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The Simple Saving Strategies That Actually Helped Me






Source: Haley Hye-Eun Lim

Financial experts note that people tend to fall into two categories: savers and spenders. I’m the latter; I have a habit of making purchases based on what I want instead of what I need. To curb my impulsive “I can afford everything” buying mentality, I tracked my spending decisions over the past 30 days. Here’s what I learned—and how you can use these saving strategies to allow your dollars to add up in a more impactful way over time.

 





Source: Colorjoy Stock

 

1. I stopped buying coffee every morning

I’m a self-proclaimed coffee junkie. I love the smell of freshly ground beans, the first hot sip of french roast on a blustery winter day, the icy jolt from a tall glass of cold brew. I also love the ritual of stopping at a coffee shop on my way to work. It feels like a special treat, just for me, before diving into the hurried tasks of my day. Oh, and I’m a mom to a nine-month-old for whom sleep is optional, so there’s that.

However, the cost of each barista visit adds up quickly. I realized that I was easily spending around $2-6 a day. On a beverage! If you do the basic math, that is something like $500-1500 a year. Considering that is the cost of a super sweet vacation, I challenged myself to stop buying coffee for 30 days and simply make it at home.

The first week sucked. I longingly stared out the window at my favorite cafe every time I drove past, and then took a sip out of my to-go mug of coffee made at home, which was… fine. It still got the job done; I mostly experienced the natural lows that occur from being disciplined (sigh) instead of spontaneous (yay!). Instead, I saved coffee purchases for meetings or dates with other people—moments when I could linger, chat, and truly enjoy my beverage with great company. This resulted in many upsides, such as a reduced caffeine reliance, more money in my pocket, and a better appreciation for treat yo’ self days. (Hint: it’s not a treat when you get it every day!)

Monthly savings: $60-180

 

2. I limited dining out to special occasions

Growing up, my family usually went out to dinner to celebrate specific events: birthdays, relatives in town, Christmas Eve after late night mass. We ordered pizza a few times a year on Friday nights, complete with watching new episodes on ABC’s TGIF and drinking Pepsi out of the can. If that sounds lame, it wasn’t—because I knew that dining out marked a special occasion. Somewhere along the way I forgot that, and eating out became the norm due to a hectic schedule, lackluster cooking skills, and a taste for convenience.

Typically, I eat out for lunch 1-2 times a week, and my husband and I either pick up dinner or visit a restaurant 1-3 times, mostly on the weekend. That can cost anywhere from $8-15 for a single lunchtime outing and $20-75 for take-out or a sit-down meal, not to mention the fact that labor costs are rising, which has led to restaurant prices inching up. To save money for 30 days, I made a conservative choice to limit weekly dining out to one lunchtime outing on my own and one weekend dinner out as as couple. I wanted to see if I could retrain myself to view dining out as a special, cherished event, rather than an everyday occasion.

The result? I didn’t notice much of a difference; I simply needed to do a bit more meal planning for work and home. I also felt better health-wise and had more energy. Sure, pulling out a tuna sandwich and an apple at my desk felt less exciting than the Whole Foods salad bar—but spending the extra cash on a nice steak dinner with my husband and our favorite bottle of pinot noir later that week was worth every penny.

Monthly savings: $32-60 (by dropping one individual lunch per week) and $80-300 (by dropping one dinner for two per week)

 





Source: Colorjoy Stock

 

3. I stuck to a list

Otherwise known as, “how I avoided accidentally spending $100 at Target on shit I don’t need.” Even though the dollar section always calls my name and insists I need new notepads or decorative candles, I’m learning that if I actually stick to a legitimate list of items, I end up saving money. This approach proved useful at any store; before going on errands, I wrote down my list of items and then did my very best to only purchase those specific things. If I walked down an aisle and thought, “Oh! I forgot that I needed shampoo!” I asked myself if I was legitimately out of shampoo or if I was just running low. I discovered it was often the latter, and realized I could put shampoo, for instance, on my next shopping list. And at the grocery store, I learned that having a list kept me from buying (usually unhealthy) splurge items (like large packages of sour gummy worms).

Was it less fun to shop that way? Well, yes. It feels limiting to buy what’s on your list rather than view a store as your oyster; however, I’m not made of money and need to stick to a budget. This helped, immensely. One surprising perk: I also saved a lot of time by sticking to a list because I didn’t aimlessly wander around the store every time; I got in and got out with the things that I needed.

