13 Ways to Save $13 a Day & Become a Millionaire
There’s a common excuse I hear from my 20-something friends and family members: “I can’t save for retirement. Between student loans and bills, I don’t have enough money to save. I’m young and I have plenty of time to save for retirement.” I understand it, I’ve been there, living paycheck to paycheck, just struggling to get by. But the truth is if you’re in your 20s and you’re not saving for retirement–even a little bit–then you’re making a huge mistake. This is because when you’re young, you have a factor on your side that can eventually turn you into a millionaire…time.
If you aren’t familiar with the concept of compound interest, check out this video:
TLDW: Compound interest allows your money to work for you, so if at 25 years old, you save and invest just $13 a day you can be a millionaire by the time you retire. Seriously. Here’s the proof:
Run your own numbers at Investor.gov.
Of course, you’ll only make all that money if you’re investing it. Learn about investing for retirement here.
Look, I know what you’re thinking, “I don’t have $13 a day. My budget is tight and I can’t afford it.” Are you sure your budget is as tight as it can be? You may be surprised that there are some easy ways to trim $13 out of your spending each day. Here are 13 ways to save $13 a day and become a millionaire. You might have to implement a few of them to reach your saving goals, but it will be worth it in the long run.
How to Save $13 a Day
1. Bring your Lunch to Work
If you eat out for lunch every day, you may be able to find your $13/day by making just one change. Yes: bring your lunch to work. It’s so simple and can save you so much money.
Unless you’re ordering off the Dollar Menu every day, you’re probably spending at least $10 a day, maybe even $15 on your lunch. This can be a huge drain on your bank account, as well as being less healthy than brown bagging. Bringing your own lunch can save you $50 a week or more. Your lunches can be built into a broader weekly meal plan (more on this later) that doesn’t involve any extra prep time.
2. Skip the Coffee Shop
I know this one is hard for a lot of people, because a trip to Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks is a part of the daily routine. Depending on where you live and what you order, you can be spending $3-7 per drink. And if you need an afternoon pick-me-up, you’re doubling your spending each day. If you choose to brew your coffee at home or at the office, the daily savings are staggering.
With a cheap store-brand coffee like Maxwell House, your costs will come out to 8 cents a cup. Even if you’re buying specialty coffee, many of those brands come in at an average of 27 cents a cup. (Learn more at the Coffee Detective.)
If you’re a tea drinker, there are plenty of savings to be had as well. Buying loose teas in bulk can get you a delicious cup of tea in the range of 9 cents to 27 cents per cup depending on the variety. (Adagio is my favorite tea store.)
3. Scrutinize Recurring Bills
You should be balancing your checking account and monitoring your credit card bills monthly, but I understand that it doesn’t always happen. So, stop what you’re doing right now and log into your financial institution’s websites. Go line by line through your checking account and credit card statements looking for automatic recurring bills. The first thing you want to do is identify any recurring charges for things you don’t use anymore. Got a Dropbox premium account from a school project years ago? Cancel it. Subscribed to Entertainment Weekly and the issues end up in the recycle bin? Gone!
Then look at the things you do use. Do you have Netflix, Hulu, & HBOGo subscriptions? Consider alternating so you’re only subscribed to one a month. Look at your cell phone bill and analyze your usage. Can you switch to a cheaper plan that matches your needs better? Make sure you can justify every expense.
4. Drink Water
This is a big one for soda drinkers and people who eat out a lot. One way to drastically cut back on your grocery and dining bill is to switch to drinking tap water. Not only is it healthier for you, but tap water is free at restaurants and costs pennies at home. If you don’t like the taste of your local water, there’s plenty of water filtration systems to choose from. Many restaurants will even give you lemon wedges for your water for free–just ask.
If your only objection is that you prefer bottled water, remember most bottled water brands are actually tap water, so make sure you know what water you’re drinking and that you’re not just throwing money away.
5. Learn How to Price Compare Groceries & Household Items
Couponing isn’t for everyone, but there is one way to make sure you’re getting the best deal that only takes an extra 30 seconds of your time. When you’re at the grocery store or your favorite mass merchandiser, looking at all the sales tags can be confusing. Is it cheaper to buy the bulk item at regular price or the smaller size on sale? Luckily, there’s a very easy way to tell.
