These days, in our world of instant gratification, it's more important than ever to be able to stay focused on saving money any way you can. So to help you monitor your spending habits and cut expenses, here are 20 easy ways you can save every day—starting right now. How's that for instant gratification?
1. Make a weekly "money date." Commit to sitting down with your money once a week for a money date. During this time, update your budget, review your accounts and track your progress against your financial goals. Like any relationship, if you want your financial life to improve, you must spend time with your money.
2. Plan out your meals for the week. Taking a few hours every weekend to grocery shop and meal plan for the week will definitely save you money, as dining out is the No. 1 expense for most households. By eating at home, you save money that would otherwise be spent on tax and tip—and you usually save calories, too.
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3. Cut out cable. Gasp! Cut out TV?! Never! But with services like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime, you can now watch your favorite TV shows and movies for a fraction of the cost of cable TV.
A study by market research firm NPD Group shows that cable bills will soon grow to an average of $123 per month, or $1,476 per year. By switching over to an online service or cutting out TV altogether, you can save that money for another financial goal—such as paying off debt, traveling or saving for a down payment on a home.
4. Switch to an exercise pass program. If you love working out, an exercise pass program such as Class Pass is the way to go. By paying a membership fee of $99 per month, you are welcome at many of the best studios in your area. And classes—like cycling, yoga, Pilates, barre, strength training, boot camp, dance and more—are unlimited. This beats having to pay for each studio's monthly membership or individual class fee, which can add up to hundreds of dollars a month.
5. Host a potluck. The more friends you have, the more money you spend on lunch dates, birthday parties and gifts. Switch it up and, instead of meeting over a fancy dinner, host a potluck and have everyone bring his or her favorite dish. That way, you can save money you'd spend on restaurant extras, such as tax, tip and parking—and you'll usually have a more intimate meal together, too.
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6. Leverage lodging rental websites. Finding a place to stay while traveling is so convenient when you use a lodging rental website such as Airbnb, Travelmob or Housetrip. You can often find a place that has a kitchen (so you can cook meals at home to save money) at a rate that's comparable to hotels. You can even rent out your own place on sites such as Airbnb while you travel to make some extra cash to pay for your own travel expenses. It's a win-win scenario.
7. Make coffee at home. This one's not my favorite, as I absolutely love going to coffee shops and drinking delicious organic coffee. However, spending $4 to $5 on coffee every day definitely adds up. So try my approach and allow yourself a few days a week to buy coffee at cafés, and make it at home the rest of the time.
8. Work more. When you're working a lot, there's not much time left to shop and spend money. So stay busy and pursue a career you love.
9. Wait 48 hours before you click "buy." Since we can have anything we want these days with just the click of a button (there's that instant gratification again), you need to find a system to help buffer your impulse purchases.
Example: Wait 48 hours before spending money on things that cost more than a certain amount. When you do, you will find that, most of the time, the item was more of a "want" than a "need." Plus, you'll save money and work toward being more mindful with your spending.
10. Use blogs and Pinterest to learn DIY beauty treatments. Self-care is important—but going to spas and getting pedicures, massages, etc., can really add up. Allow yourself a certain amount to spend on these things; then use blogs and apps like Pinterest to find at-home beauty treatments to help you save money. Often you can find a DIY organic option using common household or kitchen products.
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11. Outsource online. Time is a commodity, and your time is precious and valuable. And these days, there are so many tasks you can outsource that will save you time and money. But how do you figure out if outsourcing something is worth the expense?
A great thing to do is to actually calculate the cost of your time, which will help you figure out if you can pay someone to do something for less than your hourly rate. Here's an example: A monthly net income of $3,000 divided by a total of 160 hours worked equals an hourly rate of $16.75. Now that you know the value of your time, you can strategically outsource it using a service like Fiverr or Task Rabbit for a fraction of your own hourly rate.
12. Get creative with gifts. Find creative ways to express your love to friends and family members with free, lower-cost or handmade birthday and holiday gifts. After all, a handwritten note explaining why you love someone can be more sentimental than some expensive gift he or she may never even use. Most people will appreciate the thought behind your gifts more than anything, so don't be afraid to save money and find free ways to celebrate birthdays and holidays.
13. Choose quality over quantity. This can apply to food, clothes, electronics and much more. Although it's tempting to choose the more budget-friendly version of an item, sometimes choosing quality over quantity will save you more in the long run. Save up your money and get the best-quality product you can afford, and leverage the cost-per-wear philosophy with more expensive clothing and shoes.
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This applies to food, too: Buying quality organic food can nourish you in ways that fill you up more than the prepackaged, processed stuff and potentially save you money on health-care expenses in the future, since you're taking good care of yourself. Find a balance that is right for you and choose quality whenever you can.
14. Deal with your emotions. Excessive spending is often a way to avoid feeling certain emotions. If you check in with yourself before you go on a major spending spree, you may be able to identify if you're feeling bored, lonely or stressed and are therefore spending money as a means to avoid the underlying emotion. Check in with yourself before you buy, and be mindful with your spending.
15. Stop trying to keep up with the Kardashians. It's hard to keep your blinders on and not compare your financial life to that of others, especially celebrities. However, it is really important to be clear about what matters most to you and make sure you build a financial plan that supports that vision. This will keep you moving toward your financial goals and stop you from spending money on things you don't need, to impress people you don't like.
16. Read a personal finance book. When you learn about personal finance, you'll learn even more strategies to help you save money for your goals in life. Knowledge is power, and the more you know, the more you can save.
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17. Balance your "FOMO/YOLO" mind-set. With social media controlling our lives like never before, people often fall victim to the "fear of missing out" phenomenon and instead go overboard with a "you only live once" mentality.
While it is important to live in the present and soak up each precious moment of life, make sure you balance that out by saving for your financial future, too. Without checks and balances in place, you can find yourself saying yes to everything and spending more money than you have—all due to the fear of missing out.
18. Map out your financial goals. Be very specific with your financial goals. For example, saying, "I want to save for a home down payment" is not enough. You need to map out how much you need, by when and what you need to save every month in order to reach the goal. When you know what your targets are, you're more likely to stay the course and continue saving for them for the long term.
19. Keep your eye on the prize. Staying focused on your goals takes discipline and determination. Saving can be easy and exciting at first, but after a while you may lose that initial motivation and start to find other things you can spend that money on. To avoid veering off course, check in with your goals regularly and keep your eye on the prize.
"The truth is, there are many ways to save money. Find the ways that work for you, and slowly start incorporating the strategies into your life."
20. Track your progress. Americans save only 5.5 percent of their money compared to the 20 percent that personal finance indicates you should put away. But instead of feeling ashamed about your lack of savings, just start by saving something.
Even 1 percent is better than nothing. Track your progress and continue to increase the number year after year. Step by step, day by day, you can get to that 20 percent savings level.
The truth is, there are many ways to save money. Find the ways that work for you, and slowly start incorporating the strategies into your life.
—By Brittney Castro, founder and CEO of Financially Wise Women.
Correction: Fiverr is an outsourcing service. Its name was misspelled in an earlier version of this article.