You know you should be investing in yourself – in a course, some coaching, a workshop, attending an event, the list goes on – but these things cost money, so what do you do if you’re budget is already stretched to breaking point and you don’t see a major pay rise on the cards in the near future? What are the best ways to save money to invest in yourself, or to do anything else that you really want to do for that matter?
Firstly, let me preface this by saying that I’m not a financial advisor or anything of the sort, but I have tried many ways to save money and I wanted to share with you what I’ve found to be some of the best ways to save money so that you have more of it to spend of the things that drive you forwards.. These are just simple tweaks that have worked for me. They are certainly not the only ways, and they’re definitely not the most sophisticated, but doing these things can definitely leave you with a good £150 a month left over, and that could be more depending on where you’re starting from.
While £150 might not sound like anything to write home about it’s all about the compound effect over time. ( Incidentally The Compound Effect is also a great book by Darren Hardy and well worth a read)
So, here are my top 10 ways to save money so you can invest in yourself, and finally start progressing and getting what you want out of life.
Track your spending
Ok, so tracking your spending isn’t directly saving money, but in my experience, most of us massively underestimate how much we spend and on what- hence that surprising credit card bill!
When I finally decided to get serious about my finances and clear my debts, the first thing I did was track what I spend for an entire month.
I did nothing differently, I just carried on as normal but kept every receipt and / or wrote things down. At the end of the month, I sat down and went through my bank statement and receipts and calculated how much I had spent that month on every area of my life- bills, rent, food, going out for drinks with friends (that was the biggest shock!), clothes…basically, everything.
At the end, I could see exactly where my money was going, because, in the words of Carrie Bradshaw, “I know I made some”, I just never seemed to have any and I needed to find out why, and boy did I!
So, by doing this scary yet valuable exercise, you’ll know where to focus your efforts, where the quick wins are, and were things really need to change, and you can go from there.
2.Create a simple budget
So, you’ve tracked your spending and you know what’s been going on for you and where on those pennies have disappeared off to, now it’s time to set a budget, because setting a budget is one of the best ways to save money.
What I’ve learned about budget setting (and I’m no expert here) is that it must be realistic. Seriously, you need to make it realistic.
One of the biggest mistakes I made in the past was setting crazy strict budgets that didn’t account for so many things. All that happened was I didn’t stick to them. If you do this, this is not the best way to save money, this is the opposite. You feel like you’re working on it, trying really hard, but it just doesn’t work.
So, do yourself a favour and get real when it comes to setting a budget.
If you’re wondering what I mean by this, consider this example.
If you inevitably spend £80 on those nights out with friends, don’t put £30 in the budget, it won’t work! Instead, try an approach that you can stick to like to cut it down to £50, this might seem like a minimal saving but it’s about the incremental gains over the months and years.
You could also try going out less, and replacing one of your nights out with a night in, so you’re out of temptation’s way. It’ll be cheaper, plus, those nights out will be something to really look forward to – win win!
Set a realistic budget that you feel you can stick to. You’ll still have some tough decisions to make, after all, if you’re serious about saving money, then you will need to cut spending, from somewhere, but it’s about setting a plan that you can stick to for the long term.
The benefit of having a budget in place (If you stick to it) is that you KNOW how much you’re spending in advance so you don’t get any more nasty surprises.
3. Grab a packed lunch
Lunch is one of those things that you can easily overspend on. Because it’s a daily thing, it’s easy to think it’s just a few pounds, dollars, whatever, but this soon adds up. Even if you’re trying to save on lunch and opt for a meal deal of some sort, the reality is, when you multiply this over the course of a month, it’s a substantial figure. Not to mention, if you go for something really nice then the cost soon mounts up.
Instead of grabbing something from the shop on a daily basis, prepare your lunches in advance and bring something from home. This will easily save you in excess of £60 a month and that is being conservative! Not too shabby.
If you feel like you just don’t have the time to batch prepare your lunches, just make more dinner and have the leftovers for lunch, after all, you’re already making dinner anyway.
4. Work from home
Now I know this might not be an option for everyone but I’ve chosen to include it because if you can do it, then you might be surprised what a difference it makes. That’s assuming you have a big commute of course. If you currently walk to work, then this clearly won’t make a difference.
I’ve had as much as a 4 hour daily commute in the car. And when a lot of this is time spent in traffic, which uses up more petrol, going into the office 5 days per week just became too costly. So, if you can cut down the amount of driving you’re doing on a weekly basis then this is definitely one of the great ways to save money.