When you look closely at the price tags, usually (depending on your store and the regulations in your state) they will display the price per some selected unit. Often for food, this will be a price per ounce or pound. For other things like paper towels, it may be per 100 count or per unit. Some retailers will have inconsistent price comparisons (I’m looking at you Target), but often the tags will be consistent and easy to price compare at a glance. Look for the lowest price per unit before you buy. If you’re comparing items on sale, make sure you look at the price per unit on the sale tag. Sometimes you’ll be surprised by which option is the cheapest–it isn’t always the store brand.
The savings from buying the best value will save you big bucks over the year.
6. Buy in Bulk
Now that you’ve mastered price comparisons, it’s a good time to consider “buying in bulk.” What this means is that if there are items you consistently use a lot of that are shelf-stable or otherwise long-lasting (think toilet paper, rice, pasta, etc.), you can often buy big quantities of the items at a cheaper price. For 20 somethings, this can be tricky because you usually don’t have a lot of space in your apartment and if you’re only cooking for one or two, you don’t go through food as quickly. It’s worth identifying ways you can maximize your dollars by buying in bulks. Here are a few recommendations that many thrifty 20 somethings can utilize:
- Buy rice, beans, and spices in bulk at ethnic food stores.
- Buy large packs of toilet paper and paper towels instead of single items or 2-packs/4-packs.
- Buy a large container of yogurt rather than single servings. Add fruit, honey, etc. to create flavor varieties.
- Go in with your friends on a Costco Membership. Split costs on big quantities of items and divide them up.
Whatever you buy, after you do your price comparison, consider if buying a larger quantity of items you use frequently will help you save money in the long run.
7. Utilize Your Local Library
If you have patience, you can take your media consumption costs down to $0. It’s true, you can cancel Netflix or cable, stop buying new books, and stop going to the movies. For some people, this is a no-brainer and for others, it requires some sacrifice. If you aren’t already a big user of your local library, you may be surprised what they have on offer.
We all know about checking out books. Some libraries also offer CDs, DVDs, audiobooks, and video games. My sister’s local library also offers puzzles, board games, and baking pans to borrow. If you’re too busy to go to the library or not interested in hard copy books and movies, then you’re in luck. A lot of libraries are now using apps like Overdrive and Hoopla to provide digital content that can be borrowed for free with a library card. These apps offer ebooks, audiobooks, music, and Hoopla also has comic books, movies, and TV shows. They offer apps for iOS and Android. You’ll have to verify with your library’s website what they offer, but these resources can easily replace subscriptions and purchases you’re currently making, meaning big savings over the course of a year.
8. Cancel Your Gym Membership
Exercise is important, but often our gym memberships are just a drain on our bank account. Consider canceling it and looking for other ways to get your exercise in. Running can be done almost anywhere. Many parks have fitness equipment available for a variety of exercises. You may enjoy body weight exercise or online fitness videos on YouTube more than a daily slog at the gym. Local parks and town facilities may also offer gym memberships at a fraction of your fancy gym cost.
As with everything else, if you have the best intentions but never use your gym membership–get rid of it!
9. Start Meal Planning
When you’re only cooking for yourself or two people, it’s very easy to be a bit lazy about it. Maybe you buy some frozen dinners here and there, or you find yourself going to the store every day for ingredients. Or, the worst-case scenario which many of my friends often fall into: they don’t know what to make, so they end up ordering delivery for most meals. That can really add up, costing hundreds of dollars a month.
The best strategy I’ve found to prevent unnecessary spending, eliminate food waste, and avoid eating out too much is meal planning. It’s so simple, just takes a little planning each week. Here’s how I do it for our two-person household. Every week we go grocery shopping on the same day. The day before, I sit down with my meal planning spreadsheet and check out the sales flyers at my favorite grocery stores. I make a grocery list with those sales items and then start planning meals around them. Since there are only two of us and many recipes serve 4-6 people, the leftovers become our lunch for the next couple of days.
By using this system, we usually only go to the grocery store once a week (unless there’s an ingredient we need to buy fresh the day of) and we’re less likely to default to ordering pizza if we already have a meal planned. If we want to go out with friends or do something special, we just work it into the meal planning in advance, which helps us stay within budget.
