Saving is the art of taking one dollar, and making it worth more. So what’s the best way? We’ve put together this list of the top five ways you can work your money without losing your mind.
1) Pay off credit card debt
Student loans are one thing, but credit card debt is just dumb. Often enough we owe money on our credit cards simply due to disorganization, causing the average American to be $6,000 in debt. The fact is there is no reason you should be paying these late fees, which can get pretty nasty, turning a few missed payments into a really big problem. If you do owe money on a credit card, try consolidating the debt by getting a personal loan with a lower APR. Since credit card interest rates are killer, this will be relatively easy to do. If you’re bad at remembering to pay off your credit card monthly, try setting up an auto-payment. This is the easiest way to make sure you don’t forget payments, saving you a lot of time and money in the process.
2) Don't eat out so much
The numbers are in: Young people waste most of their money going out to eat. This accounts for nearly 70% of millennial money waste, though Baby Boomers and Gen Xers aren’t that much better. It’s understandable: Life is hard, work is tough, and sometimes you want to treat yourself to a night out with friends. For me, personally, saying no to spending is easy, but saying no to spending time with friends is hard. Fortunately, the answer is simple: Invite them back home. Cooking is cheaper, and often better for you, and it’s easy enough to replace a few nights out with a few nights in. Just get used to offering a counter-plan when you’re invited out, or settle for an appetizer. Remember, also: Tupperware is your friend.
3) Utility bills
Here’s a bright idea—turn off the damn lights! So many people waste money simply forgetting that utilities don’t come free. Remember, every time you turn the hot water on, that’s a little money, and same holds when you flip the light switch. Leaving something plugged in when it’s fully charged is another wasting habit, and remember, you don’t need to leave the A.C. on when you’re not in the house. All these are simple ways that money just flies out the window. Almost literally—remember, sealing those windows can really save on heat!
4) Strategic cooking
There’s no reason you should be buying those frozen meals when cooking can be just as easy. Some of the best food in the world is made from the cheapest ingredients: Lentils are the bedrock of Indian cuisine, while the Chinese would be pretty lost without those huge pounds of rice. Speaking of which, ditch Trader Joe's and head to your local Chinese or Indian grocery store—the ingredients there you can buy in bulk, and they tend to be better and tastier than your non-ethnic counterparts. If you’re worried about time think about investing in a crockpot and a blender—these are both ways to just throw in some ingredients and let the machine work for you.
5) Expired food
Speaking of food, a lot of it’s being wasted. Studies show the second biggest unnecessary expense for millennials is expired and uneaten food. This, fortunately, is just a matter of simple planning: Make a grocery list. Know exactly what you need and what you’re going to do with it. Cook in bulk, and get used to putting those foods in Tupperware, and in the freezer too. That way you won’t have to worry about it, even if you don’t eat it for a month. Freezers are forgiving—food poisoning is not.