How to Save Money and Still Have Fun

By: Michelle Jackson

You can have your avocado toast and eat it, too.

Whenever I walk into a shop or go to a restaurant, I have the amazing ability to pick the most expensive item in a shop or on the menu. It’s like a special skill that I have. And, after years of paying off debt, I had to make the painful admission that I’m a natural spender and that there are certain small things that I would like to continue to enjoy.

Like a nice latte or avocado toast.

Currently, a nice cup of coffee and avocado toast have become the pariahs of the incidental expenses space and I think that it’s a bit unfair. Incidental expenses are the proverbial small expenses that can sink your financial ship. Recently, I began tracking my daily expenses to see where my money was going. I’m paying off some debts and wanted to make sure that I wasn’t frittering away money that could be used toward those bills.

What I discovered was pretty illuminating. First, my weekly trips to the coffee shop cost me around $50 for the month of November. Or, around $600 a year for coffee. That’s, a ridiculous amount of money to spend on hot brown water. But, I also realized that I don’t really go out to eat and that my coffee shop expenditure was substantially less than what many people spend on nights out and other incidentals.

Know Yourself

I know that I enjoy going out for coffee and eating the occasional avocado toast. I’m also aware that I have expensive taste and so I build in the following into my budget:

  • Trips to the coffee shop
  • Eating out
  • Fun

Then, I look at how I can enjoy these indulgences for less. I use Eventbrite and Meetup.com  to find free or sponsored events that are fun. I use coffee cards to earn free coffee and I make my avocado toast at home.

Recently, I ate a free meal at Morton’s Steakhouse because I attended a sponsored Meetup that I’m a member of.

I know that I love going to the mountains to relax. Instead of going to the mountains and staying at a posh resort, I stay in a posh hostel for a quarter of the price. I still get to chill out in the mountains, but I do it for a fraction of the cost.

Basically, I know that I would like to enjoy certain things in my life because YOLO! But, I don’t need to go broke in order to enjoy these things in my life. If that means I make my avocado toast and purchase one every three months or so when I’m outside of my house that’s a reasonable trade-off.

Use Technology

The amount of incredible technology that has been created to help users save more money and grow their wealth is amazing. If you’re not using a platform to track your net worth and your cash flow-you’re making a mistake.

Platforms such as Personal Capital, MINT, Quickbooks, and Xero are great ways to monitor where your money is actually going. If you don’t have the time or energy to create a Google Doc or XCEL spreadsheet to track your money, these free and low-cost budgeting platforms can quickly help you identify positive and negative patterns related to your cash flow. If you’re wondering where your money is going-these tools will show you right away in real time.

I also use savings apps such as Ibotta when shopping for groceries or online as a way to earn cash back. I’ve earned almost $500 with the Ibotta app and as I’ve used it I’ve noticed that the items shown on the platform match my shopping tastes more over time.

Finally, there are also a number of ways to painlessly increase your savings.

  • Increase your contributions to your company 401k (if you have access to one). Work with your human resources department to increase your contribution rate.
  • Use savings apps that round up small amounts of cash and deposit them into a savings account for you.
  • Savings apps that help you save via small incremental amounts throughout the month or once a month depending on the platform that you’re using.

Earn More

This one is tricky because you need to also have a handle on your financial habits so that you don’t end up spending your extra cash.

Grow your income by changing jobs. In fact, most people forget that they can create their own raise by changing their job and actively negotiating the rate they would like to be paid. This does require research and nerves of steel on your part. But, there is a point where you can only be so frugal.

Side-Hustles are bae! I love side-hustling. In fact, it amazes me how many ways there are to make extra money. In fact, if you’re needing inspiration and ideas, there are also groups online dedicated to helping people discover the side-hustle that is right for you.

There are a couple of things to consider before starting your new side-hustle.

  • Is it worth the time? Some side-hustles are way too time-consuming and you might be better off focusing on earning more with your primary job.
  • Does the side-hustle pay enough? One of my favorite side-hustles is brand ambassador work. My most recent brand ambassador gig paid me $22 an hour and even after taxes, that was more than what people are making at Starbucks.
  • Will you get enough hours to meet your savings goal? Some part-time jobs don’t offer enough hours to make it worth your time.

Spend some time working through the numbers before you say “yes” to your new gig.

Start Saving Today!

As a natural spender, I find saving money to be a financial muscle that I have to work on constantly. Setting up systems that help me enjoy my life, track my cash, and are relatively painless has been the best approach and allowed me to save more money over time.

About The Author:

Michelle Jackson is a personal finance writer who has learned everything about money the hard way. She has paid off thousands of dollars in debt and is excited to help educate others on how to grow their money, stay debt-free, and live their best financial life. When she’s not geeking out about money, you can find Michelle hiking in her home state of Colorado.