For years, we had the hardest time saving money. Although there was money coming in, it made the briefest of stops in our checking account and was out the door before we could even register a bump in the account balance. We used debt, busy lifestyles, and the Joneses as excuses and figured it was normal to be living paycheck to paycheck. After deciding to dig in and finally get out of debt, we also learned a few tricks for saving money along the way.
Gas is On Sale, Save Up!
Perhaps one of the best tricks for saving money right now is based on oil and gas prices being lower than they were two decades ago. Unfortunately, most people will end up spending any money saved at the pump. I have no problem with taking a cheap road trip to cash in on savings, but don’t waste extra dollars on eating out or even worse, buying a brand new gas guzzler just because you can.
If I have learned anything during the years since obtaining a driver’s license, it’s that gas prices fluctuate. Everyone loves cheap gas. Then, once prices rise, out come the articles and testimonials about how high gas prices are cutting into family expenses and causing people to be poor.
There is a better way. If you live in an area where driving is a necessity, be smart about the cost of fuel. Always pretend that gas is the same price. In our area, the average fuel price is around $3 per gallon. Right now, it’s about half that.
As an example, if we pretend gas is still $3, and have a $20 fill up at current prices. We should transfer $20 into savings right away.
No one can say this is unaffordable because that would mean no filling up the tank once prices rise. I don’t know anyone who sits on the sidelines when gas prices are high. If you can afford to drive when fuel prices are at their peak, you can certainly afford to save now.
Save Money While Heat Costs Less
This works the same way for propane and natural gas used in home heating. We participate in an even pay program where our monthly payment is the same, determined by our annual propane costs from the previous year divided by 12. I recently received a message that our credit balance is over $1,200, meaning our monthly drafts will be on hold until summer.
Does this mean I should go out and spend those extra dollars on something nice for myself? Nope, that amount gets transferred to savings. By pretending we still have a bill, we can build up a nice stash of cash for when prices rise or an emergency pops up.
Tricks for Saving Money
There are a million other ways to trick yourself into saving money each month. Pretend to spend while pocketing the savings. If you’ve never tracked spending, it’s time to check where your money is going so you can find ways to save. A free account with Personal Capital takes about a half hour to set up and can shed light on different areas where it’s possible to cut back. Some ideas include:
- Brown bag lunch instead of eating out.
- Do your own hair color or nails instead of visiting the salon.
- Pay off a vehicle and pretend you still have a car payment.
- Lower internet or cell phone bills.
- Cut cable and switch to streaming.
- Pretend your salary is the same after getting a raise or bonus.
- Do online shopping through Ebates and deposit the cash back savings.
- Quit smoking/drinking/buying lottery tickets. You might be amazed an how much money gets wasted on vices each month!
Put Savings Out of Reach
Now that you’ve discovered all this money available for savings, actually save it. Put it out of reach. Transfer savings out of your normal bill pay account so you won’t buy a session of retail therapy after a hard day.
In my experience, having a savings account at a different bank has worked wonders. If we need the money, it can be transferred in a couple of days. However, taking the steps to do so is just enough work to make us think long and hard about whether this is a good reason to spend our savings.
Although saving is only one part of financial stability, it’s a great first step for those looking to pay off debt of build an emergency fund. Cheap gas prices won’t last forever, so take advantage of this savings opportunity while you can.
How have you tricked yourself into saving money? Have you been able to save more money since gas has been cheap?