The most difficult part of switching to a more frugal lifestyle is often just getting started. These strategies for saving money for beginners will get you started on the path to frugality. If you're not living within your means, you're living paycheck to paycheck, you've been laid off or you need to save money for an important goal, there are many easy and painless ways to cut spending and build a nest egg.
Cut subscriptions and pay as you go.
This step can be painful for cable addicts, but you may be surprised at how muchmoney you can save by examining and cutting the subscriptions that are coming out of your bank account each month. Try getting books, audiobooks and DVDs from your local library for entertainment. You can read magazines at the library, too, and many libraries circulate back issues of popular magazines. Even if you purchase TV episodes one by one from iTunes, you'll probably spend less than on your monthly cable bill, and you'll be more conscious about what you watch.
Set up automatic savings.
If you're living paycheck to paycheck, starting a savings account will have a massive impact on your financial stability. You may not feel that you can afford to save any money, but setting up an automatic transfer of even $5/week will make a difference- that's $260/year! Automating the process makes it impossible for you to flake out on your savings goals- just be careful to keep a small cash cushion in your account to avoid any overdraft fees. Speaking of which:
Be conscious of banking fees- and don't be afraid to fight them
Those $2 ATM fees and $10 overdraft fees really add up. Your bank should be holding on to your money for you- not taking it from you. Get the cash you need for the week in one ATM visit, and opt out of overdraft protection, as well as "credit protection plans" and "identity theft protection" plans that may be billing you monthly. These are cash cows for banks that offer little real value to consumers. If you've been charged late or overdraft fees by your bank and you have a good overall record, a phone call may be all you need to have the fee removed. It can't hurt to ask!
Learn to cook.
The cheapest way to eat is to purchase mostly plain ingredients and make things from scratch. Avoid the center aisles of the supermarket and shop around the edges, where the produce and fresh items are kept. Try not to buy branded items or prepared foods.
Always carry food with you.
Getting hungry when you're on the go can wreck your mood and energy level, as well as causing you to spend money unnecessarily. Carry some nuts and a granola bar in your bag, and keep snacks in your glove box or your desk at work. Carry a reusable water bottle and coffee mug.
Try to drive a little less each week. Make a game out of it and record your progress.
Walk, ride a bike or take public transportation as much as possible. Batch errands together to minimize your driving. Start a carpool at work. As well as saving money on gas, you may be eligible for tax deductions.
Institute a waiting period of a month for any major purchases, and always shop around.
When you do need to spend money, make it a conscious choice to purchase something that you value, and get the best deal on it you can find. Eliminate buyer's remorse by using a waiting period. After a month you will probably have forgotten all about whatever you were tempted by.
Don't burn yourself out by trying to change overnight.
The best way to encourage yourself to change your lifestyle is to take it slowly- don't try to initiate all of these changes at the same time. Take baby steps and when one habit (like carrying a water bottle or walking to the library) has become second nature, add another.
Use metrics to track your progress.
While the amounts saved with each of these steps may be small, you will notice a dramatic change in your finances over time. You can encourage yourself to keep on saving money by tracking your progress with software like Quicken or the free Mint.com. As you see your debts decrease and net worth increase, you'll be motivated to save more. Good luck to you!