Learning how to save money when you’re broke and on a tight paycheck to paycheck budget can be a tall order to fill. I grew up hearing the line, “save some money for a rainy day”. Sure, easy to say, but how on earth do you do that when you feel as if every single penny you have is already accounted for?
I know it can seem just about impossible, but I learned a few tips when we were heavy on bills and very short on funds. Tips that might help you find a little more wiggle room in your already tight budget.
Finding money to put into a savings account from an already airtight budget may seem like an impossible task, but actually, there is hope. Whether you are like me and already have every penny earmarked, or you are just starting out on your journey to debt freedom, I am here to tell you there is always some “extra” money even if it is just pennies to start.
The trick is knowing how to find those pennies.
When looking to start a new savings goal, you will first need to ask yourself the following questions.
- What is the money for?
- How much do I need?
- Where will I keep the money?
- When do I need it?
I know, pretty straightforward questions, but I believe it is much easier to find money to save when you have these answers set in your head. Saving the money is actually the easy part. The hard part is setting up the plan. Knowing where you will get the money and how you will save it.
That is the secret sauce to this system.
How To Save Money When You’re Broke – The Questions
Question #1 What is the money for?
I know, it is pretty impossible to foresee the unexpected. There is just no way to know when the car will break down or the dishwasher will bite the dust. If you do not have a savings account for the unexpected I highly suggest you get one and quick.
Relying on a credit card for normal emergencies is not the way to go. So for this scenario let’s say we are setting up your initial emergency fund to pay for any surprises that show up out of nowhere.
A normal emergency is just that. Something that tends to come up for the normal family. Car expenses, medical, household, etc. Having a small amount specifically earmarked to cover these costs will not only keep you from incurring more debt but will also help you sleep at night.
Totally and completely worth it.
How much money do I need?
Most unexpected expenses tend to be in the hundreds with a few venturing into that awful area of the thousands. If you are setting up your emergency fund for the first time Dave Ramsey suggests starting with $1000.
When I first heard of this that number terrified me. Not only did I completely believe it would be impossible for our family to save that amount. But when you are living on a tight barebones budget…having $1000 dollars sitting in an account can be a temptation that is hard to resist.
If that happens to be what you are thinking right now, don’t worry, we are going to fix this temptation in just a bit.
I know this sounds like a monumental task especially if you are living paycheck to paycheck but luckily there is no time frame here We just need you to have a goal so you know what you are working towards.
Where will I keep the money?
Okay, this part is the key to not only saving the money but actually keeping that money in savings so you cannot easily get to it yet you CAN get to it when you need it.
If you are highly disciplined then a separate account at the bank you frequent will work just fine. Most banks offer free checking or savings accounts allowing you to have just as many accounts as you need.
SLCG PRO TIP: If you have numerous accounts at the same bank choose a different design for each debit card and label the back so you know what account it belongs to. The different designs really help keep the accounts straight.
However, if you are like me then having your money so easily accessible might not be the best idea.
Cue the internet.
There are so many online accounts that you can use for free to save up money for not only an emergency fund but for just about anything you can think of. Since I began utilizing these accounts we have been able to save money for goals that we were never able to save before.
Future purchases, weddings, college expenses, holidays, trips, and so much more. By allocating every single penny and breaking things down into specific accounts we are now able to up our savings game. This has kept us from incurring any new debt and has also brought back a good night’s sleep.
I had no idea how our finances were keeping me up at night until I was finally able to get them under control.
Our go-to online savings account is Smarty Pig. I have several goals set up there that pull money out automatically from our checking every month. Small amounts yes, but they add up quickly. Check them out and give them a try. Smartypig.com
When do I need my savings account funded by?
Since there is never really a way to know when an emergency is going to come up I think the best answer to this question is ASAP. Knowing your time frame is pretty much, ASAP, will help you to be a bit more aggressive on your money hunt.
Now that we have the preliminary questions out of the way, let’s find you some money!
How to Save Money When You’re Broke – Finding the Cash
Money-Saving Tip #1. Check Your Budget
Like I said before when you are living paycheck to paycheck most of your household money is probably already allocated down to the penny. So when you are preparing to set up a new savings goal you will want to begin by looking at your budget for the month.
Ask yourself if there is any place at all where you can cut right off the bat.
If you are like me, I am sure the first place you are looking is your grocery budget. More often than not, families tend to have quite a bit more money budgeted for food than they may actually need. And even if you do not have a generous amount budgeted, you could still probably skim $5-$10 off that amount each month without it hurting too badly.
Now, I know $5 dollars a month doesn’t sound like much but it is a great place to start. After a month or two try to up that amount just a bit more.
SLCG PRO TIP: Looking for a fast way to cut your grocery budget? Stop buying sweets and make them instead. A box of brownie mix can be purchased for $1 and even after you add the ingredients it calls for you are still spending a fraction of what a box of cookies would cost. Make it don’t buy it and put those savings into your account!
