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How to Spend Less Money Starting Now

10 Ways to Spend Less and Save More

Everyone deals with excess spending a little differently: some of us opt for an intense all-out sprint approach to financial health while others plod on with slow, steady consistency like hitting a daily step goal. Whatever your intensity level, we’ve got ten ideas on how to spend less money.

Prefer to watch instead of read? Ashley walks us through some ideas for spending less in her video below:

For those that opt for the all-out sprint:

1. Enact a spending freeze.

Pick a length of time: a week, a month, six months—where you don’t buy any products, subscriptions, or services you don’t absolutely need. This spending freeze helps you save money faster. Then give this spending sacrifice a “why” (maybe you want to save a lot of money for a summer vacation or to build an emergency fund). Now your “why” makes it easier to pause on those pesky impulse purchases. It’s palatable too: there’s a finish line in sight (mark it in your calendar). This will help it feel more doable to defer all those one-off purchases to get closer to your financial goal.

2. Add zero spend days to your month.

On a zero spend day, you spend zero dollars. It’s like intermittent fasting for your financial life. You can do this a number of ways: maybe you pick every Tuesday to be a zero spend day. Or maybe you make it a game with your partner and the first one to log five zero-spend days in a month gets $20 of extra cash in their fun money category (because guaranteed you’re going to save more than $20 if you do five zero-spend days apiece). Your checking account will thank you later.

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3. Cut up the credit card.

Wait, did we really just say that? What website is this?

But really, if you’re someone who just keeps constantly overspending and/or finding yourself always fighting the cycle of credit card debt…it might be time. Pull out those scissors. Start using cash to get closer to feeling the value of every dollar that leaves your hand.

Guys, stop trying to make “fetch” happen. It’s not happening. Credit cards are too convenient, you can’t buy things online in cash, and sometimes there are benefits like travel points, cash back, and extended warranties.

Fair point! The idea behind cutting up your credit card is to make it harder to use and less of a temptation. If you need to make online purchases on a credit card, make it really inconvenient. Remove the spending temptation by taking your credit card out of your wallet and removing it from autofill forms. It’s not quite the same as using cash, but it sure is annoying. Make it annoying.

Interested in learning more about how to save money? Check out our comprehensive guide.

For those that opt for the daily step goal approach:

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4. Unsubscribe from tempting marketing emails.

You know the one—every time an email hits your inbox, you want to buy something (Hello #LiketoKnowIt roundups!). Take ten minutes and go through your emails and unsubscribe from tempting retailers. Out of sight, out of mind results in less splurging.

5. While you’re at it, unfollow the Joneses.

Maybe they’re on Facebook or more likely, Instagram (those filters make everything look dreamy). Maybe you know them, maybe you don’t. But that little seed of envy crops up every time they post on social media. Here’s a solution that’s totally in your control: just unfollow. Boop! Fixed. This has a similar effect as getting out of those marketing emails—you’re simply removing that temptation.

6. Marinate your cart.

When you’re at the grocery store, take a bottle of Italian dressing, give it a shake, and dump it all over your groceries. We’re kidding. This concept applies largely to online shopping and your virtual cart or shopping bag. Build in time between adding items to your cart and checking out so your purchase decisions can “marinate.” It might be a 24-hour process for your Amazon purchases, or an overnight soak for your new work wardrobe from Asos. This gets your spending habits under control by protecting your bank account from impulse buys.

Grocery cart illustration

7. Try grocery pickup.

If you’re a perpetual grocery store grabber-of-random-items-that-look-tasty, grocery pickup might be the thing for you. You order your groceries online, someone from the store shops for you, and then you pick them up all bagged and ready to go at the store. The fees for curbside pickup are usually $5 to $10 but you get a triple whammy of upward progress:

  • You’re forced to plan ahead on food.
  • A steep dropoff in impulse buys (hello cheaper grocery bill).
  • You often save time by ordering online (and time is money, ka-ching!).

Cut grocery costs by getting organized with our meal plan and grocery shopping printable planner.

8. Swap an expensive habit for a cheaper one.

Do you have a habit of eating out when you don’t feel like cooking? Stock up on easy and less expensive meals like frozen pizza or pre-made dinner kits! Do you order a grande iced chai from Starbucks with embarrassing frequency (no—just me)? Buy the concentrate from the grocery store or make your own. Still paying for every streaming service known to man when your true love is reading? Trade Netflix for ebooks at your library.

Find your own swaparooski and give it a go. You still get to enjoy the things you love, but you’ll start saving money at the same time. Your debit card will welcome the break.

9. Keep a visual of your big goal handy.

Maybe you have a big savings goal, like buying a house, or paying off your student loans. Remind yourself what you want. Put a visual representation of your long term goal somewhere you can see. Put a picture in your wallet. Change your phone background or lock screen to that perfect backyard patio, or maybe a radiant sunrise to capture that feeling when you pay off your credit card. Every purchase gets measured against this overarching goal. the six-pack of socks from Amazon seems a lot less important right now and that money stays in the savings account instead.  

Illustration of a dollar with wings

For everyone who wants to spend less money:

10. Use a budget.

Yep, we said it. You need a budget. You might think a budget is restrictive, but it can actually give you financial freedom. A budget isn’t about not spending, it’s about creating a spending plan that highlights what you want and downplays what you don’t actually value. And budgeting apps make it easy these days.

Picture this: your favorite pair of jeans is on sale (ok, you already have three pairs, but it’s on sale!). Non-budgeting you is SO tempted to spend $50 on the jeans. You-on-a-budget is not. That’s because you know you’re only $300 away from being fully funded for that new cell phone you really need, and you’d rather spend your money toward that. Easy peasy—thanks budget!

No matter if you opt for a take-no-prisoners approach, a gradual shift, or a combination of the two, you can change your money story and get your spending, and your personal finances, under control for good.

Ready to gain total clarity around your finances and the feelings that affect the way you spend and save? Sign up for YNAB’s Change Your Money Mindset email series to get five short, friendly emails and a free downloadable DIY Budget Planner workbook that will change your relationship with money.

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