5. Car Share or get on your bike
If working from home is a no go in your current job, then don’t worry, because there are still ways you can save money on the cost of your commute.
I used to give a colleague a lift to work from time to time and it got me wondering why more people don’t car share. It’s definitely a great way to cut down on costs and a good way to save money.
On the other hand, if you quite enjoy being the one in the driving seat, you could also stick to the drive and do others the favour of giving them a lift.
If no one in your office is going your way, you could always try sites like liftshare.com instead.
6. Switch your service providers
We always hear about the benefits of switching gas, electric, internet and mobile providers. But the list of services we use doesn’t end there and there is more than likely one or more services that you’re currently overpaying for.
For example, I previously switched gyms and opted instead to go to the local council run gym in a bid to try and save money. The saving this gave me was a whopping £35 a month. Now for the sake of full disclosure, I didn’t stick with that option, but these days, there a plenty of cheap gym options, with the cheapest of which being FREE.
That’s right, £0. There is nothing that says you need a gym membership at all given that you can get very fit going for a jog, or even, dare I say it using DVDs – T25 anybody?
But seriously, since we all feel pressed for time, why not ditch that added trip to the gym and opt instead a quick 25 minute blast first thing in the morning, that way, it’s off your list, and that’s also one less monthly contract payment to worry about.
7. Save first
When it comes to the different ways to save money, sometimes it’s the really obvious things that we need to put in place, like deciding on a figure you want to save, setting a direct debit for it, and not cancelling it, no matter what! Making sure that it’s set to come out the minute you get paid.
This way, your savings are coming out first, before you go out for dinner, have a night out on the town, fix the car or do anything else you might want to or need to do.
The fact is, we tend to figure things out if we really have to. When you put yourself in the position where the money is just not there to spend, you’ll likely find that you’re able to manage just fine with the money you do have.
8. Eat in
As someone who loves food, and generally any event which means going out, eating and drinking, one of my favourite things to do is going out for a meal.
The problem is, great meals mean more expense. Let’s face it, it’s never just a meal and one drink.
Cutting down the number of times you eat out on a monthly basis can make a huge difference to your monthly spending.
That’s not to say you have to completely stop. It just means cutting down and staying in and cooking a special meal instead. That way, it can still be an event, but at half the cost. Not to mention, you can throw in a movie on Netflix and have your whole night sorted from the comfort of your own home.
You might even find you have hidden culinary talents. Better still, why not see if you can get someone else to cook for you.
9. Budget for fun
One of the biggest mistakes I made early on was trying to save every penny by simply cutting radically from what I like to call my “entertainment” fund. This meant, barely any events with friends, no dining out, and generally barely anything which looked like “fun” in my calendar.
I don’t need to tell you that this did not work. After a full month of staying in, I felt stressed, fed up and all round annoyed at everything and everyone. After all, they were busy having a good time and rubbing my face in it by inviting me out.
Needless to say, I soon realised this was not a sensible option when it came to ways to save money and I had to change what I was doing.
Instead of cutting out fun cold turkey why not:
-Have one or two weekends where the challenge is to keep spending to a set amount, say £30 (or any other figure you prefer). This way, you’re doing a challenge, which we all love, and since it’s only for one or two weekends a month, you still have those bigger nights out to look forward to.
-Downscale. Rather than going to all your favourite fancy places every time, why not try new places where things may be a little bit cheaper
– Go to friends’ houses. Ok, so this is a cheat, but it’s not staying in at your own place, so technically, you’re still going out, just not having to spend so much in the process!
10. Buy in bulk
Finally, bulk buy as much stuff as possible. You might not have a huge fridge or freezer where you live currently, but you can still bulk buy all sorts of things (as I’ve discovered). It seems odd if there’s just you or just two of you, but it just means buying these items less frequently.
You could also shop with family and friends so they can get the full benefits of the bulk buy.
If that’s taking it a little too far, then just start by doing a weekly regular shop and sticking with it. This might sound like an obvious thing to do, but when I tracked my spending, one thing I noticed was that I would buy so many things here and there through each week, and when you do this, the reality is, it’s easier to overspend – not what you want when you’re thinking of ways to save money.
There you have it, 10 great ways to save money. These are simple things that you can implement straight away, so that you can save money and finally hire that coach to help you achieve the things you really want in your life.
As a final bonus tip, here are 5 great sites that I found really helpful when it comes to sorting out your finances. These sites offer sound advice, some very frank and some more laid back and down to earth. Either way, they’re a great place to start if your ready to take your finances seriously.