How many movies have you seen where the lead character or characters are in some huge predicament and have to come away with $10,000, $100,000, or even $1 million+ in a short period of time?
It seems to be a pretty common theme: the mob is after you, the local orphanage is going under, you need to pay off the A-Team for saving the town, or you stole the money and have to give it back. It makes for a compelling, drama-filled story, no doubt.
Fortunately, most of us will never be in one of those predicaments. Unfortunately, there are many more (not as exciting) predicaments we might find ourselves in that require us to dig up some cash we otherwise would not have had:
- being laid off from a job
- falling behind on a mortgage
- needing to pay off a credit card
- saving for a wedding, a vacation, or a gift
Since prostitution, robbing a bank, counting cards in Vegas, or betting on a sports team isn’t a desired resume builder for most of us, the best way to come up with money quickly is through saving money you are already spending.
Here are 4 fast money saving techniques that I would use should I need to come up with additional money in a pinch. Even if you aren’t in a pinch, these techniques can help an average saver kick their savings into high gear to the tune of $15K+!
1. Slice your Entertainment Budget to $0
This is an easy one. In crucial times, you should first save by cutting something you don’t need. Entertainment is the first thing I would cut. Here are a few things you can do:
- get rid of cable: could easily save you up to $100/month. Who knows, you might never go back.
- cancel your paper: $15/month savings
- cancel your Netflix subscription: $8-16/month savings
- stop going to movies: $25/month savings
- no concerts, sporting events, or shows: $50/month savings
- cancel internet: I know this might be a tough one, but between work, wifi, your phone, and the library, it should be doable: $50/month
Total estimated monthly savings: $250
2. Freeze your Credit Cards (Literally)
I’m not talking about ‘freezing’ from an identity theft standpoint. I’m actually talking about putting your credit cards in a bowl of water and freezing them. That way, you can’t take them out with you anywhere.
Thaw your cards to pay your bills when you normally do and buy your groceries on a weekly basis but then freeze your cards again.
The goal here is to completely eliminate any impulse purchases (as long as you aren’t carrying around a wad of cash), going out to eat, or purchases of things that can hold off until your money saving goal is met.
Sounds funny, but it’s surely effective.
Total estimated monthly savings: $250+
3. Stop Dining Out
Might be tough, but drastic times call for drastic measures.
I’ve calculated that dinner for my wife and I averages around $5-8 when we cook at home.
When we go out, the average jumps to around $40 (7X as much!) when you include tip, tax, and gas to get to and fro.
The average couple spends $2,930/year on food away from home (seemingly on the low end to me), according to the BLS. If all those meals were purchased from the grocery store instead, you could cut those costs to about $425/year, or $35/month.
Total estimated monthly savings: $250
4. Sell your Car
When you REALLY need money, a car is expendable. Or at least your car is. And it will save you ridiculous amounts.
I sold my car, and don’t miss it at all.
From the same BLS survey cited earlier, the average American spends $5,224/year on transportation (although those who actually own a car probably spend twice that since it factors in all who do not).
For long distance commuters, selling a vehicle may not seem possible. But you can always:
- commute with others
- downgrade to a cheaper vehicle
- downsize to one of the most fuel efficient cars or a cheap electric car from your gas guzzler
If you do any of the three, you could save hundreds per month. If you sell, you could save significantly more.
Total estimated monthly savings: $500
Grand Total Monthly Savings: $1,250
Grand Total Annual Savings: $15,000!
How have you Been Able to Save Money Fast, when Needed?
- How have you been able to save money fast? Have you used these techniques or others?
- How would you prioritize what to cut back on first?
- What are some financial predicaments where you’ve had to do this?
The only issue with the freezing of credit cards is that it doesn’t stop impulse purchases on online sites like Amazon where you can store your card information and make a purchase any time.
I know the biggest way for me to save money is to stop eating out. It is easily $40 every time my girl friend and I go out to eat. That adds up fast!
Get rid of cable!? That sounds horrible.
Cutting cable, will cut the expense and free up time for other money making activities – selling things on eBay, a side job or just more time with your kids.
While these options are not at all ideal, this may really help someone realize what their predicament may require them to do. Although I do agree with Dave, freezing your credit cards when j.crew and Amazon have them saved is problematic.
Yeah, potentially. But if you really were passionate about making it work, you could put in barriers like blocking certain websites. We shouldn’t be held prisoner to the fact that our credit cards are stored online.
One more idea: Shop at a store like Costco or Sam’s Club! That has saved me a lot of money for household items like soap, toilet paper, etc. The key is only sticking to you list though and finding another couple to split the membership fee with!
Shopping at Sam’s or Costco costs me more than if I didn’t go at all!
I could cancel cable TV, but Comcast would charge me more for just plain old HSI w/o basic basic on top of it.
Using wifi at a coffee shop or library would cost me more in gas and my time than if i just paid $2/day to have it at home for my convenience.
