How I Made Being Frugal Fun
Habits, Tips, and Tricks That Make Saving Money a Blast
I’ll admit—budgeting, micro-investing, side hustling, spending trackers—none of it started as a game. It started because I needed to be able to pay my own rent, buy my own groceries, and pump my own gas, and I realized buying Dunkin’ Donuts coffee on my way to work every single day was going to prevent that from happening.
Actually, a lot of my habits were going to prevent that from happening. I had never been a spontaneous or wild spender, so I did not understand why all my money seemed to disappear so quickly and so easily. I worked 40 hours a week and wasn’t throwing my cash away on extravagant trips, concerts, or expensive meals—so why wasn’t I saving any of my earnings? I began researching, reading, and Pinteresting (is that a verb?) money-saving and money-making tips and ideas. I had no clue that being frugal would soon become a fun and addictive hobby.
I quickly realized my biggest mistake that was keeping me from saving money was trying to spend, and then save—instead of the other way around. I swiped my debit card around the concept that I would just save whatever I hadn’t spent at the end of the month. Of course with this mindset, saving money wasn’t my priority and therefore it didn’t happen. Now, I decide how much money I’m going to save each month, and transfer that amount from my checking account to my savings account with my next paycheck. I budget the rest of my money for that month using a zero-based budget, meaning every dollar you earn has a designated category in which it’s going to be spent (groceries, entertainment, gas, etc).
A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went. – John Maxwell
This quote has proven itself true in my own life. After I make my monthly budget (which I do on the last day of every month for the next month), I know exactly how much money every category of my life is going to require. Once the month begins, I track every single dollar. I’ll say that again—every. single. dollar. It sounds tedious and annoying, but that’s the point! The first month I began budgeting, I was shocked at how many times I wrote down, “$3.67 spent at Dunkin’ Donuts.” My food category dwindled right before my eyes, and halfway through April I only had $25 to eat on for the next two and half weeks. Tracking my own spending, writing down every dollar, and constantly updating my budget made me realize my worst money habits—and want to quit them! Setting a strict limit on every category makes it impossible to spend more than that amount without having to subtract money from another category. If you begin spending outside the amount of all your categories, you will soon be out of money. When analyzing a zero-based budget this way, it makes me wonder how I ever managed my finances without it.
I suddenly felt like I had control of my money—what they call “financial freedom.” Even though I’m just a college student barely scraping by, I am no longer scared to check my bank account or worried about my card getting declined in front of friends at a restaurant. I know exactly where every dollar is going, and because of that I am even more encouraged to see those dollars stay in my account!
Now that I felt in charge of my own money, I wanted to know how to make more of it. Like I said before, I work a 40-hour week, but knew that there is always room and a little bit of time to earn an extra income.
My continued research and Googling led me to a variety of apps, including:
- Walmart App
- And more!
All of these apps have different purposes, but serve me wonderfully in both saving and making extra money!
Ibotta allows you to find cash-back offers on thousands of products from all your favorite grocery stores and pharmacies, and redeem that cash-back when you scan a receipt showing a purchase of one of the offered items. Walmart App catches savings for you by giving cash-back awards if they find any products on a scanned receipt for a lower price at a different retailer. Acorns is a micro-investing app, instantly transferring any spare change from all your debit card purchases to an investment fund for you. Poshmark makes it easy to sell used to clothes to anyone in the country, and there are also plenty of more apps that have similar features and uses as all of the ones listed above.
These resources have not only made saving and making a little extra cash easier for me, but fun, too! I am always excited to get home from a grocery store trip and scan my receipts, seeing how much I saved. I’ve become much more aware of which stores have better prices for their products because of these apps as well.
My Discover Credit Card is also one of my favorite ways to both track and save money! For every purchase I make with my credit card, Discover awards me an automatic one percent back, and five percent back for purchases at designated places (gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores)! While these cash-back rewards may not seem like a lot percentage wise, you are actually saving way more than you would be if you were just swiping a debit card with no similar programs. This same company also gives cash-back to college students with good GPAs, so next time you don’t want to go to the library to study, just remember it will pay off (literally).
The way I view money, spend money, and save money has drastically changed within the last six months of my life just because of these easy habits I have developed. I now find managing my finances to be fun, instead of scary or dreadful. I love the feeling of transferring money to my savings account and seeing my earnings on Ibotta rise!
It’s not your salary that makes you rich, it’s your spending habits. – Charles A. Jaffe