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Saving money when you live paycheck to paycheck can seem impossible.  When you are just scraping by it can seem like only a dream to put a little money aside for emergencies or a savings fund.  I get that and we’ve all been there at some time in our lives.  Whether you don’t make enough money, have a ton of debt, or worse – both, it can make saving money very difficult to say the least.

Here are ten ideas on what you can do to make saving a reality and keep yourself out of deeper debt.

  1. Budget, budget, budget

Developing a budget and sticking to it can make a word of difference in achieving your financial goals, especially if that goal is growing a savings account.  Take some time and write down your daily, monthly, and yearly expenses.  There are a ton of different apps and downloads you can find that will help you develop a budget and track your expenses and spending.  Use them!

  1. Use cash instead of plastic

Actually having cash in your hand to make purchase causes you to feel the weight of spending.  It’s very easy to lose track of how much you’re spending when all you have to do is “tap and go”.  Unless you are checking the balance of your plastic on a daily (or maybe hourly!) basis there’s no way to keep track on how much you spend.  Having cash leave your person with every purchase makes it feel real and will really make you understand how much you are spending on each shopping trip.

  1. Lower monthly spending

This one goes hand in hand with budgeting.  It’s nearly impossible to know what items you can cut back on if you don’t know what you’re spending in the first place.  Once you have an idea what you are spending it’s time to decide if you can cut back on some different areas of your budget.  Do you need a home phone line?  Do you even use that gym membership?  How often are you going over on cell phone data charges?  These are just a few examples of where you can cut expenses to make ends meet.  After reviewing your monthly spending you will find all kinds of different ways to cut spending.  Get creative and make some big changes, you’ll thank yourself later.

  1. Negotiate your insurance rates

People don’t realize that they can shop around for better insurance rates whenever they feel like it.  Just because you’ve been with the same carrier for years doesn’t mean they’re giving you the best price.  Make a few calls and see what everyone else is offering.  Ask lots of questions and negotiate a better rate than you are paying now.  Remember, paying once a year will save you a lot of money versus paying monthly.  Work that budget and save some extra cash so your next insurance payment can be yearly instead of monthly.

  1. Quit eating dinner out

Going out to dinner is an extravagant practice and will cost you a ton of money over time.  The average meal for two people costs $75 and that doesn’t include drinks!  Instead of going out, plan a meal at home and save a bundle.  Sure, you still have to do the dishes and actually cook the meal, but if you’re looking to save some money this is an easy place to start.

  1. Pack a lunch

If you think cutting back on the occasional dinner out can save you some money, just think what cutting out on the daytime lunches will do.  The average lunch costs about $15 per person and I have even heard of lunches as cheap as $6 per person.  But even $6 a day, over 20 days can add up to $120 a month.  I’d much rather have $120 extra in my budget than a cheap $6 lunch every day.  Take the extra time each night and pack your lunch for the next day.  Your bank account will be better for it.

  1. Automate your savings

The best way to build a savings account is to automate the process.  Open a savings account at your bank and have them automatically take $50 out each pay day and transfer it to the savings account.  You won’t miss the money if it’s gone before you even see it and that $50 every two weeks can quickly add up to significant money.  Doing this for 26 pay periods will amount to $1300 in a year.  Now we’re talking about serious money!

  1. Save your spare change

I’ve said this time and time again, for some reason we are under this notion that spare change is not “real” money.  It’s something that gets thrown in a jar on a shelf or into a tray in your car and hardly thought about again.  Some people use it for coffee purchases, others for parking, but the reality is that it quickly adds up.  As Canadians, our money system is slowly turning into change.  We have the Loonie and the Twoonie and there are rumours of a $5 coin coming down the pipe.  We have to break this notion that money that jingles in your pocket isn’t real.  Turn that loose change you have lying around into some significant cash!  Start saving it in a jar, can, bottle; whatever!  It will soon add up to hundreds of dollars you can use to add to savings, pay down debts, or top up the pantry.

  1. Stop wasting your “extra” money

What did you do with your last tax return?  Most people take that extra money and spend it on extravagances they really don’t need.  What about that raise you got last month?  You learned to live on less so why not take the extra cash and save it for a rainy day?  Maybe you won some money on a lotto or scratch ticket (although don’t get me started on the wastefulness of purchasing lotto tickets!).  Don’t use the extra money that comes into your life on wasteful items or a quick night out with friends.  Put that money to good use in a savings account, or better yet pay off some bills.

  1. Set realistic goals

There is no point is wishing for more money or to have a budget unless you are going to sit down and develop a plan to follow.  Write down your financial goals and then make them happen.  Goals can be things that are easily achievable like saving $250 in six months time, to things that are ambitious and challenging such as having a $10,000 down payment for a new home.  Figure out what you want to achieve and how you can change things to realize your goal.  There is very little you cannot accomplish with some work and dedication, you just have to want it – you have to REALLY want it.

The last bit of advice I have to offer is that there is no time like the present to start setting goals and working towards them.  Waiting until tomorrow won’t make them any easier to achieve.  It’s quite the opposite actually.  The longer you wait to begin working toward you goals the harder it will be to start.  So get off that couch, put down that phone, and start making a plan to improve your financial situation today!