Saving money with no money may seem kind of impossible. After all, you have no money, right? Well, there are some things you can do to change that. Some are easy and you can start tomorrow, others are a bit more complicated and will require more thought. But all are important.
So here’s where to start:
1. Eliminate High-Interest Debt
What qualifies as “high-interest debt” is different for everyone. But as a general rule you cay any debt above 7% needs to be eliminated as fast as possible. For most people, this means eliminating your credit card debt.
By continuing to carry this debt and not pay it off every single month you are simply giving money away that would be better served in your pocket. Consider even a small amount of credit card debt, say $5,000, at 18%. Assuming you leave this credit card maxed out you would be losing $75 every single month. That is $75 that could be in your bank account making money, or growing your savings.
Even if you’re only able to take small chunks off of your debt, $50, $100 a month, over time will add up. And as you pay off the debt you can take the money that would have been paid as interest and add that on top of what you’re paying to pay it off even faster!
2. Re-evaluate and Renegotiate
Utility bills including TV and cell phone are two key bills that many people forget about or simply don’t want to look into renegotiating as it takes a long time. But one of the easiest ways to save money when you have no money is to call and either renegotiate or cancel your bills.
Re-evaluate if you really need your TV subscription, or can you get by on just streaming services? Do you need that unlimited data plan, or do you only use 2GB a month and you can drop down to a plan half the price? Even if you find that you have the bare minimum for what you need, simply calling your provider may save you significant amounts of money. So spend the time on hold, ask to speak to someone in loyalty and save yourself $10-$100 a month.
Pro Tip: If they don’t want to offer you any deals, or refuse to transfer you to loyalty, just threaten to switch to their competitor. Even if you aren’t serious the threat of losing you is usually enough to get you a pretty sweet deal.
3. Don’t Worry about Keeping Up with the Jones’
For those unfamiliar with the saying “keeping up with the Jone’s” essentially refers to trying to show off to other people. Think of this like having a brand new fancy trailer, because you want to be the talk of the neighbourhood. Driving a brand new car because you don’t want to be seen in an older one. Structuring your life around other people’s opinions of you.
Having this mindset, and always wanting the newest and greatest thing is a quick way to lose money, buy unnecessary things, and overpay for items. By simply taking a step back and evaluating what you really need, and how much you can really afford to spend on those items can save you a ton of money.
4. Little Bits of Savings Add Up
One thing people always think is that you have to save a big amount to make a big amount. But with the power of compound interest, that simply isn’t the case, and every little amount counts. To illustrate exactly what I’m talking about, here’s an example:
Every year, after taking into account inflation, an investment in a broad index fund like VEQT or VGRO yields about a 7% interest rate. Assuming you were 35 and wanted to use the money at 65 if you were to invest even $10 a month every month until then you would invest approximately $3,600. However, with the interest, you would have earned on that investment it would instead be worth $12,199.71! All by doing as little as $10 per month. So invest every little thing you can spare, it will add up in the end.
5. Find and Use Coupons
Coupons are one of the easiest ways to save money. Grocery stores, supermarkets, department stores, etc. all offer sales on a weekly basis. And they all get sent to your mailbox for free! So take advantage of them. If something you need goes on sale, buy it. Even if it means going to a couple of different stores compared to just doing one trip, when you have no money, it is absolutely worth it.
Pro tip: In Canada, I find that Co-op and Loblaws typically have the best coupon deals, while Sobeys and IGA have the least, but check your local area to see if the same holds true for you.
6. Buy in Bulk When Possible
Similar to buying using coupons you can save a ton of money by buying in bulk when possible. Especially for non-perishable items that you are guaranteed to use. If, after implementing a couple of the other savings mentioned on this page you can afford to start buying in bulk do it.
It will cost you more money in the short term, but in the long term, it will save you money and stress. In particular focus on buying bulk cheaper, long-lasting items like toothpaste, laundry detergent, and paper towel when they go on sale. Buy enough to last you until they go on sale next time at the least (I find about every 6 months).
7. Purge What You Don’t Use
Every house accumulates stuff as you move through life. whether it be clothes, old electronics, chargers, appliances, whatever. Spend one weekend going through all of those things in your house. Figure out when the last time you used it or wore it was, and if it has been too long, get rid of it. For most of these items, you should be able to sell them and make money on them. Doing this a couple of weekends in a row with your belongings can yield some seriously high earnings, which you can put towards investing.
This is especially true in modern times when everything is a subscription service. From Microsoft office to workout videos, everything loves to charge you a monthly fee, regardless of if it is a monthly service. Going through these monthly charges even once can save you money every single month.
