If you want to take that trip to Vegas, go to next summer's music festival, or upgrade to that loft apartment downtown, you're going to have to save up some money. But don't worry; it can be done. With these tips, you'll have that down payment in no time.
1. Don't eat anywhere requiring a tip for service
It's a simple little rule with a lot of power behind it, and best of all, it's easy. If you would leave a tip for your server, even if it were at a cheap restaurant, you can't afford to eat there. A tip is an automatic 20 percent markup on the price of your food. The $7.99 is for the food, and your tip is paying for that server to deliver it to the table, along with the common side of bad attitude. Remember, you can't afford the unnecessary expenditures. On the plus side, you can still eat at Chipotle and In 'n' Out, so life isn't really that bad.
2. Don't buy take out food that you could make at home
Learn to make some great dishes, and you might start to prefer your own version of shrimp scampi to Olive Garden's. Italian food and Mexican are fun, cheap, and easy foods to make at home that taste just as good as they do at restaurants. Make your own iced coffee, pizza, curry, and burgers, too. (They sell all that stuff at the grocery store?! Yes!) Bonus: you can make it just the way you like it. Plus, studies estimate that restaurant versions of foods have up to 35 percent more fat than the same dish and same portion prepared at home. Save some money and some calories!
3. Allow yourself a vice (just one)
Saving money is hard when everyone else you know is maxing out their credit cards and only using their kitchens as a storage room for their alcohol. You've got to give yourself a reward, something that, no matter how poor you are feeling, you always let yourself indulge. Maybe it's that Starbucks run everyday Friday morning, or Tuesday happy hour with your bestie. Maybe it's quality wine or organic produce or See's Chocolates every once in awhile. Whatever it is, you are not allowed to feel guilty whenever you splurge on it.
4. Never pay for parking or water
When you pay for parking, you're paying for convenience. Temporary convenience won't help you pay for your vacation. You know what's free? Walking a few blocks. Also invest in a Camelbak water bottle or two. Throw one in your car, your gym bag, backpack, and keep one at the office. Vow never to buy another bottle of water.
5. Invest in items that will help save money
This money-saving tip allows for shopping! Along with your new reusable water bottles, put these items on your Target shopping list right now:
-A lunch box
-Tupperware with built-in frozen lids that are the perfect size for your lunch box (no more eating out at lunch!)
-Coffeemaker or espresso machine and coffee tumbler
Whatever your excuses have been for buying food and drinks for every meal, eliminate them. You are now fully equipped to eat at home and pack food for when you’re away from home. You'll probably save enough money in two weeks to make up for these purchases. All the money you’ll save goes straight to your wallet.
6. Go ahead and buy some nice groceries
How often do you stock up on ramen noodles and hot dogs in an effort to save money and end up eating McDonalds consecutive days of the week? You will eat at home more if you enjoy eating at home. You do have to be careful, because some groceries are just as expensive as eating take out or at a restaurant. An easy solution is to keeping a good balance between the cheap go-to items and the healthy, clean eating items. Try, if you can, to avoid groceries that are completely prepared already. That $4.49 individual lasagna? Eh, you can do better than that. Instead, try to pick up a few groceries that you would look forward to eating when you get home.
7. Pay $2.50 or less per meal at home
This is about what you should shoot to pay per meal on your at-home meals. See? So much cheaper than eating out! To feel even more awesome, keep a ledger of how much you saved that day by eating in and eating cheap. There are loads of websites out there that tell you exactly what to buy, how to make it, and what each portion of food costs in total. Saving money isn't going to be too hard, after all.
8. Skip the restaurant and have a dinner party with friends, instead
Splitting the cost of ingredients and having a big meal with friends is a great way to save money, and it's super fun, too.
Step 1: Decide what you're going to make, and what ingredients you'll need.
Step 2: Either assign ingredients to everyone, or have everyone meet and go to the grocery store together. That grocery bill is about to be split six ways? Hell yeah.
Step 3: Cook your hearts out. Bonus points if you drink while cooking.
Step 4: Gorge yourself with an insanely good meal.
Step 5: Distribute leftovers.
Saving money definitely isn't as fun as spending money, but spending money on what you want is way more fun than blowing it on trivial things. Follow these tips and watch the money pile up in no time.
Photo credit: Getty