I know budgets aren’t for everyone, so I have an alternative approach to boost your financial discipline. I’m going to share how to save money without a budget.
Instead of sticking to a budget, change your spending habits instead.
I’ve learned to save a ton of money in my life without pinching pennies! My frugal spending habits helped me become financially independent.
I once helped a friend get out of $20,000 in debt in less than two years using the advice I’m about to share with you.
She was only making $50,000 a year at the time. And she did it without giving up spending on her priorities and what she enjoyed from life.
Here’s the secret: you have to pay attention to your habits. Specifically, your spending habits.
You are nothing more than the sum of your habits. Spending money is a habit that can be easily measured.
How you spend your money says a ton about your priorities. You might view your life in one way, but your credit card statement tells a much different story.
The goal is to identify your unproductive spending habits—the habits that are doing nothing to help you achieve your goal of saving a lot of money quickly. In fact, they might even be working against you.
Hang With People Who Are Frugal
Your mom was right, you are the company you keep. Humans are super social beings. Without even thinking about it, we take on the mindset, habits and traits of our tribe.
If you hang with people who spend a lot of money, guess what? You’re going to spend more money too!
If you hang with people who are frugal, guess what? You’re much more likely to spend less money!
Funny how that works, huh?
Start saving a lot of money without using a budget by studying the spending habits of your immediate social circle.
First, make a list of the people you hang out with the most.
Second, write down the three most common activities you do with each person next to their name.
For example, you might spend most of your time with one friend going to bars, on trips and to concerts. The core activities you share with someone else on your list might be running, making dinner at home and attending free, local music events. One of those people is getting you to spend much more money than the other.
I’m not saying ditch your friends who enjoy the finer things in life!
However, you do have some tough choices to make if you are committed to saving more money. You might spend less time with them or invite them to lower cost activities. If they are a true friend, they will respect the decisions you are making in your life.
I’ve known people who’ve taken even more drastic action. They changed their entire social circle by moving to a new city with a lower cost of living. Myself included!
I lived in New York City during my 20’s and I had a blast, but my wallet didn’t fare as well. Eventually, I realized I had to leave the city I loved if I ever wanted to get ahead financially.
You know why I also like hanging with frugal people? They don’t care what other people think about them. They live their life on their terms.
Make a List of Your Unproductive Habits
Yup, I’m going to ask you to make another list! This time, it’s a list of all your discretionary spending. All the stuff you spend money on outside of your monthly bills.
I want you to focus on all the spending you do when you want to kick back and relax. The stuff that comforts you when you’ve had a rough day, like:
- Ice cream or other junk food
- Wine or beer
- Video games
- Shopping to kill time
- Hitting the bars and clubs
- Eating out
And any other way you are spending money to escape from reality.
Again, I’m not asking you to quit cold turkey. I’m also not judging you. I’m not telling you to identify your “bad” habits, but rather your “unproductive” habits. The habits that are doing absolutely nothing to help you with your goal of saving more money.
In my late 20’s, I started gaining tighter control over my personal finances. As part of that process, I discovered I was spending around $400 a month on alcohol! I told you New York was a seductress! I immediately gave up drinking for four months and had $1600 back in my pocket. It was like I gave myself a raise!
You might also discover a correlation between your unproductive spending habits and the big spenders in your social circle. At least that was the case for me. When I quit drinking, I started spending less time with my bar buddies, who weren’t all that thrifty.
Try Doing Everything Yourself First
We live in some very convenient times, don’t we? More and more gadgets do work for us and it’s never been easier to hire people to take care of specific tasks.
Start a new habit of trying to do everything for yourself first. Give it a shot. For stuff you don’t know how to do or thought you could never do, find a YouTube video to show you how. Here are some ideas:
- Do your own grocery shopping once a week.
- Make your own coffee in the morning.
- Bring your own lunch to work.
- Try changing the oil in your car.
- Make your own dinner.
- Clean your house every Saturday morning.
- Before you call a plumber, see if you can fix it first.
- Do your own laundry once a week.
- Walk, bike or take mass transportation to work.
- Need a gift for someone? Get creative and make them something. It’s way more meaningful than a gift card!
- Be a social director and plan interesting events that don’t require going to a bar or restaurant.
- Cut your own grass, rake your own leaves and shovel your own snow!
Get in the habit of asking yourself this question, “Before I pay someone to do this, can I do it myself?”
The task you need to get done might not take as long as you imagine. It also might be a much more productive use of your time instead of zoning out in front of a screen.
As I did more and more for myself, I felt a greater sense of control over my life. I felt less dependent and more empowered.
I know this advice might feel overwhelming to you, but do it task-by-task. Planning will also go a long way to reducing the amount of time you spend doing all this stuff for yourself. Most importantly, you’ll save a ton of money!
What’s The Cost of Your Ideal Lifestyle?
I’m making an assumption here, but people who want to save a lot of money are doing it to make a big change in their life. You might want to be debt free, to work for yourself or to take a big adventure like traveling around the world.
Speaking from experience, you will be more committed to your new spending habits once you’ve identified the cost of your ideal lifestyle.
Do you know how much money you really need to make every month to do everything you want to do? If not, please consider checking out my free Lifestyle Calculator.
It will help you compare your current financial situation with the finances required for your ideal lifestyle. After that, you just need a plan to get from where you are right now to where you want to go!