If you have financial goals, and are constantly finding yourself with leftover month at the end of the money, you are likely going bald from pulling your hair out. Or you suffer from frequent gastrointestinal distress. Or have gotten used to the taste of sand, because that’s where your head is stuck most of the time because it’s easier to pretend all is well than to face the reality of your frustrating situation.
If that’s you, please raise your head back up into the fresh air, shake off the sand, and pay attention to what I’m about to say. Type.
Because I’m going to tell you how you can go from having nothing leftover at the end of every month, to $500, in ninety days or less.
Think about it. Five hundred dollars a month over an entire year can pay off a $6,000 debt. That much invested every month using a strategy that averages an eight percent annual return will produce a nest egg of 175,945.70 after fifteen years.
Now, I don’t know your situation. It may be such that it will take you several months to reach that goal. Or it may be that $500 is, at the moment, a completely unrealistic goal. So I can’t make any guarantees.
But as for that second possibility, what if you had an extra $100 every month to save, pay off debt, or invest? Would that be a life-changer?
The answer is “yes,” no matter who you are, so keep on reading.
Before you do anything else…
Most people, after deciding that they’re going all-in for early retirement or debt freedom, start canceling subscriptions, selling off furniture right and left, and giving their kids to an orphanage before they even have the slightest idea of which expenses are proving an unnecessary burden. While I admire that kind of ambition and willingness to sacrifice, it’s not the wisest first move.
The first thing you need to do is spend a month tracking every single penny that comes into your life and goes out of it. You can use a spreadsheet, an app, or a good old-fashioned notebook. Whichever way you choose, you keep track of all the money that comes into your life, and all the money that goes out of it.
You pick a dime up off the sidewalk? Note that you gained an extra ten cents. You toss a dollar into the hat of the homeless guy on the corner? Note that you lost an extra dollar.
As soon as you make a purchase online, annotate the amount you just spent. Ditto for coming home from making in-store purchases. When you buy gas, write down the amount you spent before you pull out of the service station parking lot.
On payday, note the net amount you received.
Do this for a full four weeks. Then, categorize all the expenditures: food, entertainment, clothing, gas, utilities, and so on. Then ask yourself, was each purchase worth the time it took for you to earn the money to make the purchase? Especially given the fact that you’ve been struggling to meet your financial goals?
You’ll be surprised at how often the answer will be, “No. This totally was not worth it.”
One of two things is going to happen. Either you’ll have this epiphany somewhere in the middle of the first month of tracking your money, or by the end of the second month, you will have discovered that you spent a lot less than you did the first month.
Why? Because after looking at the first month’s expenses and realizing how much money you wasted, you will intentionally reduce your spending the next month. You will start to analyze potential purchases before making them, weighing their long-term value against your financial goals.
And you will decide against many of those purchases.
It could be that by the end of sixty days, you will find that you suddenly and (not really) miraculously have that extra $500 per month. But if not that much, you will almost undoubtedly find that you have much more extra leftover than you believed possible a mere month ago.
Where to find an extra $500
**Stop eating on the run/at restaurants.
Your average fast food breakfast costs around six dollars. To make the same meal at home costs under two dollars. That’s a savings of $120 over a period of thirty days.
Depending on where and what you eat, lunch out can cost anywhere from five to fifteen dollars. Let’s stick on the cheaper side and say seven. More than likely, you can prepare a meal that is just as satisfying, and much healthier, at home for under three dollars.
That’s another $120 saved over a thirty-day period.
If you pay for cable but find yourself frequently thinking, “There’s nothing to watch,” then I just have one question: Why?
Cancel it and subscribe to Netflix. Or, if you have Netflix, do you think you could do with watching whatever you can find on YouTube, and maybe once a week pay for a movie via Amazon, instead?
Speaking of Amazon, do you need to pay for Prime membership. I mean, really? How important is it for you to reach your financial goals?
Magazine subscriptions are, by and large, a waste of money, not to mention being bad for the environment.
Let’s say you find $30 worth of subscriptions you decide to eliminate from your life. That plus replacing at least one meal out per day with a homemade meal makes you $150 richer every month.
**Your car payment.
A lot of people have a monthly car payment that is at least fifty percent more than it needs to be. One reason is that parents refuse to teach their children how to be able to sit next to each other in a car without causing World War Three, so they “have to” have a van. Or an SUV.
If you can downsize your vehicle so that you’re paying $300 per month instead of $400, that’s another $100 in your pocket.
We’re halfway there now, at $250.
**Change your insurance.
You definitely want to stick with well-known insurance companies for car and home. But you may be able to save fifty dollars or more per month by switching to a different company. Or, by asking your insurance agent to increase the deductible.
We’re up to $300 extra every month.
**Move. Or, refinance your mortgage.
If interest rates have gone down since you bought your house, refinancing may save you a nice chunk of monthly change. If you’re an apartment dweller, can you downsize or find another building or complex that’s less expensive yet still in a neighborhood as nice as where you currently live?
That may be your final $200 per month to get you the extra $500. If not, here are
A few more money-saving/making ideas
- Look for coupons for everything you want to buy. If one exists, use it.
- Take advantage of local grocery store double/triple coupon savings day.
- Buy rice, beans, nuts, and seeds in bulk from your local health food store (if you have one), rather than pre-packaged.
- Use an app that helps you to save money with online purchases.
- Sell items at garage sales, fix them up, and resell them for a profit on Craigslist.
- Rent something. A room in your house. Your SUV. Your chipper-shredder.
- Freelance your online skills – graphic design, video editing, writing articles – on sites like Hire My Mom (if you’re a mom!), Fiverr, and Upwork.
- Fire your weekly housecleaner and do the cleaning yourself.
- Learn to garden cheaply from this gardener’s YouTube channel, and grow your own greens and summer vegetables.
- Listen to free podcasts instead of purchasing audiobooks.
- Use your local library for reading material (including those magazine subscriptions you just ditched!).
- Shop around for a less expensive Internet/phone plan.
- Work as an Uber/Lyft driver in the evenings and on weekends.
- Listen to all the episodes of the Side Hustle Nation podcast and see if any of them spark any ideas for you to earn some extra cash in your spare time.
The long and the short of it
Okay, so maybe I got lazy on that last one. But there are so many ways to save money, and so many side hustles ideas out there, that I couldn’t possibly think of them all, and wouldn’t want to type them all out in any case.
But I hope this article has inspired and motivated you to take action to get your finances under control so that you can come to the place where money is your slave, and not vice-versa.
For all the basics you need in order to journey more quickly toward financial freedom, even early financial independence, read my book, Hatching The Nest Egg.