Here Are 7 Easy Money-Saving Strategies To Help You Save Every Week

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Break the routine with the 7daymeal plan

This time of year, the future looks bright. In all likelihood, your New Year’s resolutions may still feel shiny, and new, and wholly attainable.

Many of us make New Year’s resolutions related to money or personal finance goals. Whether it’s paying off a debt, saving up for a car or a house, or getting a job with a higher salary, there are a lot of great financial goals to strive towards, and many of them are absolutely doable despite the fact that most resolutions fail (and by February!). The most important thing when it comes down to finding ways to implement — and stick to — these strategies is to set realistic goals you know you can achieve.

We often tend to think of goal-setting in black and white terms: For example, we’re either going to the gym every day at 6 a.m. or we’re not going at all. If we operate in this way, it can certainly be difficult to feel that we ever achieve anything; the moment we trip up we feel like quitting. Instead, it’s often best to set smaller, realistic goals that are sustainable, and commit to getting right back on the horse after (inevitably) falling off.

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It’s also important to remember that any goals do not have a precise finish line. Perhaps you’re looking to save a bigger chunk of your paychecks, spend less money eating out, or do less online shopping this year. Whatever your goal may be, try to think about this upcoming year as one massive opportunity, and remember: The window doesn’t automatically close just because you mess up once. You can start fresh any day of the year.

So in the name of starting small and staying on point, we’ve put together a list of seven simple strategies to help you save money every week. Read on to get inspired, and remember — if you forgot to bring your own lunch today, you can always cook tonight and bring some leftovers tomorrow.

Bring your lunch to work

Money I Saved: Up to $75 a week

This is one of those things that many people talk about doing, but tend to struggle with when it comes to follow-through. Bringing lunch to work is one of my favorite ways to save money every single week. And like many other things on this list, it requires the creation of a new habit.

I used to buy lunch at work — a lot. These days, there are many options for buying affordable lunch while working in an office, such as MealPal which allows you to select lunch from a variety of participating restaurants at a reduced price (usually around $6.99 compared to what might cost around $10-$15 at a restaurant). And yet, even though a $7 price tag on lunch is better than $15, this is still a lot more than it would cost you to buy ingredients, make, and bring your own lunch.

I’ll be the first to admit it: Cooking can be energy-sapping, and sometimes when you come home from work the last thing you want to do is cook tomorrow’s lunch. But I’ve found that, all it takes is me making some time on the weekends to find some easy, doable recipes that I know won’t take me long to make, buy the ingredients (preferably in bulk), and commit to making meals ahead of time — whether it’s on the weekend or a couple of set evenings a week.

I only buy lunch once a week — max. If it’s helpful, find an accountability buddy at work or split groceries with your roommate or partner. See if you can make cooking fun, instead of treating it like a drag, because it really doesn’t have to be one.

If you think about it, buying lunch every day at, say, $15, adds up quickly. In a week, you’ll have spent up to $75. In a month? You’re looking at somewhere around $300 you could have saved. That’s almost $4,000 a year if you eat lunch out every weekday. And even if you’re MealPal-ing and saving 50%, that’s still money you could have put into an emergency savings account.

illustrated by Paola Delucca.

Switch to a prepaid phone plan

Money I Saved: $25 a week

Last year, I discovered the prepaid phone plan. I used to think these were reserved for people who came from abroad and needed a temporary number, or someone whose line of work required a burner phone. But I was wrong. Now, after switching to a prepaid plan, it blows my mind just how much money I’m saving every week.

I used to pay roughly $120 a month for my phone plan, with unlimited call, text, and data. It was one of those charges I winced at monthly, but figured there was nothing I could do about. Then, I learned just how much money you can save by switching over to a prepaid plan. Many phone companies keep these offers on the down-low, and for obvious reasons — it can save you a ton of money. But they exist. In fact, most providers, from Verizon, to AT&T, to T-Mobile, have comparable offerings.

After switching to an individual prepaid plan (as part of a family plan), I was able to save $100 a month, and if you are able to create a family plan, either with relatives or friends, you could pay as little as $20 a month for a great plan. Plus, in many cases you can save money by putting your plan on autopay so you don’t even have to think about having to make the payment every month. In that way, being on a prepaid plan should make no discernible difference to your lifestyle or phone usage — other than potentially saving you a good chunk of cash.

illustrated by Paola Delucca.

Withdraw (and use) more cash

Money I Saved: ~$40

These days, we live in a digital-first world. Increasingly, business are switching over to a cashless culture, where plastic cards are necessary for transactions (which, mind you, has some severe class-related implications). However, using cash is actually one of the best ways to save money, according to personal finance experts.

Next time you’re going out to run an errand (perhaps on your next Target adventure), make a list of the things you need to buy and withdraw enough cash to cover that amount. Leave your cards at home and pay in cash. If you’re tempted to buy something not on your list, or pass by a tempting lunch special en route, you won’t be able to spend more than what you budgeted for.

