Save $100 This Week!

May 19, 2014 by

man with empty pocketsNearly all of us have this same lament about money:

“I wish I could save more!”

And for almost all of you (and me!), here’s the Money Counselor reply:

“You can!”

No, you don’t have to eat boxed mac & cheese every day (that wouldn’t save you money anyway, in the long run) or stop using hot water or sell your home and join a commune. You can live well, have fun, not feel deprived, and save more—all on your current salary!

Challenge: Save an Extra $100 This Week

So you want to save an extra $100 this week? Here are my ideas for making that happen, easily! Please offer your suggestions in the comments.

Buy Groceries, Cook at Home

Hey people, eating in restaurants is expensive! (And nearly all restaurant food is unhealthy—that’s going to cost you more in health care and gym memberships!) $2.50 for a cup of java?!? I make delicious cups of coffee and tea at home for pennies. Hang a Starbucks logo on your wall, put on some ‘hip’ music just loud enough to prevent easy conversation, and spread a bunch of crumbs and sticky residue on your kitchen table if that’ll help give you that mysteriously popular coffee shop vibe. And what about food? I’m too lazy to do the math, but I’m going to venture a wild guess that an excellent quality meal prepared at home costs about one-quarter of the average restaurant meal’s price, especially when you factor in tip (you do tip, don’t you?) and interest if you pay with a credit card and “let it ride” for a few months. This week make a resolution: Everything you eat will be prepared at home from good quality groceries. That includes lunches at work. You’ll save even more (and feel better!) if you make meals from scratch and avoid prepared, processed junk at the market.

Walk, Bike, or Bum

See that monstrous and oft-recalled piece of metal and plastic occupying your driveway? Operating it costs a lot of money! Where I live, gasoline costs over $5 per gallon right now! This week resolve to cut the number of miles you typically drive by 20%. Cycling and walking are free (if you own a bike). Explore car or van pooling to work. Maybe your boss will let you work at home one day this week? Bum a ride with a friend or neighbor to a place you both need to go. Skateboarding’s fun!

Entertain Yourself

I think many of us subconsciously make a connection between spending money and fun. We think we have to spend money to have fun, and if we’re not spending money, we’re doing something dull. If this is how you think, you’ve watched too many television commercials! Some of the most fun times of my life were free. (And others involved the transfer of a lot of cash to various casinos :-/.) I like walking/hiking, cycling, cooking, hanging out with friends, a glass of wine on the deck, irritating Ms. Money Counselor, growing my own food, watching movies and documentaries, and learning about nutrition, among other free or low cost recreations.

Don’t Shop

Look around you. Do you have everything you need to live comfortably? If you’re in the U.S. or Canada, chances are very good you have far more than enough. This week then, resolve to stay away from all retailers, except food markets. Okay—if you run out of toilet paper, you’re allowed to buy a roll or two. Read up on “hedonic adaptation” during the time you’d normally be cruising the local mall.

Your Ideas?

What changes would you make if challenged to save an extra $100 this week?

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  1. Dee

    Great tips! You’re so right about eating out- it’s expensive AND unhealthy, which is certainly not going to help you out in the long run. And oh my gosh I can’t believe gas is $5 a gallon where you live- yikes! If that’s not motivation to bike or walk, I don’t know what is!

  2. Haha… LOVE the Starbucks trick 😉 Though for even better ambiance, blast the “coffee sound” from – my fave thing when I can’t hit up a cafe! (Or, even when I’m IN one and people are too chatty around me)

  3. We could easily do this by not eating out. With six in the family, a night out can get pretty pricey.

  4. I really like the idea of breaking savings goals down to a certain amount per week. It’s more “bite sized” and then you can transfer the money you saved right away to something like a retirement account. We carpool, which saves us $15 each day we do so. We usually can only carpool 2-3x per week, but that is still $30-$45/week just in immediate savings (gas).

    • $15 a day, wow–that’s a big incentive to carpool! Let’s see now, if you invested that $45 per week in a low cost index fund and earned just 6%… that’s real money! 🙂

  5. Some great points to get you started. The key is to get started. Form 1 or 2 good habits and then build upon them. We cook at home vast majority of the time. In reality we like home cooked meals better than the overly salty choices at restaurants. We also suggest always looking for a cheaper alternative, especially when you need or want to go out and have some fun.

  6. “We think we have to spend money to have fun, and if we’re not spending money, we’re doing something dull.” Unfortunately, that’s so true. Marketers have taught us that leisure is expensive. When I left my corporate job, I was actually worried about whether I would be spending more on leisure than I did when I was working. Not so. I spend less!

    I find that free activities are often more enjoyable than paid activities, because they are usually active as opposed to passive. Sometimes you are creating or fixing something, providing your own means of transportation, spending time in the great outdoors, reading, cooking, visiting with friends or family, and other valuable pursuits.

    A person can only sit around and be waited on hand and foot for so long before life gets boring. Hedonic adaptation at its best. Fun post Kurt.

    • My guess is most people’s expenses drop significantly when leaving a corporate job. Clothing, dining out (both for lunch and in the evening when there’s little energy left for cooking), commuting, health care, and more. The biggest benefit though is probably the drop in stress!

      • Absolutely. Considering only work-related expenses, I’m saving $30K per year. When I did the calculation, I just about fell of my chair. It’s unbelievable what it costs us personally just to keep a corporate job: clothing (& beauty upkeep – gotta have corporate hair), second car (& associated costs), convenience costs (cooking, as you mention above).

        You’re bang on about the stress. Major difference these days. Stress is also expensive because you don’t have the energy or focus to think about being smart about money. I also found that since I made a big career change I no longer medicate myself with costly entertainment and shopping. I love the new lifestyle.

  7. MoneySmartGuides

    Love this! Needed some motivation to get a little bit tighter with things this week!

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