Monthly savings: $10-100

 

4. I remembered how to have old-school fun.

Once I became an independent adult, my idea of fun shifted to events that pretty much always cost money: drinks, dinners, concerts, plays, vacations, classes, parties… it all had a price, and I wanted to see if I remembered how to have fun the old-school way. You know, for free. Turns out there were plenty of things to do, like walking around the local art museum with a girlfriend, or running an informal 5k with my sister instead of signing up for an official race, or watching Netflix at home with stovetop popcorn.

At first, it felt a little boring, but mostly because my expectations were accustomed to thinking about activities as being Instagram-able first and foremost. I also felt a little self-conscious and lame by offering up alternative suggestions to friends who wanted to go out. But I got over it, and my friends never honestly seemed to mind because they just wanted to spend time together.

There’s joy in the simple things, like hanging out with the people you love with no agenda or timetable or required five-course meal. At the end of the 30-day period, I desperately felt ready for a nice glass of wine at a fancy bar; I wanted to fill up my calendar with everything fun. However, this exercise taught me to be more creative, more present, and more appreciative of people instead of things.

Monthly savings: $15-200

 





Source: Colorjoy Stock

 

5. I took a break from my phone

Earlier this year, I received a serious lecture from my husband about the fact that I went over our data plan pretty much every single month. This had become a massive habit of mine, and an expensive one since most cell phone carriers charge $5-15 for each GB of overage. To mitigate these unexpected costs, I forced myself to shut off cellular service for all applications unless I had access to Wi-Fi.

I soon noticed that I absent-mindedly checked my phone alllll the damn time. Usually for no good reason whatsoever. Additionally, I used GPS when I didn’t need to (I mean… I know how to get from my sister’s house to my apartment) and browsed Spotify to my heart’s content during long car rides. And social media? I opened those apps constantly, just to look and basically distract myself from real life whenever I felt bored, lonely, or anxious. I also, gulp, came face-to-face with my penchant for grabbing my phone while driving, which is incredibly unsafe. I thought I was being quick at a stop light to glance down at my email, when I was really just making life on the road unsafe for myself and others.

By putting my phone down, leaving it in my purse, or setting it aside, I not only saved money each month, I also had the opportunity to be much more aware on a daily basis. My emotional state improved, since I wasn’t continuously comparing my life to virtual reality. The data savings were great, but I felt grateful to kick a bad habit along the way.

Monthly savings: $5-20

 

Cutting these five items from my monthly budget taught me valuable lessons and put hundreds of dollars back into my bank account. Most importantly, it reminded me to make more meaningful, thoughtful financial choices, such as making extra student loan payments, money saved for a down payment on a house, and more bulk to my savings.

 

How to Save Money When You’re Not a Saver

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12 Self-Care Practices That Are Completely Free






Source: Vlada Karpovich | Pexels

The buzzword “self-care” is certainly having a moment, but the concept of caring for your mind and body is not going anywhere. It’s easy to get swept up in work, friends, relationships, and to-do lists, and our own wellbeing often gets put on the back burner. Most of us are more comfortable prioritizing other people over ourselves, and we forget that self-care actually helps put us in a better state to provide for the other people in your life. We cannot be the best versions of ourselves if we are not practicing regular self-care and attending to our own needs. 

But self-care looks different to everyone. What makes me feel good may not be so relaxing to you, and vice versa. The great thing about the rising buzz factor of different self-care methods is that there really is no shortage of options. The potential downside is that many of these options come with a price tag (looking at you, pricey bath salts and candles). To help us all add a little self-care into our lives without breaking the bank, I caught up with Morgan Raphael, creator of the Self-Care Society, to put together a list of 12 self-care practices you can start today (and not one of them requires your credit card).

 

Meet the expert
Morgan Raphael
FOUNDER OF THE SELF-CARE SOCIETY
Morgan is a wellness blogger, entrepreneur, and creator of the Self-Care Society, a community and resource for women to prioritize their mental health.

 

1. Start a daily journaling practice

There are so many great options out there when it comes to a daily journal with prompts, affirmations, and quotes. Morgan has her own version (which I love and highly recommend), but it can be just as impactful to simply put pen to paper on your own. Set aside a few minutes at the start or end of your day to do a “brain dump” and release those pent up emotions that may otherwise stay locked in your head.

 

2. Make a daily gratitude list

Practicing gratitude is huge when it comes to manifesting more good things into your life and is an extremely beneficial method of self-care that costs absolutely nothing. Start small by simply listing out three to five different things that you’re grateful for each day. But don’t just scribble out the basics—take time to appreciate each thing on your list and why you are grateful for it. The more gratitude you practice, the more you will find to be grateful for.

