that’s $300 (plus growing interest) that you didn’t have before.
If you start using Rakuten or Ibotta, why not put all that cash back directly into your savings?
Not budgeting yet? It doesn’t have to be painful. Head over to The Budget Mom for helpful tips on starting a budget when you really don’t want to.
Need help setting savings goals? Check out How to Set and Keep Financial Goals Part 1 to walk you through the easy process.
What are your favorite ways to save money? Tell me in the comments!