Final tally: Grocery Money Budget cuts $10/Month
Money-Saving #2. Look for Change
Hidden treasures are a great place to find a few bucks here and there to save. I am talking about loose change, spare bills, and returns. If you are living tight this might already be set for something else and if that is the case maybe you can split these funds up a bit to cover more than one area.
If this money is fair game, however, this can be a great way to fund a new savings plan. When you are learning how to save when you have nothing to save you need to find every penny you and. We are in warrior mode here so you need to get serious with your cash.
Yep, even the pennies.
Each week gather up any change in your purse (But be sure to always keep a quarter in your purse especially if you shop at Aldi’s or other cart rental store) and deposit it into your account that you have set for your online savings withdrawals. I like to write up a deposit slip and put it in my errand basket so I am reminded to do this each time I see it.
You can also check your car each month as well.
Final tally: Loose Change And Bills $5/Month
Money-Saving Tip #3. Turn on Those Apps
One of my favorite money-saving tips is using shopping apps on your phone. I just LOVE these apps and how easy they are to use. To be honest, these apps are how I fund my Christmas Shopping Account saving hundreds of dollars each year without doing anything difficult at all.
My top app right now is IBotta. This FREE app is a great way to get money for buying what you already buy at the grocery store. Yes, even generic gets you cashback! Just download the free app HERE and enter in my code mmsgacr where it asks for the referral code.
Once done just download the app to your phone and get $10 deposited in your account as a thank you! That’s free money and a great reason to give it a try.
My kids even use this app and love how easy it is. And if my boys can use it and save, anyone can! The point here is not to overlook shopping apps to save money.
Final tally: Selling online $10-25/Month
Money-Saving #4. Sell Your Clutter
Now we are going to work a bit for our next batch of funds. Selling things online is nothing new but it still surprises me how many folks do not take advantage of this amazing tip. Not only can you sell things online for FREE but it is so much easier than you might realize.
Other than setting up an account selling is a piece of cake to do and a wonderful way to make some extra money to fund an emergency savings account.
It is super simple to find things to sell to make some quick cash.
Here is a quick list of things that sell well online.
- Kids clothing
- Home decor
- Toys – Especially close to the holidays.
- Sports equipment – Offer at the right time. Golf items in June for example.
- Exercise equipment – Sells really well in January.
- Kids costumes – Sell great in October
You can see by this list that I am not asking you to pawn your grandmother’s china. It’s the everyday things that sell fast especially on Facebook. People are looking for quick and easy deals and that is perfect for someone that is looking to save when they have no money to save.
Final tally: Selling online $10-25/Month
Money-Saving #5. Move Money Around
My next tip is not for the faint of heart. Actually, it is more for the money-saving Ninja that is willing to do whatever they can to get out of debt.
Having said that you might find it surprising that I am now going to tell you to dip into your debt repayment funds to put into your emergency fund.
Oh boy, I can see you throwing your hands up into the air as you are reading this but hear me out. Getting out of debt is more than just paying it off. Yes, that is a HUGE part of it but there is so much more to it than that.
If you truly want to get out of debt then you need a plan so you never get back into debt again. Having a savings account to stop further credit card usage is the secret sauce to not getting back into debt again.
Just like you cannot build a house without a good strong foundation you cannot stay out of debt without a good solid plan.
Until you are fully funded in your unexpected expense savings account, I suggest you take just 10% of whatever you are repaying to your debt each month and deposit that amount in there. Once you have your savings account fully set up you can go back to full debt repayment mode.
So, if you are paying $100 a month to debt repayment then you will take 10% of that amount or $10 and deposit it into your emergency savings account. If you are paying $1000 a month you will deposit $100 into your savings account.
To make sure this is only a temporary event, make a note on your calendar AND set up a reminder on your smartphone. This is a serious business so you need to have a stopping point set into place to ensure you get yourself right back on track once you set up and fully fund your account.
You need to remember, getting out of debt isn’t just about paying off credit cards and loans, it is about learning to live within your means. You cannot put all of your focus into debt repayment, then get hit with a repair bill and be forced to use your credit card to pay the fee. You have to learn a new way of thinking.
Final tally: Debt Repayment Fund $10-100/Month
Funding this account will take some time, I get it. Do not let this discourage you. Having a nice savings account set aside to cover you in the case of the unexpected is pretty darn liberating.
Proactive money managing will be the difference between where you are now and where you want to be. Allocating funds for unscheduled bills is a must in your path to becoming debt-free.
Preparing for the unexpected will not only keep you from incurring new debt but also get you out of debt much quicker. As you are working to pay off those credit cards you begin to see your time as money and change what you put your focus on. Make it instead of buying it will save you money big time. Money that you can use to fund your savings account so you can get back to paying down that debt. As you work to make a financial change, your mindset will change along with it.
And that is a good thing especially when you are looking to save money when you’re broke.