1. Know Your Weaknesses
While you’re gearing up to end overspending, first find out where you spend the most money. Look through your recent statements and highlight any unnecessary expenses. Where are you spending the most on items or services that benefit your finances, or steal from them? Once you’ve recognized your unnecessary expenses, limit your spending.
Bonus step: Create your ideal budget and set specific financial goals using the Mint app. Enable alerts to notify you anytime you’re nearing your budget’s limit.
2. Create a Budget and Stick to It
Now that you’ve identified where you overspend, it’s time to create a budget to keep your temptations at bay. As a general rule of thumb, you should follow the 50/30/20 rule — 50 percent of your income going to necessities, 30 percent towards extras, and 20 percent towards your savings.
After figuring out how much money comes in versus out, set your monthly budget goals. As each month may have different expenses, plan for the adjustments. Sit down at the end of each month to readjust your budget for the next month ahead.
Bonus step: Schedule budget check-ins once a month to hold yourself accountable.
3. Give Every Dollar a Purpose
When creating your budget, try budgeting to zero. When you have extra money laying around in your account, you may feel tempted to spend it on things you don’t need. Once you’ve accounted for your necessary expenses like rent, electricity, and WiFi, divide up your leftovers to put towards your savings, extra debt payments, and investments until you reach zero.
Bonus step: Set up automatic savings contributions to make sure your income is directly deposited where you want it to go.
4. Only Shop With a List
Write out a shopping list before you enter the store to ensure you get everything you need without any extras. While you’re shopping, only stick to what’s on your list. If it’s not on the list and you haven’t budgeted for it, put it down and just keep walking.
Bonus step: To avoid impulse purchases, unsubscribe from all your email newsletters and delete shopping apps from your phone.
5. Check Your Budget Before You Spend
If you do find yourself eyeing an item that you haven’t budgeted for (it happens!), check in on your bank account before making the purchase. If it fits your budget, ask yourself the hard questions. Do you really need this item? If so, how would it benefit you and your lifestyle? Could it save you time or money? If yes, follow through with the purchase while respecting your budget.
Bonus step: Wait three days before purchasing an unneeded item. After 72 hours, if you’re still interested and it fits your budget, go back and get it.
6. Invest In Multi-Use Products
While your monthly goal may be to save as much as you can, be open to higher-priced items that could help you reach that goal. For example, buying reusable paper towels means you’ll spend less on disposable ones over time. Another way to save on small expenses is to become your own barista, which can save you between $1,934 to $2,327 a year.
Bonus step: Consider adopting some minimalist lifestyle ideas to help spend less and declutter.
7. Ditch Food Delivery and Cook at Home
The average American spends $3,459 on eating out every year. Instead of ordering food for lunch every day, meal prep at home. You can work this into your weekly routine by designating a day for meal planning and a day for grocery shopping and cooking. Planning your meals saves you from overspending while still making your favorite gourmet meals. You can save eating out for special occasions.
Bonus step: Delete all your food delivery apps from your phone to avoid the urge to order a speedy, but expensive, meal.
8. Pack Leftovers the Night Before
When your calendar’s booked, you’re most likely looking for the easiest way to get food for lunch. Nix your takeout food budget and pack your leftovers from the night before. While some nights you may be booked with events or virtual get-togethers, meal prep once or twice a week to ensure you have food for lunch every day. Simple dishes like chicken and veggies are easy meals to make on a budget.
Bonus step: Organize a “lunch swap” with your coworker so you don’t get bored of eating the same meal.
9. Squash Sale Shopping
If items on your shopping list aren’t on sale, don’t go looking for unnecessary items on the sale racks. You may walk out of the store buying something you don’t need because “it was only five bucks!” Kick discount shopping to the curb unless the items you need are part of the sale.
Bonus step: Save time and money by avoiding discount catalogs and sale sections.
10. Opt For Generic Over Name Brand
While checking off your shopping list, see if there are any generic alternatives to big-name brands. Most big box stores make the same products at a discounted price in exchange for the branded packaging. Compare the ingredients of a generic item against name brand products to see if you can spot a difference. Purchasing generic food products alone could save you 30 to 60 percent.
Bonus step: Google online coupons at checkout to see if you can get an added discount.
11. Cancel Unnecessary Subscriptions
While your gym membership and TV streaming system may have served you a few years ago, it may not now. Audit your expenses each month to see what you’re able to cut out. Instead of paying for a gym membership that costs on average $696 each year, purchase weights and a yoga mat for your own home gym. Not only could it save you money year after year, it could save you the commute to the gym and back.
Bonus step: As 65% of people don’t keep track of their monthly spending, schedule budget audits on your calendar every three months.
12. Challenge Yourself to a No-Spend Challenge
Participate in daily, weekly, or monthly savings challenges to make penny-pinching more fun. Ask your friends and family to join in on a no-spend challenge to up the stakes. Spark some friendly competition while giving back to your bank account. Once the month has come to a wrap, treat yourself to your favorite snack in celebration of your achievements.
Bonus step: Set an alert on your phone for a no-spend day each week. One New Yorker saved $18,432 in six months from having one no-spend day a week.
13. Set New Budget Goals and Repeat
Challenges help keep your eyes on the prize. Set different goals as you audit your budget each month. One month you may want to focus on contributing to your emergency fund, while the other you may want to increase your student loan payments. Get creative with your goals and set up budget alerts to ensure you’re meeting them.
Bonus step: Tell your friends and family about your goals each month to increase your odds of meeting them.