I will be writing a post soon breaking down everything you need to know about meal planning.
10. Stop Impulse Purchases by Leaving them in “Your Cart”
Online shopping is great, you can order almost anything and have it delivered within a week (or even quicker if you use Amazon Prime). But the downside of all this convenience is how easy it is to spend money on things you don’t need. You can see something you’ve never even heard of before and buy it in less than 10 minutes. If you’re at all impulsive like I am, that means $100s a month out the door on random crap.
So how do you combat this urge? Easy. Create a rule for yourself: for non-necessity items (beyond groceries, cleaning supplies, and other things needed for day to day life) put them in your online shopping cart or wishlist and wait at least a week. After a week, if you still want the item and it fits in your budget for “splurges”, you can buy it. The thing that will surprise you is how many items you’ll realize you don’t want at all. They’ll just get deleted and you’ve saved that money by waiting.
Mini-tip – Unsubscribe from sales emails. Any site you shop at will automatically add you to their mailing list so they can entice you back to spend more money. Unsubscribe from these emails to clear up clutter in your mailbox and prevent impulse spending.
11. Cut out (or Reduce) Driving
This tip is heavily dependent on where you live and your lifestyle, but it can be a way to save big money. If you can reduce the amount you drive or even eliminate a car from your lifestyle, you can save hundreds of dollars a month.
- Bike or Walk Whenever Possible – This not only saves you gas money and parking fees, but it provides you with FREE exercise.
- Use Public Transit – Turn your driving commute into bonus free time where you can read, watch streaming video, or do anything else besides stressing about driving. If you live in an urban area with lots of public transit options, your transit budget can be greatly reduced by ditching a car.
- Sign up for a car-sharing service like ZipCar – Since we live in Chicago, we have a Zipcar membership instead of owning a car. Our membership covers gas and insurance and we just “rent” the cars for the hours we need them. Our membership plus using public transit covers all of our transportation needs for less than $100 a month.
12. Buy Used
When you can’t cut spending completely, there are ways to save big if you’re willing to buy used. Thrift stores, consignment shops, and yard sales can be a treasure trove where you can get great deals on clothing, furniture, housewares, books, and a ton of other items. I’ve stocked my home library with lots of $1 used books from the thrift store and have bought plenty of shirts, skirts, and jeans for under $5 each at the same place. It might take a little work to find the best stores in town, but once you’ve found your Holy Grail thrifty shop, you’ll be able to score all kinds of deals.
There are plenty of ways to buy used online as well. Craiglist and Ebay are well known for having tons of used and new stuff for sale. When it comes to buying electronics and appliances, you can save big by buying certified refurbished products. These are usually store returns or other open box items that are tested and certified to work and resold to thrifty consumers. Amazon even has an entire section of refurbished products you can buy at a deep discount. We’ve saved big buying a refurbished printer, vacuum, computer, and even a blender.
13. Start a Side Hussle
This tip isn’t a way to save money, but to make more money. Sometimes your budget is as trim as possible and there really isn’t another cut you can make. I’ve been there. In that case, the best way to work toward your savings goal is to increase your income. This can be done by looking for a new job, adding a part-time job, or starting a side hustle. I recommend a side hustle because they’re usually more flexible than a second job and can often allow you to do something you love to make money.
Here are some ideas for side hustles:
- Make extra cash online taking surveys, reading emails, and watching videos.
- Utilize your skills (like writing, graphic design, SEO, etc.) and offer freelance services on Fiverr.
- If you’re crafty, make and sell items on Etsy.
- Build a website or blog to make money from advertising or affiliate programs
- Become a driver for Uber or Lyft to make money in your free time.
- Walk dogs or offer pet sitting services. There are apps you can sign up for like Wag to hook you up with people looking for these services.
Opportunities to make extra money are only limited by your imagination. Sometimes a successful side hustle can become a full-time business.
There you are: 13 ways to save $13 a day and become a millionaire by the time you retire. If you’re looking for more ways to trim your budget, check out our other articles of money saving tips.
Of course, you’ll need to make good investments to earn that million. Here’s how to make $1,000,000 (if you’re young).