Bike to the library! Good exercise, I don’t care if you have to go 50 miles, Ron. =)
I could easily do that if I were single and had full control of my ‘free’ time. As it is now, I work 9 hour days M-F, have been married almost 3 years now, and have a 11 month old baby girl. The nearest library is 5 miles away, which would take about 1/2 hour each way plus time spent away from the family at the library.
I’ll gladly pay the ISP money so long as they don’t double my price at the end of each promo period.
These are all great ideas, but it’s only this easy to save $15k in a year if you are already planning on spending that much in a year! For someone working in s big city on a low income, they are probably already doing all of these things just to get by. Just once I’d like to hear some money saving techniques a little more creative than “cancel your cable bill.”
Appreciate the feedback, but there are a few more ideas than just “cancel your cable”, to be fair – and I’d beg to differ that the majority of people are not do everything I have listed. The goal here was to cover the big common expenses that can easily be cut without get too extreme. Beyond these big hitters, you start to get into expenses that are either too small to make a big difference or too critical to one’s financial security (i.e. cutting insurance plans). If you have other ideas to share, I’m sure the readers would love to hear them.
If you are paying $100 for cable and $50 for internet, you have not been reading this blog for long. Call your cable/internet company. When I was looking, AT&T had a special for their highest speed internet for $30 mo and I told Comcast. Comcast offered me basic cable with their best internet package (sluggish at certain hours of the day, dunno why???) all for $30 mo. So by using $150 as a base, I saved something like $1,440 (plus taxes) over that one year… I don’t think so. If your cable + internet costs more than $50. Call your cable company (Miller’s advice recycled).
Concerts and movies should be an easy one. One way would be to learn how to delay instantaneous gratification (learn some yoga or other meditation technique). You will be healthier and learn to control spending without doing ridiculous things like literally freezing plastic.
Dining out should also be easy, but do not push yourself too hard, give yourself two days of the week (mid week and weekend) to eat one meal out. You would cut down your eat out + grocery expenses to almost a third (I did it for the first two months of this year and tracked it on Mint).
GE is right about cars. I have a coworker who says that he spends about $1,200 a month on two cars (including insurance and car payments on his SUV/Truck). But he has not included the depreciation or maintenance in these costs. It is a lifestyle change and may not work for some people… I have a car, but my mileage has been trending down (I am now driving under 600 miles a month)
Remember in a crunch you can do all of this, but you should do it as a practice run (one thing at a time) to learn to live without some of it. And then in the crunch time, it won’t feel quite that bad. :)
With Comcast, I pay about $54/month for HSI plus basic basic cable TV. Their only other competition in my area is Frontier, which is worst. Not so easy to negotiate a rate when they know they have an almost monopoly going.
Frontier can beat that rate, but at a much lower speed. 12 MBPS vs 1 MBPS.
You can claim that you will transfer to using internet on your iPhone/library/at work or get satellite internet just state that you know that satellite internet is not as reliable (they will point this out), but you are prepared for that in exchange for the lower price.
I don’t know if you have ever had to have satellite internet like hughes net or earthlink, but where I used to live those are the two options and they both cost over $80/month for 5mbps and a download cap. I had hughes net, but luckily moved and now go through Time Warner. If you go over the 24 hr cap then you have to buy a five dollar token or suffer dial up speeds. It is ok if you need the internet and do not have any other options, but it is certainly a worse chose than any cable provider isp. For how advanced the United States is supposed to be we are really falling behind on high speed internet access in a lot of rural areas.
All good idea… less getting rid of the car. It’s easy when you live in a walkable community, or one with good mass transportation. However, I’m willing to bet that isn’t the case for the majority of Americans.
A savings idea for those with potential for flexible work hours. If you can work 4 days @ 10 hours per day, then you save on commuting that last day. Especially great if you have kids – one less day for daycare.
Agreed with everything except cancelling the internet connection. I think the amount of time and money you can save by having internet access is worth much more than the subscription cost. Couldn’t agree more about getting rid of cable though….what a waste of money!
Really good tips. I am starting to make “sacrifices” myself. I got rid of my Netflix and gym membership. This article makes me realize that there is still more to do, like lunch at work. At least 9/ day. Too much money!
Really good tips. There are also ways to cut expenses by just doing the little things like running a extra spin cycle on your washer to cut your drying time. shopping second hand stores, or buying toys that will last. It’s all about the life of the things we buy.
Sell my Car? Not everyone can do that. I live in Tornado alley in the country. I need a car and i need internet or cable to keep me informed when our weather gets bad! Not everyone lives close to things you should re-do this so its more useful to more people.
brand name cleaning supplies (Tide, Pine-Sol, Dawn) are more expensive initially, but because you can use much less product, and it saves money in the long run.
be careful how much of something you use. chances are, you’re using too much shampoo, coffee grounds, dish soap, laundry detergent, etc. use less and experiment to see how little of something gets the job done.
buying in bulk seems like a bargain, but be aware of the stuff either going bad or getting freezer-burnt before you have the chance to use it all. it’s not a deal if you end up throwing half of it away!