Saving money is sometimes easier said than done — even if you have loads of it coming in. But, when your income is low or you’re living pay check to pay check, saving money becomes a whole lot harder. The Federal Reserve even discovered that 46 percent of the population would not be able to cover a $400 emergency expense without resorting to borrowing money or selling their belongings.
Thankfully, there are effective and smart ways to change your relationship with money and start saving, without needing to earn tons of it. “For people who feel overextended right now, and are trying to find ways to save, it’s important to keep in mind it’s not about what you’re earning right now, but how to manage what you have,” says Bola Sokunbi of Clever Girl Finance, one of the largest personal finance platforms for women.
“That’s the foundation of being able to build wealth when you are earning more money,” she continues.
But how can you set money aside for a rainy day when it feels like it’s raining now — especially in the midst of a global pandemic, where you may have suffered from loss of job or income? According to our resident “clever girl,” the key is to work in small increments. Even the littlest things you can do each week can make a big difference over time. “It’s looking at your current spending habits and seeing if there’s opportunities in your budget to cut back,” says Sokunbi. “Especially with those small amounts. It’s reaching out to your lenders, your service providers and your creditors, if you are struggling, because there’s no way for them to help you if you don’t communicate. And it’s really just being intentional and saying, ‘ok, I’m going through a difficult time right now, I may be overextended, but I want to get my finances right.’”
Saving a dollar a day is far less daunting than committing to saving hundreds of dollars a month. “And there is no shame in saving small amounts of money,” says Sokunbi, who also recounts the day she deposited a $1 check into her own bank account to help her with the practice and discipline of saving — no matter the amount.
And while getting in the habit of automatically saving a fraction of your income into a savings account, you should also take a hard look at how you’re spending your money. Are there some expenses you can cut, like that monthly gym membership you’re not using during the pandemic (that they’re still charging you for)? Or reduce those monthly app fees?
“The areas where people are most commonly overspending are eating out, especially since a lot of us are home right now, and getting tired of our own cooking, or wasting money in our pantry that we overbought,” shares Sokunbi. “The other is streaming services. A lot of people cut back on cable to save money, but all of a sudden, everyone has AMC+, HBO Go, Netflix, Hulu, etc, plus your internet bill. When you add all of those things together, it’s more than the cable bill.” Don’t underestimate the ability of how much you’ll be able to save by sealing up some of those spending leaks that have added up throughout the year.
And while taking care of ourselves should always be a priority, it’s important to consider how much and how often you’re indulging. “A lot of people are into self-care right now, but when you add up all of the beauty products, hair products and all the things that you buy that you don’t use, that you thought were small amounts, they actually equal to a big deal that could actually be put to your savings or even your other goals, like paying off debt,” says Sokunbi.
The key to saving? Remember, to always just do the best you can. If you can save 10 percent of your salary or wages each month, that’s great, but if more (or less) is only feasible, that’s fine too. Saving without tons of money is simply in practice, and not in the accumulation.