When you save money, you spend more time (or as referred to in a any business class, "opportunity cost"). Knowing this upfront saves frustration and helps you enjoy the process of saving. Start now by reading below!
Things You Will Need
Review your expenses. The items that are the same cost that you are required to pay regularly are your fixed expenses (e.g. rent). The items that change cost and may not be required each month are your variable expenses (e.g. a wedding present). It helps to list your income minus all your expenses for a month to be able to know what you have left available. If you are unsure what your variable expenses might be, set aside a certain amount to stick to on your budget, such as, 5%. Now that you know how much you are spending, you are on the road to start saving.
Step 1A little planning goes a long way! Another area to track would be to keep all your receipts (or journal everything you spend money on) for one week to compare to your monthly chart...many times we underestimate what we spend. Keep in mind you need to track EVERYTHING and the best way to be accurate is to give yourself an allowance in cash and do not use any other form of payment for the week that you are tracking. You don't want to nickel and dime yourself! If you track what you are actually spending, you will be in a better place to know where you can save!
What do I do with all this information? Use this information to schedule your expenses throughout the month (e.g. if you are paid bi-monthly split your fixed expenses between the two pay periods) and put money into your savings (e.g. 10% per check is recommended, but this that is not an option right now, start by putting your spare change into a jar and do not touch it! As it grows, turn it into bills that can be put into your savings) to avoid living from paycheck-to-paycheck. Also, continue to do your research...use online sites to check the interest (on credit cards that increase your spending--you want the lowest rate you can get) and on your savings (to increase your savings---you want the highest rate you can get).
Use your imagination! Be creative in ways that you spend, save, and spend money. Take these examples as a starting point, add your own ideas, and poll your family/friends. Many people have great thrifty ideas, you just have to ask. For instance, many people use entertainment books. Typically, they cost $25 for a year but the amount of discounts can greatly exceed this---if you make sure to use it! When I purchased mine, I waited until after the new year when they come out to buy it and since it was not "new" the price was cut in half. I checked online to see if there were any other discounts and there were! The website had a special for free shipping and for someone who was already a customer it was even cheaper than that if you bought more copies (e.g. to give to others or to get new ones each year). Here are some more ideas to get you started:
(a) When grocery shopping...always make a list, do not shop when hungry, track the prices of your favorite items to know what is the "best price" (if you don't know the value of the product, you will get overcharged!), compare prices at local stores, use bulk shopping for the items that you use frequently (or if you have a small family split with friends), and cut coupons (using store and manufacturer coupons, along with store specials can double or triple your efforts!).
(b) When retail shopping...don't buy just to buy ("retail therapy" sounds great but hurts the wallet), compare prices (between different retailers and also in-store/online at the same retailer). use promo codes when shopping online (search for discounts by using your search engine to find items "promo code for store xxxx"), check for various store options (many online retailers will ship your items to your local store for free or always ship free when you spend a certain amount), use memberships to be eligible for extra discounts (check with your company, credit cards, preferred customer cards, any groups that you are involved in), always ask (about return policies, extra discounts if there is something irregular/missing, and if they refund the difference on the product if it goes on sale in a certain timeframe)---the worst that they can say is no.
(c) When you are looking, always check for FREEBIES....there are a lot of resouces! Check online and you can search for places to get free meals on your birthday. You can get a free haircut on stylist websites, in classfied ads, or at your local salons---if you are willing to be a hairstyle model or help someone in beauty school earn their hours towards their certificate (see chicagostyle.com. You can regularly get free samples from retail stores (see Walmart) and websites focused on saving. Some websites help the planet and get you free stuff, by offering their version of recycling (post what you are looking to get rid of or get from someone else). Read the free papers (like Red Eye) instead of paying for the newspaper. Do your own "freecycling"...if you need new clothes in your wardrobe, plan a get-together with friends to swap items! You get some stress-relief and new stuff without any cost. Most retailers off free or discount options to get you involved, such as, Bally's promotion for a free one week membership. Just make sure if you doing a "trial offer" to test out a product or get something free in the short-term, make sure to read the fine print on the requirements and cancel within the trial period.
(d) Ways to increase your income...offer your services (e.g. babysit for a friend, cut your neighbor's lawn, pick-up groceries for your elderly neighbor, etc.) to help someone while helping yourself at the same time! Be flexible in the type of work you are looking for (e.g. full-time, part-time, temporary, internship, event only). Participate in focus groups and complete surveys (just keep an eye out that everything is legitimate by reading all the information and checking the Better Business Bureau if needed). Get rid of all that extra stuff...have a garage sale (if you don't have a garage, pair up with a buddy that does!) or sell your spring cleaning items on ebay. Use your skills....if you love cooking, sell your best cales for parties or sell your recipes online. If you are crafty, you can make wedding favors and sell them on ebay. Post your services to online classified sites for free, then everyone will be contacting you!
(e) Keep planning! If you are dying for that expensive coffee, check your expenses and schedule it for once a week or once a month as a special treat to enjoy your favorite things and keep saving. Check the special events throughout the year and do not wait until then to buy...it is cheaper to buy wrapping paper, gifts, and cards when they are on sale instead. Keep "extras" at home...if you buy typically used cards at 2 for $1 at your local Dollar Tree store instead of when you run to the local convenient store because your forgot for $4 you are ahead of the game. This works graet for common gift items, like candles.
Hopefully, all these ideas will be put to good use and you will get new ones to keep going! :)