How to Save $500 Without Really Trying

Saving money is definitely not the most fun thing in the world, but it can actually be one of the easiest things to do. Whether you’ve had a savings account since you were a little kid or keep your loose change in a piggy jar, you can still use these great tips to save $500 in just one year. And I promise you won’t have to change your lifestyle at all.

Let’s say you make around $350 a month at your work study job. I’m guessing that your paycheck is directly deposited into your checking account, which is fine–but if you want to save money, you shouldn’t keep all of your earnings in a checking account. If your school allows it, have a portion of your paycheck deposited into a savings account–as little as $20/month (just $5/week!) for one year adds up to a whopping $240. If you’re not able to allocate part of your check into a separate account, that’s ok, too. Instead, go to the ATM at the end of the month and withdraw $20 and stash it away.

If you’re not in college anymore, this same idea applies–have a portion of your paycheck automatically transferred into your savings account. Chances are, you won’t even miss the money, and it will stack up pretty quickly.

Ok, so now we’re up to $240. My next tip is to pay yourself. This might sound a little weird, but it will pay off financially and personally. Every time you get an A, turn in a big project, force yourself to socialize, or do something nice for a friend, pay yourself $5. Knowing you’re adding to your savings will (hopefully) motivate you to work hard and be a better person. So, if you turn in two term projects, walk for charity, get six A’s, get a great internship offer, stay in to study instead of go out, and throw a surprise party for your BFF, we’re up to $60. (TOTAL SAVED: $300)

You’ve definitely heard this advice a million times, but start making your coffee at home. This actually applies to other habits besides coffee–expensive cocktails, boutique gym classes and food delivery. These kinds of things don’t cost a ton of money upfront, so we write them off as trivial expenses, but when they become habitual, they start to cost A LOT.

If you go to cycling class twice a week, and each class is $30, you’re spending $240/month on exercise classes–you can get a year-long membership to a bunch of budget gyms for less than that. And if there’s a fitness center on your campus, you can literally workout for FREE. If you love Soul Cycle or Pure Barre or another boutique workout class, you don’t have to eliminate it completely. Try cutting down to once a week–find the instructor you love best, and go to her class. This cuts your spending in half (down to $120), and an activity you love is still part of your life. (TOTAL SAVED: $420)

If you’re more of a nightlife aficionado, you’ve maybe realized by now that going out for drinks is expensive. In cities, a cocktail usually costs at least $15…umm, can’t you buy a handle of vodka for less than that?! Make a point of going out for one drink, and take advantage of happy hour. If you typically go out for drinks twice a week (let’s say 6 drinks/$15 each total), you’re spending close to $100 every week. If you’re planning on staying out all night, invite friends over for a BYOB party, and look for bars that have drink specials. If you’re going out with friends for a casual drink, plan on having just one drink (and then reward yourself with $5 when you get home), and meet at a happy hour spot so your cocktail is $7 instead of $15. This brings your weekly total down to around $20, saving $80. (TOTAL SAVED: $500)

My last tip is to cut back on takeout. If you live in a place where Seamless or GrubHub eat most of your wallet, I feel you. It’s so easy to have a hot, delicious meal delivered to your apartment instead of grocery shopping and cooking–but this is another thing that gets SO expensive, so quickly. Between taxes, tips, and delivery charges, each order is probably around $25. Do this three times a week and you’re up to $75! That’s more than I asked you to save per month from your work-study paycheck. If you’re ordering pizza, order with three other people so you’ll only have to toss in a few dollars (~$6), and otherwise, only order if there’s a promotion going on. Check out the frozen food aisles at stores like Trader Joe’s for pizza, fried rice, dumplings, mozzarella sticks and other takeout favorites that are super cheap and cost way less than delivery. (TOTAL SAVED: $70).

See? Not so hard after all.

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