 

3. Go for a walk (without headphones)

For me, walks are crucial. I love stepping outside with no destination and no scrolling. I purposely take this time to myself without any music or distractions so I can really tune into my thoughts and how I am feeling. You will be so surprised with the amazing ideas you have and clarity you gain when you just take 5-10 minutes to unplug, get outside, and move the body.

 

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4. Call a friend who always lifts your mood

Is there someone in your life who always seems to know what to say? Or maybe they always make you laugh, even when you’re in a bad mood? Sometimes the best form of self-care is knowing that you need a friend. Don’t take those friendships for granted and don’t hesitate to lean on the people in your life when you need them. Set aside some time in your busy week to connect with a friend, family member, or coworker who will lift your mood. Bonus: Taking this time for yourself will help you be that person for someone else too.

 

5. Write a list of your accomplishments and goals

Why don’t we do this more often? Goal setting is huge for me, but so is acknowledging what I’ve achieved. If you are ever feeling down about something in your life or you’re comparing yourself to other people, take a moment to list out everything you have accomplished (both big and small), and hold onto that list to come back to the next time you’re questioning yourself. Let’s all celebrate our wins a little more.

 

6. Donate 10 items you no longer need

Hello, Marie Kondo! Having moved nine times in the past 10 years, let’s just say I have perfected the art of tidying up. I have no issue saying goodbye to items that I know no longer serve me. Whether that means a Zara top you bought three years ago and never wore or an old stack of books collecting dust under your bed, never underestimate the power of simply releasing things that you don’t need in your life, and bonus points if you give them to someone who does.

 

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7. Indulge in a book, movie, or TV show that makes you feel good

Did you spend your Sunday lounged in front of the TV watching old rom-coms and then feeling guilty about your lack of productivity? Lose the guilt! TV binging totally counts as self-care, and losing yourself in a feel-good show or movie can be a great way to turn off for a bit and recharge. For me, books are the ultimate self-care because it is one thing I know I won’t be multitasking (scrolling) during. Check out these 20 new books to add to your bookshelf ASAP.

 

8. Stretch your legs up the wall

I do this for at least 10 minutes a day, every day, without fail. Legs-up-the-wall is one of the simplest yoga poses and is considered a restorative yoga posture that offers many benefits like helping the body relax and reducing stress. To try for yourself, lie flat on your back with your legs stretched straight up the wall, set your timer for 10-20 minutes and simply relax. Try a guided meditation, listen to a podcast, or even read your favorite book while letting the body be still.

 

9. Listen to a favorite playlist or podcast

Personally, I thrive on building playlists on Apple and Spotify, knowing just what song I need to hear for my current mood. Sometimes that’s a Kygo pump-up song, and other times, it’s a break-up ballad to get those tears out. No matter what your mood, music can totally provide that much-needed release. More of a podcast fan? Choose one based on your mood, whether you need something light-hearted and fun or motivating. Click here for podcasts based on any mood, and click here for 10 of our favorite women-run podcasts. 

 

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10. Meditate

This is one of those self-care practices that looks different for everyone. I personally prefer a walking guided meditation, but many people prefer to do their meditations sitting or lying down, reading or journaling, or without any music or prompts at all. No matter your meditation form of choice, there are many free apps and trackers you can download to start your meditation practice, and even just a few minutes a day can be extremely beneficial in relieving stress.

 

11. Clean up your space

Recently, as soon as my schedule got busier and I left my room in a mess every night, I started having trouble sleeping. Once I straightened things up, my sleeping patterns went back to normal. Coincidence? Perhaps, but clutter in your space directly correlates to clutter in the mind. The cleanliness of your home really does impact your headspace, and you should always aim to keep your home the same you would want it to look for visitors (because if visitors can enjoy it in tip-top shape, why shouldn’t you?). Take 15 minutes before bed to put away laundry, wipe off counters, and do the dishes. 

 

12. Detox your social media

Yes, social media can be a great place to discover new people, brands, and products or to catch up with friends and family. But we also can absorb negative content or get caught in comparison traps and feel bad about ourselves from a social media scroll. Take time to regularly go through your accounts and mute or unfollow anyone whose energy does not serve you. Your goal should be to make social media a place that provides you with nothing but joy and inspiration rather than comparison and negativity.

 

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