In a spend-more-live-better world, we propose the opposite: save money and live better. Here’s how.
Does your quest for “the good life” seem unreachable? Maybe you feel like you’re always waiting for the next thing to be truly satisfied: the next raise, car, outfit, or even paycheck. If so, you’re definitely not alone. We’ve been conditioned to believe we can spend our way to happiness, but deep down, most people know that’s just not true—and the research backs them up.
When you make saving a priority, the payoff is more than just a higher balance in the books. You also gain peace of mind and the freedom to put your resources where they’ll do you the most good. So how can you get off the earning/spending treadmill and focus on what really matters? Here are a few suggestions to help you re-think what it means to save money and live better.
Living Well Means Taking Care of Your Health
You already know taking care of your health means you can do more of what you love for longer. But it also translates to less spending on healthcare-related costs and prescription medications. Here are a few cost-free ways you can invest in your health for the long haul.
Go outside. Fresh air makes your blood pressure go down and your endorphins (feel-good hormones) go up. There’s no better time than now to recommit to spending regular time in the great outdoors. Even a few laps around the block can reduce stress and increase fitness—all without spending a dime.
Avoid the drive-thru. Fast food is convenient in the moment, but if you ask yourself whether you’d rather have 12 drive-thru burrito meals or the money in the bank at the end of the month, you’d probably pick the money. Some reports suggest that the average American spends more than $100 per month on fast food. And of course, if you’re grabbing nuggets for the toddlers in the backseat too, that’ll edge that amount upward. Next time you find yourself veering for the golden arches, give yourself the “we have food at home” speech and save the calories—and the cash.
Quit the gym. Wait, isn’t a gym membership a good thing for your health? That depends. Only you can decide if you’re really getting your money’s worth, but the odds are not in your favor. More than half of gym memberships go completely unused, and that was before the pandemic forced gyms to go dark. The truth is, there are so many ways to get fit—for little or no cost—that it’s tough to make a case for that expensive monthly withdrawal. Try taking advantage of the many free health tracking apps, videos, and online programs before you decide whether your gym fee is worth it.
Living Well Means Having Time for the Things You Love
No one would argue that spending time on the things you love brings a greater sense of satisfaction to daily life. It’s true that sometimes you have to spend money to save time. But not always. Here are a couple ways to put a few more minutes into your day, without taking dollars out of your wallet.
Online grocery delivery can be a godsend to busy professionals and families alike. Best of all, many offer pickup completely free. Online grocery delivery or pick up lets you save not only travel time, but also the money you might spend on impulse buys throughout your shopping trip.
Automate your savings deposits. Automating your savings deposits is just a no-brainer. You can set up automatic transfers from savings to checking at just about any bank. Or, you can funnel a portion of your direct deposit to your savings before it even hits your checking account. While you’re at it, look into automating your major bills, too, like mortgage payments and student loan payments. Since these types of bills are known expenses, unlike your variable day-to-day spending, automating them makes sense and can save you time online. Just be sure to check in regularly to see that everything’s running smoothly.
Enlist the help of others. Is “if you want it done right, do it yourself” your personal mantra? If so, it might be time to revisit the benefits of good old-fashioned teamwork. Families who share the burden of household chores get the double advantage of spending time together and getting jobs done faster. Same goes for tasks at work and in the community. Delegating properly ensures that everyone is pulling their weight so the burden doesn’t fall on any one person. In other words, expect help, get things done, and enjoy the extra time.
Living Well Means Cutting out the Clutter
It’s not just Marie Kondo. We all get cranky when we’re surrounded by too much stuff we don’t need or use. Ever notice what’s not on the pages of a glossy home decor magazine or an expertly-styled Instagram post? Clutter. While you clearly can’t live in a photo-shoot-ready home all the time, chances are you have a lot of stuff you could get rid of: clothes that don't fit, an old chair you might use “someday,” supplies for hobbies you no longer enjoy. Let it go.
Sell it. Some of your old junk just might be someone else's treasure. It's easy to list your items on eBay or a local online marketplace and earn a few bucks. Instead of spending your bonus cash, though, why not sock it away in savings? The right account will keep your money safe while you earn interest on the balance.
Donate it. They say giving is better than receiving, and giving your gently used items to someone in need really does make you feel good. Many charities, like Goodwill and the Salvation Army, will take your used goods to stock their thrift stores. Not only are you de-cluttering and potentially helping those in your community, you're also helping reduce waste. Plus, your donations are tax deductible.
Unsubscribe from marketing emails. Our digital lives need de-cluttering, too! A tip from the Dave Ramsey blog: “give marketers the boot!” Email marketing campaigns are designed to make you click. And buy. Nip the temptation in the bud by unsubscribing from all those pesky messages cluttering your inbox. Less digital clutter in your inbox and more money in your wallet is a win-win.
Doing is better than accumulating. People tend to feel the joy of shared experiences much longer than they feel the thrill of a new item. In other words, it’s fun to get a new car, but more fun to take the road trip in the long run. Some experiences, like luxury vacations, can be expensive, but many are not. Consider what experiences you could afford for the cost of a new iPhone, for example: a weekend away, a pair of front-row concert tickets? Do you need one more pair of jeans or would you rather go skydiving with a friend? Next time you’re thinking of buying something you might not need, consider whether the cash might be better spent making memories.
Living Well Means Accomplishing Your Goals
You know that little pat on the back you feel when you check something off your list? Maybe you’re the type of person who even writes down stuff you’ve already done just so you can check it off. That’s because accomplishing things is key to feeling good about yourself. When you reach a savings goal, you not only get the satisfaction of checking something off your list, you also get money in the bank.
Try a money challenge. Sometimes you need a little extra motivation to get started on something you’ve been putting off. One of these money challenges might be just the thing to shake up your routine and put your savings on the right track.
Break large goals into smaller, achievable bites. Measurable goals are key to success. It’s easy to get discouraged when you think of trying to save for big things like college or retirement all at once. Instead of getting stressed and ignoring it all, focus on yearly, monthly, and even weekly goals. Figure out which milestones will help you feel successful and celebrate them. For example, if you’ve set a goal to save up for international travel, break up the total cost. Some milestone amounts might be passport costs, airline tickets, accommodations, and food allowance. When you have a clear plan, you’ll feel better about tackling even your biggest money goals.
With 15+ years of experience writing for finance and tech, Laura specialises in simplifying complex topics for all audiences. Her work has appeared on Ally Bank, Inman, and Hyper Networks.
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