Written by: Lindsey Marx | Best Company Editorial Team
Last Updated: November 11th, 2019
Are you tight on cash?
Are you struggling to work more hours for more money?
Do you find yourself justifying eating out more often than you should?
These are all common symptoms for those who are struggling to save money or just want more money. And who doesn’t want more money? These tips are effective and WILL make an impact on your budget and money saving techniques if you correctly apply the principles:
- Pack a lunch
- Apply the 24-hour rule
- Stick to water
- Make a shopping list
- Don't buy snacks
Pack a lunch
Pack a lunch. Period. This is often the hardest thing for people, and their biggest weakness when it comes to saving money. Did you know you can save $50 per week on average by packing a lunch? Think about it. You usually pay $10 for lunch every time you eat out. Don’t believe me? For example, let's say you drive over to Wendy’s for lunch. You order a burger with fries and a drink. Wendy's is on the cheaper side so you are looking at about $5–$6 for the meal. But, you didn’t account for the gas and time you are taking to drive over, eat your food, and come back. Gas can add up quickly, especially when gas prices increase.
That is the cheaper example, but let’s look at a more expensive and filling example.
You head over to the food trucks nearby, thinking you are saving a dollar or two in gas, but meals from food trucks often cost a little more because you are supposed to tip the food truck providers. So that lunch just cost you around $8–$10. You may argue “I just don't have the time to make a lunch” or “It’s actually cheaper for me, because I live alone and can’t go through food that fast.” It simply is not true. No matter what, it is never cheaper to eat out. Unless, of course, you have a free entree from Cafe Rio or something. But even then, you are paying for the gas to get there and the time to wait in line for your food.
Is it going to kill you to eat out once a week? Certainly not. I would actually argue that it can be better to reward yourself for a hard week of saving and enjoy social time with coworkers and friends by enjoying a meal out together. But, realize as well that you can still enjoy social interaction with coworkers and friends by packing a lunch and meeting them at a food court or park to enjoy food. In the end, do the best you can to pack your lunch the night before.
One tip I have found helpful is to buy packaged meal kits from a grocery store or warehouse store. For example, I love the delicious taco meal kits I buy at Costco — the chicken is already cooked and seasoned, the shells are crisp and ready, and the condiments are varied and delicious. So, if you don't have time to pack a lunch, purchase this taco kit and you can use your creativity to feed yourself lunch for the week with tacos, salads, and enchiladas. Costco has other great prepared meal kits as well that are cheaper and healthier overall than eating out.
Apply the 24-hour rule
Apply the 24-hour rule. Do you find yourself wasting hours shopping online and purchasing new clothes, shoes, laptop cases, or phones that you don't even need? This is when the 24 hour rule is essential. Instead of wasting time shopping for pointless things when you are bored, read an article and learn something new. But also apply the 24 hour rule. Wish is often a big weakness when it comes to this. They advertise they have super cheap stuff that are cute, fun, and popular.
It is so easy to justify purchasing these items because you are “saving money.” While that may be true in some cases for things you might actually NEED, it is important to consider what is a NEED rather than a WANT. This is where the 24-hour rule comes in handy. For any purchase, make it a rule that you cannot buy it until at least 24–48 hours later. This gives yourself time to ask yourself: Do I actually need this? Will this be something I will actually use in the next several months and years? The last thing you want is to make an impulse buy that snowballs into further impulse buys.
This also helps to conquer the mindset of purchasing things when they are on sale. Too often, shoppers see a huge “50% Off” or “Last Minute Sale — Everything Must Go!” These sales are notorious, especially in big cities and malls. Stores want what's in your wallet and will put whatever advertisements are necessary to get your money.
Have you seen the movie “Confessions of a Shopaholic?”
Remember when the main character wants the boots that are on sale, even though they still cost around $200. But she justifies that the sale price is so good, she just has to have them. This is how stores get into your head. Just because it is on sale, does not mean you are saving money; it is just the illusion that you are saving money. Apply the 24-hour rule here. Do I need this item? Think on it for 24–48 hours and you will determine if the purchase is worth it. More often than not, you will find yourself regretting impulse purchases the next day or even a few days after you buy.
Stick to water
Stick to water. This sounds strange, but trust me, it works. Not only is this a great way to save money, but also to lose weight, lower medical and dental bills, and allow you to have more energy throughout the day. I once had a coworker who would go to Maverik everyday to purchase a $2 Jumbo Gulp of soda. He argued that this was how he made it through the day at work and had the energy and willpower to focus.
First, that is literally $10 down the drain in one week, resulting in $480 gone towards soda. What else can you do with $480 besides drinking soda? Also, it is super bad for your teeth and overall health. If you are trying to lose weight, don't drink the soda. Also, it has a tendency to become addicting and your brain will eventually learn to get used to drinking soda.
When you try to stop the habit, your body will literally crave the soda and you will feel sick and get headaches because you have become so dependent on soda. And it's not just soda; smoothies, juice packs, and coffee are all substitutes for water that end up costing more in the end. Water is most often free, and certainly cheaper wherever you go. Even at restaurants, the actual drink is more expensive per ounce than water is. Save your health, brain, and wallet by sticking with water.
Make a shopping list
Too often we head to the store and as we walk the isles, we see things on clearance, sales, and other deals and we put the item in the cart. If you make a list before you go to the store, you are more likely to buy only what you actually need, and not what you want. There will always be the temptation to buy more as you walk through the aisle (especially deserts, candies, and chips) but make a list and stick to it. Remind yourself of what you will actually need and what you will actually eat.
Don't buy snacks
Don’t buy snacks. Health journals and specialists all over the world comment about how expensive and unhealthy snacks are. While it is good to snack throughout the day to keep your digestive system going, don’t buy snack foods. Instead, spend that money on a healthier and heartier meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You will save at least $2 per day by not purchasing and eating snacks. This will also help you to lose weight as you don’t eat just because you are struggling to stay awake or keeping yourself entertained at work. This also helps to reduce the temptation to eat less healthy things like donuts that come into the office
In the end, you CAN and WILL save money by applying these five principles: packing a lunch, applying the 24-hour rule, sticking to water, making a shopping list, and not purchasing snacks. It will be hard at first, but you can do it! Share with a friend and have them join the challenge for better wealth and health as well. You can motivate each other to save and improve. Watch your online bank accounts grow as you become healthier and more money smart.