Saving money each month is important for a number of reasons. It can help you get further along the path to financial independence, finance an important goal or put you in a position to avoid going into debt when unexpected expenses arise.
What could you do with $400 extra each month? Add that amount up over a year and it equals $4,800. Multiply it times five years and it equals $24,000, which is halfway to a 20% down payment on a $240,000 home (or a nice chunk of change to put toward your student loans).
While saving what essentially amounts to $100 per week in most months may sound next to impossible if you’re on a tight budget, it can be done. All it takes is a plan and some of your free time. Here are 10 easy ways to help you save at least $400 a month — either by cutting costs or increasing income.
Become a Voice Actor
If you like reading aloud, Jon Dulin of Side Hustling Money offered up this side gig that could potentially help you reach the $400 monthly goal and then some.
“Many authors need people to narrate their audiobooks,” Dulin said. “If you have a good voice, you can find a ton of gigs at ACX.com. Depending on the length of the book, you could make a lot more than $400 a month. And there are a lot more opportunities than just audiobooks too.”
At the time of this writing, ACX.com had over 1,700 titles open for auditions.
Negotiate Your Bills
Mark Chen, founder and CEO of BillSmart, a bill negotiation service, recommends putting in the time and effort to negotiate with service providers to save on your bills.
“Your phone and cable bill is one of your biggest expenses after rent and a car lease,” Chen said. “At BillSmart, we’ve found that clients are overpaying 83% of the time and could be saving $354 a year on average on their bill. Saving money is pretty straightforward — just make sure that you have the right plan and features that meet your needs and have the patience to go through the hoops that service provider customer support reps will put you through before they lower your bill.”
If you have both phone and cable service, you could potentially save around $30 each month on each bill or $60 total, according to Chen’s statistics.
Become a Streamer
If you’re ready to ditch cable, you could potentially save as much as $80 per month or more.
“Recent reports show that cable is one of the most expensive household utilities, with some consumers easily paying over $100 monthly just for TV services,” said Erica Seppala, a financial analyst at Merchant Maverick. “One way to cut this expense is to cut the cord and switch to streaming services. For less than $20 per month, you can watch your favorite TV shows, movies, and even live events on demand. Shop around your options to find the service or services that are right for you — and don’t forget to take advantage of free trials if available. Make sure to continue the savings by canceling unused subscriptions, switching to lower-priced plans when necessary, and taking advantage of customer specials and bundles.”
Limit Restaurant Spending
If you enjoy dining out or ordering in on the regular, this probably isn’t what you want to hear, but by reining in your habit, you can get closer to that $400 per month savings goal. How much you can potentially save with this idea depends on how much you currently spend on this habit each month.
“Eating out or ordering delivery or taking out can add up quickly, and many people are surprised by how much they actually spend on restaurant dining,” Seppala said. “This has become an even bigger issue since restaurants have responded to the COVID pandemic by offering delivery and curbside pickup. While you can get your favorite foods more easily than ever, it’s also super expensive — eating out too often or even just adding in delivery fees and driver tips. Evaluate how much you’re spending on dining and make changes, such as only dine out once per week or pack your lunch for work.”
Refinance Your Mortgage
If you’re a homeowner, one way to put some money back in your pocket is to consider refinancing your current mortgage — especially if your current interest rate is considerably higher than the rate you could qualify for now.
Danny Kofke, a motivational mentor with Mentoro Financial Educators, had this advice:
“Depending on what your interest rate is, you could save by refinancing your mortgage. Mortgage rates are currently still historically low. Lowering your interest rate from 6% to 3% on a $200,000 loan can save you $355 a month! Check your mortgage statement to see what your interest rate is and shop around.”
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Enjoy Canine Companionship
If you like dogs, this idea could be the perfect way to rake in an extra $400 per month without giving up anything in the process.
“To get away from stressors and maintain some freedom, while also earning income, look to spend some quality time with fun-loving pets,” said Andrea Woroch, a nationally recognized consumer and money-saving expert. “Sites likeRover.com can connect you with good-paying dog-sitting and dog-walking opportunities in your area. Sitters are able to work right from home, choose their own rates and have the flexibility of scheduling their work around their availability. Rover sitters/walkers can easily earn over $1,000 per month — and it’s perfect for those of us that can still work a full-time job remotely.”
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Revisit Your Employee Tax Witholdings
“If you’re a W-2 employee who every year gets an income tax refund then this may mean with every paycheck, more is being withheld from your take-home pay than is necessary,” said Michele Lee Fine, RICP, founder and CEO of Cornerstone Wealth Advisory. “This means you’re temporarily giving the government an interest-free loan, which they refund to you every year. It also means that too much is being withheld from your paycheck. Had less been taken from your paycheck and your take-home pay higher, then you may well be saving more. However, when most people get their refund checks they spend 100% of the amount. Consider discussing with your accountant decreasing your withholding so you know you can capture more into savings each pay period.”
Cut Your Utility Bill
Although this idea won’t save you $400 a month on its own, you can combine it with some of the other ideas here to get to your goal.
“I have seen the best savings from managing my spending on utilities because this is the most consistent way to save money,” said Freya Kuka, personal finance specialist, and founder of Collecting Cents. “Instead of just gettingdiscounted purchases from time to time, you are saving on a monthly basis. There are plenty of ways to lower your utility bills. You can switch to a programmable thermostat, reduce the temperature of your water heater to below 50 °F, or use low-flow in your bathroom to see small cuts to your overall expenses. Lowering the temperature of your thermostat is definitely one of the best ways to lower overall costs. By lowering the thermostat, I have seen a reduction of 10% to the overall bill which adds up over time.”
If your electricity bill is $200 per month, using the thermostat strategy could save you $20 per month. In warmer months, you could also increase the setting a few degrees to save.
Buy Generic Brands
If you already avoid name brands, this idea won’t work. But if you’re a name-brand junkie, read on. Consumer finance expert Tanya Peterson, who is the vice president of brand with Freedom Financial Network, estimates this idea could save you $50 per month.
“Reconsider purchasing brand-name products,” Peterson said. “Store-brand groceries can cost at least 10% less than brand names. That means a family who spends $500 a month on name-brand groceries could save $50 every month. Those savings total $600 a year, or enough to buy an extra month’s worth of groceries and have $100 left over.”
Get Rid of the Storage Unit
If you sit down and calculate how much money you’ve spent renting the storage unit you stowed your stuff in four years ago — think thousands — you’ll likely kick yourself. Instead of repeating the same old habit month after month, make a change and get one-quarter of the way toward your $400 goal.
“A 10-by-10-foot unit can cost $100 (or more) each month,” Peterson said. “If you really aren’t using the items, do you need the unit? If family members have asked you to store items, ask them to claim their possessions.”
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