Saving money is not always easy, especially when you are living paycheck to paycheck. Today, I’m going to share with you have I was able to save money when there was no money to save.
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How I started Saving
In the not so distant past (like last 18 months), I was living on less than $1500 per month. Yes, you read that right, one-thousand, five hundred dollars per month. If that seems like not very much money, you are right. It was not. However, this was the situation I found myself in.
I was recently separated/working on getting divorced, and working as a financial advisor and also moving to a new community. So not only was my personal life flipped on its head, so was my business. I felt like my life was one giant dumpster fire that even a fire truck full of water could not extinguish.
I don’t know if anyone out there has been in this same position, but going through a life change while owning a business, aka, not having a steady income, is FREAKING HARD.
So there I was, in therapy, trying to process and work through divorce and a new identity (therapy is the best thing I’ve ever done in my entire life) and figure out how to be a single woman in a town of 1,000 people in the middle of nowhere South Dakota, while also making sure I had enough money to pay rent on my new apartment, make my car payment, student loan payment, utility payments, and also make sure I could still buy groceries so I didn’t starve.
Each paycheck I received was dependent upon how many sales I had closed the previous two weeks, so if I was having a really rough “divorce day,” guess what? Small paycheck the following week.
I look back now, and I am so grateful for that time because I learned so much REAL FAST, but also, I’m grateful for change, and second chances, and believing in myself.
(I’m also super grateful to my people who surrounded me at that time and didn’t let me fall or go back to my previous life. You know who you are and how you helped me. I will never ever forget your kindness.)
In that short time of change, I ate through what savings I had pretty quickly. Within about three months of moving, my savings was almost completely depleted, and because I wasn’t making enough to pay my bills and replenish that savings, I had to get creative.
Here are the ways I found to build savings when there was not any extra money in my paycheck to save.
My Steps to Success
I got very lucky when I moved from my farm house to an apartment in that my neighbor was willing to share her wifi password with me. The Internet in my area would cost $70/mo, so paying that amount on it’s own was not an option (neither was cable or dish network or anything along those lines). Each month, I split the cost of my neighbor’s wifi with her, and we were able to both save on our monthly costs.
While this step didn’t technically put dollars in my savings account, it allowed me to cut down on my monthly expenses, while I continued to have access to the internet for work and entertainment.
When I moved, I realized I had A LOT of stuff. Most of that stuff was clothing I didn’t wear, or household goods that I did not want anymore (due to the memories tied to those items), or duplicate items. I consigned a lot of my clothes I didn’t wear at Plato’s Closet or similar consignment stores, and sold the home goods on Facebook Marketplace. The money I made from those sales went directly to my savings account. I made about $150 selling things that were no longer of any use to me. I still do this from time to time when I feel I have too much stuff or need to pad my savings.
Used Cash Back Apps
I used to be so hesitant to use cash back apps and systems. The idea of giving my bank info to an app or a program freaked me out. I thought I was for sure going to have my identity stolen. Welp, I’ve actually had my personal info breached from places other than these programs and apps, so I stopped worrying about it, downloaded a couple.
Cash Back apps work by giving you a rebate or reward for purchasing something through their program, or recording your purchases in their app after you’ve bought them. Each app has a different way of paying you, but they’re all the same concept.
I use a couple different cashback apps, but I definitely have some favorites. Ibotta is my most-used cash back app, because I use it weekly when I buy groceries. After I buy my groceries, I open the ibotta app, and take a picture of my receipt, and the app will pay me for certain items I’ve purchased. Sometimes I will only get a dime back, other times I will get $5 dollars back, it all just depends on what I’ve purchased, but it is always better than not using the app and not getting any money back. If you aren’t already using Ibotta, you can use this link, and my referral code: chhlxak. If you use this code, I will get a small kick back, and in the future if you refer other people to the app, you will also get a kick back. Win-win!
You need to get your cash back balance to $20 before you can cash out via Paypal, but I usually do that once a month.
The other app I use often is Dosh. With Dosh, you link your credit card (or debit card, or multiple cards), and if you make a purchase at a participating store, restaurant, gas station, etc, you will get cash back. Similar to Ibotta, you can use this link to access the app (I get a kick back if you use the link, and you will too if you share the app), and you need to rack up $25 before you can cash out. This app takes me a little longer to earn cash (due to where I live, and not as many businesses participating), but I cash out about once every four months. Click here to learn more!
I’m going to be completely honest with you: this does not make me a ton of money, but I feel making some is better than making none. I normally take surveys while I’m waiting in line, or in a waiting room or waiting for a train to pass through town, and I earn about 50 cents per survey--like I said, not a lot--however, about every six months, I get an extra $30 that goes into my paypal that I then transfer to my savings. I use the service Inbox Dollars, and again, here’s a link to sign up. I have used other companies like Swagbucks, and I’ve had very similar experiences--each survey made me an average of 50 cents. Not a ton of money, but when you are trying to do whatever you can to bring money in, it helps.
Yep, I definitely donated plasma for a while, and this honestly made me the most money. I know donating plasma has a stigma of “selling your body,” but I honestly felt like I was helping others who needed the proteins in my plasma AND I became pretty good friends with some of the nurses who helped me donate. If I donated consistently (US laws only allow twice every seven days), I would make about $350/mo. That money was loaded onto a prepaid debit card that had a pin. I would actually either use the card for my monthly expenses (which allowed me to put money from my paychecks into savings), or I would got to an atm and get cash off the card and take the cash for fun money or to deposit into my savings account.
So these are some of the ways I saved money when it seemed like there were no ways to save. I should have said this before, but I will say it now: if you find yourself in a situation similar to mine, take heart. You are not alone, it will get better, you will rise from whatever you’ve been through. The money will return, your life will improve and you will come out on the other side.
What are some ways you’ve saved when you found there wasn’t any to save?