If you’re into the idea of using cash to retrain yourself, check out the envelope method, in which you do this on a larger scale for all of your budget categories for a week or a month. You will identify the amount of money you need for each category, for example, groceries, withdraw it in cash, and put it into a labeled envelope. From there, you will spend only the money that is in the envelope on groceries for the remainder of the time period (whether it’s a week or a month). Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

This is a great way to remind yourself that money is finite. Sure, you can keep earning more, but if you spend it, the amount will dwindle. This may sound like a silly thing to state, but sometimes with credit cards, it can start to feel like you have an endless well of funds and, for most of us, that just simply isn’t true.

illustrated by Paola Delucca.

Automate your savings

Money I saved this week: $264

For those of us who aren’t so inclined to use cash, or feel slightly allergic to rigid budgets, one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself is to automate your savings. It’s my preferred method of saving money every week — even if I slip a bit on my other budgeting goals, I know that there will always be money put away on my behalf.

These days, there are a variety of automation apps available that can take all of the guesswork — and mental work — out of budgeting and just do it for you. They vary greatly in methodology, so make sure to do some research to find what works for you. Some swear by Digit (which is what I personally use), others prefer Qapital. It will depend on the types of goals you have for your savings as well as your income streams. There’s even an app, Twine, that’s designed specifically for couples working on shared savings goals.

For freelancers, Qapital also has a great option for automatically saving a percentage of each pay check for taxes (something that you should definitely be doing!). Digit’s approach is much simpler, and you can set specific savings goals with both apps.

No matter what your saving style is, if you’re already saving, or if you have no idea where to start, do yourself a favor this year and download an app that can help you automate.

illustrated by Paola Delucca.

Buying things in bulk

Money I saved: $10-20

I grew up going to Costco. It was a suburban, budget-friendly dream for my parents, and I mostly went for the pizza. I remember gaping at the enormous packages of everything — from bags of coffee beans to fruit snacks. Whenever possible, I try to pick up items in bulk every week when I pick up groceries, so that I can save money on staples.

Living in New York City, the idea of a trip to Costco (though I have a card) can sometimes fill me up with anxiety, if for no other reason than the commute. But, thankfully, there are plenty of other ways to stock up on bulk items without making a pilgrimage to Costco (though if one is accessible to you, then by all means take advantage of it!).

One of the best — and easiest — ways to save money is to stock up on bulk items whenever possible. Whether it’s rice, pasta, flour, beans, or anything else that can be bought at a large scale, the cost drops dramatically when you buy things in large quantities. If you’re able to buy at this scale and then split with a friend or roommate, this could be one of the best ways to trim down your grocery budget.

illustrated by Paola Delucca.

Leave things in your cart

Money I saved this week: $125

It’s truly no secret that online shopping can be dangerous. The ease and abstract nature of the entire process make it a particularly precarious way to shop, especially if your credit card and shipping information is already saved and ready to go on your computer. Inevitably at some point every week, I find myself drifting through the pages of my favorite stores, zombie-like as I drag things into my cart. But, since I rarely allow myself to actually purchase these things, this doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad habit.

If you’re an avid online shopper, consider adhering to a new rule: Your items must sit in your cart for 24-48 hours before you can purchase. Feel free to peruse, but avoid hitting send until your new treasures have had some time to sit.

Often, the thrill of the purchase is what we’re addicted to, and it’s more than likely that you don’t actually need a lot of the things you anxiously added to your cart. So next time you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through online stores (as I did this week on Everlane) as a rule, give yourself a couple of days to think your purchase over. (And if it’s a limited time sale, don’t buy it unless it’s something you’ve been thinking about for months.) Who knows, you might even forget all about the things you thought you needed.

illustrated by Paola Delucca.

Opt for an appetizer

Money I saved this week: $6

There are plenty of articles that suggest foregoing eating out to save money. But, realistically, this isn’t an easy thing to do. Nor is it necessarily a practical one.

Food is one of the cornerstones of hanging out, and it would be a deprivation to rule out communal meals for the sake of finances. Thankfully, there are many reasonable ways that you can cut down on eating out without having to sacrifice it all together.

First of all, if you’re able to, consider going for a happy hour bite after work instead of a later dinner, this way you can pick appetizers off the menu for a reduced price, and even opt for a drink — often for less than the cost of one regular priced entrée item. Last week, I got an appetizer and a cocktail at a restaurant on happy hour for $10, instead of a burger and fries for $16. You can also always skip the alcohol and order a water or a tea instead.

If you do find yourself going somewhere for dinner and want to save some money, consider opting for an appetizer. They often cost half as much — or less — than an entrée and can be just as filling, if you choose wisely. (Just make sure you’re clear about this to your friends before the check comes.)

Again, one of the most important things to remember when it comes to money-saving strategies is to find a middle ground. After all, while it’s highly unsustainable — and a total downer — to entirely deprive yourself of the ability to break bread with friends, there are many ways that you can do it without stretching yourself too thin.

illustrated by Paola Delucca.

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