What is it with budgeting articles and listicles telling millennials to just skip their latte to save money? We had the same question, so we put together 15 budget hacks that will keep everyone (millennial or not) sipping their 16-ounce oat milk lattes on the way to work every morning. Who knows, maybe you can even sip anxiety-free in the carpool lane.
1. Create a budget—and make lattes a line item
First things first, you need a budget to implement all of your budgeting hacks. If you’ve never made a budget before or you’re not sure you’re doing it right, here’s an article to get you started. The most important thing is to fill in necessary expenses first—things like rent, bills, and student loan payments. Then, take a look back at your bank statements for the last few months and find out the average amount you’ve been spending on those lattes. Add that number to your budget so that you know you always have room in your wallet for coffee.
2. Use a budgeting app
Downloading a budgeting app on your phone ensures that your budget is with you 24/7. Most apps send you notifications when you’re getting close to going over your budget for the month, and some even allow you to pay your bills through the app so that you can keep all of your finances in one central location.
3. Look at your bank statements—no really
Looking at your bank statements can be a daunting task, especially if you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, but there’s no shame in this game. Keeping track of your bank statements will allow you to see if there are any unfamiliar charges coming in and will also help you see where most of your money is going so that you can reassess your spending habits.
4. Keep track of your subscriptions
How many subscriptions do you have right now? Between Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, and IPSY, I have more than I probably need. Take a look at the subscriptions you’re using the most. Does Netflix rule your life and you maybe just watch one or two things on Hulu a month? Cut off that Hulu account. If you’re absolutely obsessed with a show that’s not on an account you pay for, only sign up for that account when the show releases new episodes (then binge, binge, binge) or ask a friend to host a watch party.
5. Don’t forget about direct deposits—and automatic payments
This is an important one. Try creating a calendar with all of your direct deposits, so you know when and how much money you have coming in. Then, take a look at automatic payments you might have set up for student loans or credit card bills and see what times of the month your bank account might be suffering. You can always change the dates of automatic payments to line up better with when you have money coming in.
6. Direct deposit into your savings account
If you’re like me, you want to save, but you often find that after the bills are paid, you’ve found something better to do with the money you had designated for savings. News flash: Most companies will direct deposit into your savings account. This means that the $100 or $200 a paycheck you were wanting to save will actually be saved. Sometimes the best approach to savings is “out of sight, out of mind.”
Say you get paid twice a month, and you save $100 out of every paycheck. That’s $200 a month and $2,400 a year put away for emergencies or future life events. Again, it may not sound like a lot, but every penny counts.
7. Make your own lunch
The average person (who eats out for lunch) spends about $10 a day. Making that same meal at home with the ingredients you bought from a grocery store can save you anywhere from $2-$4. So say you take your average cost down from $10 to $6 a day by making your own lunch. That means you’re saving $30 a week, $120 a month, and close to $1,500 a year. You know what else costs an average of $1,500 a year? Your electricity bill.
Social diners, find some thrifty comrades at work who don’t want to eat at their desks. Eat in the break room or outside together, or agree to only go out to lunch one day a week as a treat.
8. Find a roommate(s)
Living with roommates can be a challenge, especially if you’re particularly introverted or particular about the way you live, but it can often cut your rent cost in half or in thirds. Right now, as a resident of Kansas City, Missouri, I would pay anywhere from $800 to $1200 in monthly rent for my own place. However, with two roommates, I pay half to a third of the average living cost in Kansas City, saving me $400 to $600 a month and $4,800 to $7,200 a year.
9. Carpool to work
The average cost of owning a car (and driving it to work) ranges from $0.50 per mile to over $1.00 per mile. If you commuted in a two-person carpool for 250 days a year, you could potentially save over $1,500. This, of course, does not include parking or toll costs, but you could easily do the math based on your personal commute time. Want to calculate your potential savings? Visit the link here.
10. Use public transportation
Maybe you don’t have a car or maybe you want to eliminate those pesky parking and toll costs mentioned above. Either way, taking the bus or the metro to work could save you over $10,000 per year. That’s because you usually only pay for public transit when you use it, and you don’t have to worry about things like car insurance or auto repairs (if you don’t have a vehicle), not to mention the environmental and personal benefits.
11. Aldi, Aldi, Aldi
Skip the Whole Foods groceries already. Discount grocery stores like Aldi, Save-a-Lot, and hundreds more have the groceries you need for the prices your budget needs. I spend $50 every two weeks at Aldi, as opposed to the $80-100 I’d probably spend at Whole Foods for the same groceries. Just don’t forget your reusable bags and your cart quarter (you get it back, don’t worry)!
12. Visit the thrift store
Because of the push for more sustainable shopping practices, thrift stores are thriving more than ever. And let’s be honest, most clothing at thrift and vintage stores is better quality than the fast fashion we can afford right now. Plus, thrifting is a huge money saver. Go find the look you want for the price you want and save the environment while you’re at it!
13. Find a side-hustle
Side-hustles don’t stop at freelance work or a part-time job at the local coffee shop. Sites like Rover or Care.com work with your busy schedule while still helping you make a little extra cash—maybe for a latte or two?
14. Hire a financial advisor
I know that this doesn’t sound like the most realistic option. Why hire a financial advisor when it costs money? Firstly, there are apps like Joy that do the job of a financial coach for cheap or free. Secondly, many companies actually provide financial advisors for their employees. Have a chat with your HR department to see if this is something they provide or something they’d be interested in providing.
Investing is no longer for the 1 percent. Even if you only have $5 to invest, that $5 can go a long way. Free apps like Robinhood give you access to the stock market and take you step-by-step through the investment process. And they have a cash management capability coming soon.