Saving money can be an everyday challenge, especially when our lives are constantly in motion. There are weeks when it feels like we are bleeding money, even when we’re trying to be frugal, just because a latte here and an Uber there can really add up. Not to mention that all those actual adult responsibilities, like rent, cell phone bills, and student loan payments can start to feel incredibly overwhelming, and serve as a reminder that it might be time to slash other parts of our budget.
I’ve noticed that sometimes well-intentioned financial advice can take the opposite effect on me — reading too much about my 401k can bring on a ton of “big picture” anxiety, instead of making me feel steadier. Of course, I still have to be well aware of the status of my 401k, but when it comes to getting better with money, sometimes it’s helpful to start with the simplest of tasks, and the things that affect us in our everyday lives.
With that, here are seven little financial tricks that have nothing to do with savings accounts, IRAs, or investments. They are things that you can do right now to significantly change the amount of cash in your wallet, without the anxiety.
1. Look at Instagram (and Pinterest) less.
Social media has a sneaky way of making us reach into our wallets, without us even realizing that we’re under the influence of a whimsical Amaro filter. Sometimes we’ll see a great outfit on Pinterest and feel compelled to hit the mall to find something similar, or we’ll find ourselves with serious travel envy when seeing a friend’s ‘gram of the Eiffel Tower. Because social media has a way of making us feel like we’re not experiencing life to the fullest, it may be driving us to spend money on things we don’t even need. By looking at these sites less frequently, you’re discouraging yourself from engaging in FOMO-driven spending.
2. Shake up your commute.
If you’ve been relying on one form of transportation while commuting to work for the last several years, it’s time to give your commute an overhaul. By exploring other options, like biking, taking the train, or carpooling, you might find that you end up with extra cash in your pocket. When you have the chance, sit down and crunch the numbers on how much your commute really costs you. How much do you spend on gas? How much does your metro card cost? If you scaled back by choosing to carpool or riding your bike to work twice a week, that could definitely save you money. There are great apps available for all types of commuters that will help you be more efficient while traveling.
3. Get a cute lunch box and a matching thermos.
I personally believe that all you really need to inspire yourself to stop spending $12 on a salad at noon is an adorable lunch box. Believe it or not, having a cute lunch box (with compartments as a bonus) might actually help you look forward to packing your lunch every day. And if you have a matching insulated coffee mug that’s Instagram-worthy, you might feel better about skipping your morning latte. (Fast fact: even if you only buy coffee twice a week, that’s still approximately $360 over the course of the year. There are so many other things you could do with that money.)
4. Know your organics.
It seems like the entire world has been on the organic/non-GMO train for a few years now, and that train isn’t stopping anytime soon. The key to ensuring that you don’t drop your entire paycheck at the grocery store is making sure you understand the difference between the foods that you might want to purchase organic, and the ones that don’t matter as much. Believe it or not, there are upwards of 15 different types of fruits and vegetables that are not necessarily healthier when you buy them organic, despite what the clerk at the local, bougie grocery store may tell you. While you’re at it, decide what foods you should always buy the generic brand of, and what brand-name products you insist on buying. When you already having shopping parameters in mind, it keeps you from unconsciously reaching for the orange juice that’s $3 more expensive than every other juice option.
5. Go online to get fit.
There’s an easy solution if you’re looking to get rid of a pricey gym membership: thanks to the Interwebs, there are dozens of ways to work out for free around your house. Hit up YouTube for a hip-hop tutorial set to Justin Bieber’s latest single, or check out one of my personal favorites, Blogilates with Cassey Ho. When I started out in the working world, I was made to believe that you need fancy gyms with juice bars in order to get fit, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
6. Get savvy with makeup.
Resist the temptation to go on a “just because” makeup-buying spree. Instead, figured out when you prefer the high-end makeup brands, and when it’s better to buy their drugstore counterpart version because the difference is hardly noticeable. While you may think that designer matte lipstick won’t leave your lips dry, there are actually plenty of brands that you can find at CVS that will get the job done just the same. With a little research, you can learn which products are worth the up-front splurge, and which you can easily buy for $3 at CVS.
7. Don’t waste food.
One of the worst feelings in the world, in my opinion, is throwing away food that has gone bad after sitting in the fridge for too long. It can feel like throwing wads of cash into the garbage, and it’s wasteful. Two ways to avoid this are to know how to preserve food like a boss, and to plan your meals out ahead of time. There are some old tricks that still go a long way (like always putting half your loaf of bread in the freezer), and freezing chicken if you won’t use it within a couple days. However, there are also some newer solutions on the market, like the Herb Savor, which can keep herbs fresh for up to three weeks. (No more throwing away cilantro after one batch of guacamole!) Also, if you plan how you’re going to use each ingredient you buy at the grocery store — by writing out your meals for the week — it will help you shop purposefully, and you’ll know that each ingredient you buy is accounted for.
De is a New Yorker turned Bostonian and a lover of all things theatrical. In addition to writing, she is an actress/singer/dancer/teacher and owner of the fluffiest cat imaginable. She is on Twitter.
Image via Unsplash