When you’re broke, it’s easy to feel like there’s nothing you can do.
In fact, you’ve probably tried everything you can think of with little to no success.
If the stress and frustration of not making any progress have deflated your momentum, here are the fastest ways to save when you’re broke.
Start Small – Every Penny Counts
Debt has a way of obscuring our progress, so even if we’re making the right moves, it doesn’t seem like it.
It feels like massive sacrifices with no reward.
But try to re-think how you view savings.
Make the act of saving itself the reward.
Try using a tracker to visualize your progress.
Hang a chart or graphic that represents your goal somewhere you’ll see it every day.
Then make sure to track your progress.
Seeing yourself gradually reaching your goal is both fun and reinforces your smaller efforts.
Visualizing your progress is a great way to keep your focus and maintain your momentum. Still, if you can only save small amounts toward a giant goal, it may have the opposite effect.
In this case, reduce the increments or target of your tracker, that way your progress is more visible. This will help you keep your momentum going.
Make It Fun
One of the best ways to maintain your motivation to save money is to make the process fun.
By turning what can feel like a punishment into a reward or challenge, you can trick yourself into forming better spending habits.
Use Rewards to Motivate
A fun way to reward yourself for saving is to set your spending goal and then give yourself permission to use any leftover money for whatever you want.
For example, let’s say you spent $200 on eating out last month and you want to cut that in half. Budget $100 for the month and tell yourself that anything you don’t spend you can use to buy something off your Amazon wishlist.
This will help you be more deliberate with your choices. Instead of just trying to stick to the budget, you’ve got extra motivation to come in under budget.
And even if you don’t come in under budget, you’ve still slashed your spending in that category. Win-win!
Change Your Behavior With a Challenge
I absolutely love money challenges.
After spending an entire year doing different money challenges each month, I was able to save close to $5000!
Money challenges motivate me to save, and they usually improve my money mindset and spending behavior. I’ve found once the challenge is over, I continue to save money without much added effort.
Challenges are usually best when given a small yet significant time frame. Something that seems slightly uncomfortable, but doable.
I usually set monthly money challenges, but experiment to find out what timeframe works best for you.
Some challenges are more difficult than others, and some may be significantly more profitable, but any challenge you complete will contribute to adjusting your attitude toward spending and saving.
Some of my favorite challenges include:
- cash diet
- save the spavings
- sell your stuff
Track Your Spending
I don’t know your specific circumstances, but in my case, being broke was a direct result of not being aware of our actual spending.
Tracking our spending was the catalyst that finally helped me see exactly where our money was going.
Knowing where we were spending helped us determine if those expenses truly reflected our priorities. (Spoiler: they didn’t.)
Like many others, we found a source of instant savings simply by cutting back on our food spending.
We were completely unaware how much we spent on food before tracking it.
Once we identified that expense as something to work on, we saved close to $500 a month.
Most people have blind spots in their spending, and the only way to find them is to track everything you spend.
Curb Impulse Buys
Once you start tracking your spending, you may notice a natural tendency to reflect on your purchases before you make them.
Something about the accountability of writing them down makes you less likely to splurge where you may have before.
But if you’re still finding yourself spending impulsively, here are some other tricks to try.
Set Some Rules
A great way to curb impulsive spending is to commit to a waiting period before you buy.
This can be as little as 24 hours to as much as 30 days or more.
I like to add anything I’m interested in buying to my Amazon wishlist and then ignore it for at least 24 hours. This gives me the time to reflect and be deliberate about the purchase. More often than not, I don’t end up buying it.
You can also set dollar limits to your impulse buys.
For example, anything under $25 you have permission to buy, everything else has to wait 24 hours.
The rules are up to you, just remember the goal is to use them to save money, not try to find excuses to break them.
The Amazon Assistant for Chrome extension lets you add products from other websites to your Amazon wishlist
Go On a Cash Diet
Another way to curb your impulse buys is to try a cash diet.
This just means you switch to cash-only for a specific spending purpose.
If you have a particular spending category or a store that constantly tempts you, give yourself a cash budget to spend from.
Once the cash is gone, no more spending.
