save dollars tips

11 Tips to Save Dollars When You Can’t Stretch Your Paycheck

When your paycheck is stretched thin, it’s hard to save money. You may even find it difficult to cut back on your fixed expenses. Sure, you can move to a small apartment to save on rent but that’s not always possible. Plus, it’s an expensive process.

Property tax, insurance premiums, and monthly mortgage payments usually stay the same throughout the year. There are some fixed payments you simply don’t have much control over. So, what is the way out?

Although there is no magic wand to keep your bank account balance soaring while living paycheck to paycheck, there are a few small tips you can use to save money. Here are a few of them:

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#1 Grab the best deals to save money:

Are you planning to buy a new laptop or a television? Take advantage of the right time to snag the best deals on electronics. For example, many retailers give big discounts on TVs in January when they want to clear out old models. You can also wait for Black Friday or Cyber Monday to grab new lucrative deals. Many people say the best time to buy a laptop at a low price is during the “back to school” season.

For smaller purchases made online, you can also use Ibotta to save money. The simple service works through either a browser extension or the app. When you are placing an order with one of the retailers Ibotta works with, you will be alerted to various offers. Once the order is placed, you will receive cashback.

I have learned that the best way to save the most money with them is by shopping from one of their ‘preferred partners’. Even though Ibotta works with hundreds of stores, these places have direct relationships with the app which means if you go to the app and find that store on it, you can click ‘verify purchases’ and scan your loyalty card number of that store on to the app. This will help you get savings automatically every time you shop at the store without scanning any receipts.

#2 Learn how to get free stuff:

Who says you have to live like a monk for the sake of saving money? You can still enjoy life and have fun without spending a fortune. You just need to know how to explore ways to get free stuff. Here are a few of them.

  • Swap goods with your friends to get what you need without spending a dime.
  • BillCutterz– If you want to find a way to lower your bills and save some cash, this company can help. Here is how it works- BillCutterz will negotiate discounts for you with your service providers (cable, internet, security, etc.). If they manage to get a bill reduction, they take 50% of what they managed to save. If not, you pay nothing. So, if they save $100, they take $50 from what they manage to save you. Pretty simple, pretty fair.
  • Grab BOGO deals and freebies from food delivery apps. Many restaurants offer these deals to first-time users. You can download the apps, get food for free, and then uninstall the apps if needed.
  • Download free library apps on your smartphone to get ebooks and movies without paying anything. You can also listen to music from these apps for free.
  • Explore “buy nothing groups” on social media platforms to find out about anything your neighbors want to get rid of. Check if they are offering something that you’re looking for.

#3 Make a budget plan:

When your paycheck is already stretched thin and you want to save money, a smart budget plan is a tool you need.

A budget plan helps you identify your financial strengths and weaknesses. You can discover where you are spending and saving money. A careful analysis of your finances helps you understand where you can cut expenses and save more money. I would suggest the Kakeibo budgeting plan for anyone who is new to budgeting and wants a simple but effective way to get started.

You can also use tools like $5 meal plan that will help you meal prep from home (thus saving money on takeaway and restaurants).

#4 Negotiate your credit card bills:

It actually makes creditors happy when you can’t pay the entire outstanding balance on your credit cards. The reason is simple. You give them a chance to earn more money through interest. When you pay off your credit card debts, you save money on interest and fees.

Unfortunately, when you are living paycheck to paycheck, it is hard to pay the entire balance and get rid of debt. But there are debt relief methods that can help you repay creditors and save money at the same time. Some of them are:

Balance transfer method:

Here you transfer your outstanding balance to a credit card with a 0% interest rate. Usually, the zero percent interest rate is valid for 12 to 18 months. You have to pay off the entire balance within this period to avoid paying double interest rates.

Debt snowball method:

Popularized by Dave Ramsey, the debt snowball method helps you eliminate your credit cards from the smallest balance to the largest one. You attack the smallest card with all your might and pay it off. Once done, you attack the second card with the smallest balance.

Debt avalanche method:

This method is just the opposite of the debt snowball method. Here you have to make extra payments on the credit card with the highest interest rate. For this, you have to set aside an amount every month. You’ll make minimum payments on all other credit cards and additional payments on the one with the highest interest rate. Once done, you can switch to the card with the second-highest interest rate.

