Facing Financial Hardship? 6 Ways to Save Money

Getting by in America isn't cheap, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. When you're already on a tight budget, it's not easy to find additional ways to save money. But it's always important to set aside at least a little for the future, no matter how much income you're currently bringing in.

If you could use some extra wiggle room in your budget, here are just a few ways to save money throughout the year. Each penny, quarter and dollar helps. You may already do some of these things, but hopefully at least a few of these ideas will spark some fresh inspiration for you.

Start Using a Budget

A budget gives you the ability to track your spending and saving—and hopefully to see an increase in savings and a decrease in spending. Without a budget in place, your money will just be running through your fingers with no set objectives. A budget gives you parameters and purpose. It gives you boundaries and it gives you freedom to live creatively within those boundaries.

Think of your monthly budget as a spending plan for what you really want in life. With that mindset, you can begin using a budget as a means to reduce spending in areas you don't care about, while setting limits in other areas of your life where spending is necessary.

Your budget doesn't have to be complicated. All you really need to do is write out your bills, bank statements and paycheck amounts and then figure out how much you've been spending each month compared to how much money you bring in. From there, create a budget that includes predictable spending on bills like your rent or mortgage and car payment, as well as estimates for spending in fluctuating categories. You'll hopefully find a big difference in how much you could be spending when compared to how much you earn, in which case you can start funneling more money into savings right away.

Use a Budgeting App

If you want some help getting started with a budget, don't forget to check for third-party apps that can help you get a handle on your finances and reduce your spending in a hurry.

The budgeting apps help you understand your income and spending, so you have maximum control over your money. Budgeting apps may connect to your bank account and credit cards to automatically download transactions and categorize your spending to match the budget you choose.

To get started, you need to connect your checking, savings, and credit card accounts. The app can see what you are spending, where to save, and reminds you when credit card bills are due.

If you’re serious about budgeting apps, YNAB is a top choice thanks to its detailed budgeting strategy, excellent support, and helpful features. However, if you’re looking for a free option, competitor Mint is a solid alternative.

Switch to Cash for Your Daily Expenses

While it may not be practical to pay your rent or utility bills in cash, switching to cash for other expenses can help you cut back on your spending. Groceries and entertainment are two prime categories for going cash-only.

When you shop with a credit or debit card, you can have your budget in your head and you can do the best to stick with it when you go to the store and check out, but it’s so much easier to go just a little bit over here and there when you’re swiping. You can justify that $2 you went over your budget to buy something that was a “great deal” when paying with your card. $2 might not seem like much, but if you spend $2 to $3 more every week, that adds up to around $130 in extra spending over a year’s time.

Look at Your Food Bill

Another way to save money is to change the way you eat. Dining out is a fun way to break up the week, but we all know that too many takeout meals can cause our budgets to balloon right along with our waistlines. Probably the best thing you can do is to cook at home. Cooking at home is significantly less expensive in almost every case. Not only do you get to avoid paying the inflated prices restaurants charge, but you save money on the tip, too.

You could also consider giving up or cutting back on meat. Though produce can be expensive too, especially if you purchase fresh and organic options, meat typically costs more pound for pound for everyday items. And you can also save money by buying frozen or canned fruits, beans, and vegetables.

Refinance Your Mortgage

For many people, their home is their most valuable asset. Record-low interest rates have made now an excellent time to consider refinancing your mortgage. You could save money by refinancing your mortgage to get a lower APR, as well as a lower monthly payment. Refinancing is also a way for homeowners to trade an adjustable-rate mortgage for a fixed-rate mortgage or to change the length of their home loan.

If you want to refinance your mortgage but aren't sure how much lower your rate could go, consider checking rates from multiple lenders.

Shop the Sales

Online shopping can be a problem, and that's especially true when you're stuck at home and trying to save money. It's easy to throw things you want but don't necessarily need into an online cart and have it delivered to your doorstep, yet the financial impact of even small purchases can be devastating over time.

Keep in mind that doesn’t buy the first thing you see. Take some time to shop around and make sure you can’t get a better deal somewhere else. Don’t buy for the sake of buying though, just because something is on sale. Make sure it is something that you need before making your purchase. Further, try to wait at least 24 hours before you make any purchase. Often, sleeping on a purchase decision will make you forget about it altogether or realize you never really needed it to begin with.

And there you have it, 6 ways you can start saving money. But there are so many more. Once you start looking at the world more frugally you will see that saving money is a snap.

(Images from the internet)