Automate Your Finances
If you’re broke, you may be telling yourself that you simply don’t have enough money to save.
But the truth is probably very different if you just make a
Instead of spending throughout the month and planning to save whatever is left, save your money upfront and give yourself permission to spend what’s left.
This is commonly referred to as paying yourself first, and the easiest way to do it is to automate your savings.
Set up an automatic transfer from your checking to your savings every payday, so you don’t even see that money.
If you’re worried about not having enough for your bills, start small. Put just 1% into savings to start and increase it each month.
You’ll end up building your savings rate over time without feeling stressed or deprived as you do it.
Focus On Paying Your Debt
Don’t discount the importance of paying off debt to your overall savings strategy.
It may not seem like “savings” because your bank account isn’t growing, but paying off debt is really just a different type of savings.
You’re saving future wealth by reducing interest and expenses now.
And if the interest rate on your debt is higher than the savings rate, you’re actually saving more money by paying off your debt and avoiding interest charges.
If your debt is too large to pay off quickly, look into consolidating it to lower your interest fees and your monthly minimums.
This will help you pay less and pay it off faster.
Put Your Money to Work for You
You may not have thought much about where you actually save your money, but that might actually cost you.
Using a no-fee bank with a high yield savings option will help you avoid random bank fees and make a little interest on your savings.
Whether you're spending, saving, or investing, Betterment is built to help you make the most of your money—today, tomorrow, and beyond.
Set Your Priorities
One of the best things you can do to save money when you’re broke is to re-assess your priorities.
Determine what you value and what you want your money to do for you, then…
Every single purchase, bills, and expense is fair game.
Some may end up being non-negotiable like heating and air, but by challenging everything, you’re resetting your mindset.
Even things you determine are must-haves might have enough wiggle room that you can still save some money (like downgrading your internet or raising your thermostat).
Earn More Money
While there are tons of ways to save money, it’s definitely easier when you have more of it.
Finding ways to make more money will help you reach your savings goals faster.
Ask for a
Asking for a
Do a little research upfront to see what others in your field are getting paid and being asked to do. If you’ve been doing anything extra, start documenting it so you can reference it when you talk to your boss.
Start a Side Hustle
If you’ve got more time than money, look into starting a side hustle.
- Like shopping? Become an
- Love animals? Maybe being a pet sitter with Rover is more your scene.
- Homeschooler? Wake up early and teach English to Chinese students with VIPKID.
The great thing about side hustles is that you can usually work as much or as little as you want.
Save When You Spend
Are you taking full advantage of all the discounts and perks available to you when you shop?
Most of us have used coupons at one point or another, but there are loads of apps that make it easy to get rebates and rewards for the shopping you’re already doing.
Combine these apps with coupons to decrease your spending and get money back.
Look into using cashback credit cards to increase your savings even more. Most cards will offer coupons and discounts to preferred retailers as well.
Sell Your Stuff
Take a look around you right now.
Everything you see used to be money.
If someone held that thing you’re looking at in one hand and a stack of cash in the other, which would you take?
If you’d rather have the cash, sell it.
Most of us are surrounded by clutter that could easily be turned into cash. Take a weekend to declutter and start selling your stuff online.
Make a Budget
I know for most people, “budget” is a dirty word.
But if you take a look around this blog, you’ll see that budgeting doesn’t have to be restrictive or complicated or impossible.
But it will be transformative to your finances if you do it right.
Think of budgeting just like you would planning a vacation.
When you take a vacation, you don’t just get behind the wheel and start driving, hoping for the best.
You plan out where you’re going to go, what you’re going to do, how long you’re going to stay, etc.
Approach your budget with the same level of planning and excitement.
Determine your priorities. Set your goals. Then start working toward them.
Just like you may have to change your vacation plans if it rains, be ready to adjust your budget if something unexpected happens.
By having a budget that reflects your priorities, you’ll not only have a budget you can keep, but you’ll be able to save money faster too.
It’s easy to fall into the mindset of being too broke to save.
Most of us are broke because we lack awareness and intention with our spending.
But using the suggestions above, you can make some relatively