Credit counseling:

When you don’t know where to begin, or how to get back on track, you can approach credit counselors for advice. They can help you make a budget plan based on your financial situation. In fact, they can negotiate with your creditors to eliminate your debts at a minimum cost.

#5 Take part in a no-spend challenge:

What is the easiest way to save money? Well, you just have to stop spending money. Promise yourself that you will not spend anything over a certain period. It can be for a month, a week, or a single day. Choose the period most convenient for you.

When you are hungry, prepare a simple meal with what you have in your pantry. Forget about the grocery store for a few weeks. You will be amazed to see how much you can save just by taking up a simple savings challenge for a few days.

#6 Cancel subscriptions you don’t need:

When your mission is to save money, you have to take all the steps to reduce your unnecessary expenses. Monthly subscriptions and memberships cost you money. During the second wave of the pandemic, you do not need gym memberships. Review all your subscriptions and choose any you do not use every month. Cancel the auto-renewals to stop wasting money.

#7 Set up an automatic savings plan:

Do you have a bad habit of spending whatever you earn every month? Well, in that case, you can set up an automatic savings plan to build up your savings.

In this plan, a specific amount of your paycheck will be automatically deposited into your bank account every month. So, even if you are tempted to use your entire paycheck, you won’t be able to. As an added benefit, you don’t have to manually deposit your savings into the bank account every month.

#8 Explore passive income ideas:

When you have done everything to reduce your expenses and still can’t save money, it’s time to explore passive income ideas. You can rent out unused rooms in your home. You can create a YouTube channel on something you are good at. You can also invest in dividend stocks to generate a steady flow of income.

Side hustles can help to boost your monthly income, as well. Explore a platform like FlexJobs to find various freelance positions you can make extra money with. Satisfied clients will not only pay you money promptly, but they will also give you new assignments.

Freelancing jobs offer flexibility, so you can do them outside work hours for your main job. Most people are working from home. If you are one of them, then you can certainly do a few freelancing assignments every week.

#9 Sell items you do not need anymore:

Selling stuff online through e-commerce websites is a great way to bring in more money. Make a list of valuable items that you don’t need anymore. Take quality photos of the items with your iPhone and upload them to e-commerce websites. Give a proper description of the items, using relevant keywords so that they come up in search results quickly.

#10 Reduce your utility bills:

A few simple tips can help to reduce your utility bills. For instance, you can use energy efficient lightbulbs, take shorter showers, and change your air filters to reduce your electricity usage.

There are plenty of other ways to lower your utility bills as well. You can switch to a programmable thermostat, reduce the temperature of your water heater to below 50 °F, or use low-flow in your bathroom to see small cuts to your overall expenses.

Another good way to bring down your utility bill would be to lower your gas usage. You can do this by making sure your furnace ducts and filters are clean and clear of any blockages that may cause issues. If you make sure to check air vents on a regular basis, it will help keep your heater running smoothly.  

Lastly, cutting out a vehicle (if possible) can make a huge difference in total monthly costs. You could also consider getting insurance quotes or calling up your current provider to see if you can save on car insurance. If you get more than one type of insurance from the same provider or refer a friend, there is a good chance you can save cash.

#11 Repair what you can instead of buying a new product:

Whenever something breaks, repair it immediately. Change your habit of throwing it away. Watch YouTube video tutorials on how to mend broken things. Sometimes a few stitches can repair your torn jeans, instead of buying a fresh pair. You can even learn DIY hacks to repair your home.

A word of wisdom

Most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck during this pandemic. The federal government has issued stimulus checks to help Americans financially. If you have received the third stimulus check, save half the amount and spend the rest. Use this stimulus check to boost your savings instead of spending it on luxurious items.

The bottom line when stretching your paycheck

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. If you are determined to save money, you can do it. It doesn’t matter if your paycheck is already stretched thin. All you have to do is use these eleven tips to set yourself up for success.

Review your insurance policies once to find out the ones you no longer need. Do you really need comprehensive collision coverage for your old car that remains in the garage throughout the year? If not, you can cancel that insurance policy and save money.

Are you looking for ways to manage your money and better your budget? Here is what we recommend:

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This is a guest post by Lyle David Solomon, the principal attorney at Oak View Law Group. Connect with him on LinkedIn or get in touch via Twitter.

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