Having troubles figuring out which ones to get rid of? Start by simply pulling up your credit card statement and getting a list of which charges occur every single month. After you have all of these charges written down, group them into categories, TV, Music, etc. And then pick only one from each category to keep. At the time this may seem harsh, and you may change your mind the next month and rotate through. But it gives you a starting place to start saving money every single month.
9. Avoid Fees
No one should pay bank fees.
I’ll put that again in big bold letters so you can’t miss it.
No one should pay bank fees!
In today’s world with all of the offers of online-only banks, and no-fee chequing accounts from banks across the country you have no reason to be paying bank fees. I personally wrote an entire article on why you shouldn’t pay bank fees and should change how you bank because I hate it so much! You can get every banking need you could possibly desire, all without paying a penny, even making more money!
I personally bank with and recommend Tangerine (Orange code is 49297260S1) as you et a completely unlimited chequing account, with no fees whatsoever. You can also have an unlimited amount of accounts, savings or chequing, all without an additional fee. You also get to use any Scotiabank ATM for when you need to withdraw money the occasional time, again, with no fee.
I switched a little over 3 years ago from CIBC, and since then I have not only saved $726.97 in bank fees, I have MADE $52.41 in interest. Simply by keeping my money there!
10. Be Honest With Yourself
Saving money is just as much a mental battle as it is a physical one. It can oftentimes be hard to look at your finances and think that you need to make a change. But in order to actually change, and to make money when you have no money, you need to be real with yourself.
I’ve been there, I’ve been living so poor that I had a literally empty fridge. I’ve been so poor I collected bottles from the street until I could afford to buy a bag of rice and then ate plain white rice for all my meals. If you have no money, you obviously have places you can improve, and the sooner you realize that the happier you’ll be in the long run.
11. Be Mindful With Your Food Budget
Food is an expense that balloons as you get more money. In certain situations, there is nothing wrong with this. At some point in your life, you’ll go from living off Ramen noodles and Kraft Dinner to eating a well-balanced diet like a normal adult. That will likely double, if not triple your food bill, and that is fine. The issue comes when you unnecessarily grow. Whether this means eating out more or buying fancier food, it happens to everyone and the only way to conquer it is to be conscious of it.
If you have no money you don’t need to be eating T-bone steak every night. You may love chicken, but it is likely a lot cheaper to eat frozen chicken breasts than buying a small batch of fresh ones every time. So be mindful of your food budget and see where you can save a small amount of money by changing what you buy.
12. Know How Much You’re Spending
This may seem obvious but one of the first things you need to do before you begin saving your money and cutting your budget is to know where your money is going. Without having an idea of how much you’re spending and where it is impossible to know what to change.
So before you begin anything, sit down and look at your finances. You don’t need to build a budget on day one (though it will help), but just simply categorize where all of the money you’ve spent over the last month has gone. This exercise alone may open your eyes to areas where you can save some money.
13. Repair Before you Replace
Today’s society is all about replacing. Why bother fixing it when you could have a brand new one?
But that is a mindset for those that have spare money to use. When you want to save money when you have no money you need to repair absolutely everything you can. This means keeping that lawnmower that takes a little bit of work to start. It means keeping your car for more than 5 years. And it means bringing your devices to a repair shop when the screen breaks instead of buying a brand new one.
By repairing everything you can instead of replacing you will also increase your own knowledge. Being able to fix small issues like changing a taillight in a car is a small thing that will save you hundreds of dollars over a number of years and only takes a couple of minutes to learn.
14. Make a List Before You Shop
Stores are designed to get you to buy. From putting high-use items such as dairy and meat at the back of the store to putting impulse items like chocolate bars in the checkout lane. Everything a store does is about generating the most profit it can and making you buy unnecessary things. So don’t feed into it.
Before you leave your house to buy whatever you are heading out to purchase, make a list, and stick to it. By making a list ahead of time you won’t be tempted by all of the impulse purchases you see on your way. This lets you take the power back from the store, only purchase items you need, and know exactly how much things will cost, and how much you will save.
15. Increase Your Income
IT may sound rather obvious and not very creative, but one of the best and easiest ways to save money when you have no money is to get more money. The simple truth of the matter is that it is easier to save when you have more disposable income. It gives you more wiggle room in your budget, and small mistakes here and there won’t completely undo everything you’ve worked towards.
So start a side hustle, ask for a promotion or raise at work, and focus on increasing your income. Even if you are able to increase it by $100 a month, that is an extra $100 you can use to invest.
How to Get Started Making More Money
It’s easy to say “go make more money” but how can you do that? Check out this article for 11 Ways You Can Increase Your Income Starting Tomorrow. Trying to implement one or two of the tips mentioned and it will help you get started saving tomorrow!