5 Ways to Start Saving Money Today

Story time. (Skip to idea #1 if you want to get straight to the money-saving strategies ’cause you’re a real money-saving machine. Skip to Idea #5 for a great side hustle option). If not, sit back and enjoy the story.

We bought a new car. I should be excited and in some ways I am. But I’m also stressed to the max about it. Like, I-woke-up-at-4 a.m.-with-knots-in-my-stomach stressed. I’m a chronic over-thinker so that’s a huge part of this, too. Here’s what happened…

Last weekend, Jose and I went with my family to a wedding. The venue was about 3.5 hours from where we live. We made it there just fine in my adorable little two-seater (2011 Honda CR-Z with 150,000 miles on it). But then, on our way back, things started heating up. Literally. The AC went out about an hour into our trip. It was a 90 degree day so you can imagine what it was like driving 2.5 hours with no AC. Or maybe don’t try to imagine because it sucked. At this point I figured the freon was low. But then, my car started making a terrible, heart-wrenching (because I loved my car), grinding noise.

We ended up going to a Honda dealership the evening we got back from the wedding. We joked about how crazy it would be if we left with a new car. Well, that’s exactly what happened. We probably definitely should’ve thought it through a little more, but let’s just call it spontanaity because that it makes it sound fun and light-hearted.

That brings me right back here to I-woke-up-at-4 a.m.-with-knots-in-my-stomach stressed. Here we are with a beautiful new, fancy, spacious, Honda CR-V. Unfortunately, that beautiful new, fancy, spacious, Honda CR-V came with a hefty price tag and a big ol’ monthly payment. Luckily, my old car (Miss you, girl!) had been paid off for years, and we just paid of Jose’s car, but still… It’s stress inducing to know that we once again, have a bunch of car debt hanging over our heads.

After I got over the initial excitement of a fancy new car, reality hit me hard and I went into planning mode. How can we make this car payment fit into our budgets while also working to save more money than ever before? Here are some things we have either done in the past and will start doing again or stuff we’ve just always done that will continue to help us now.

  1. Acorns- Okay, this app is AMAZING. You need it. Like, right now yesterday. It’s really that good. Acorns is a free investment app that you can download on any iPhone or Android. If you look it up, you will get more thorough information but here’s my personal experience with it. You start out by investing any amount of money you want –Just found out you don’t even have to start out with an investment but I would recommend something small, like $10.- The people (possibly robots?) at Acorns then invest that money into some kind of plan that will help you earn interest.  Here’s the part you really need to know- In the app, you can turn on a feature called “Round-Ups.” With this on, every time you make a purchase using the debit card/bank account linked to your Acorns account, the app will round that amount to the nearest dollar and put the change into your Acorns account. For example, let’s say you spent $56.70 on Amazon… Acorns will round the amount up, so your account will be charged $57.00, and 30 cents will be put directly into your Acorns account to be invested. It doesn’t sound like much, but this seriously adds up. Jose and I both started Acorns in December. This month we both had about $500 ($1,000 together) in our Acorns account. We didn’t even notice the money leaving our account, guys. You have to try this if you struggle with saving money. We didn’t get ALL of that money from Round-ups, but that definitely helped. We also both signed up for recurring investments of $25 a month into our Acorns accounts, which again, the money is automatically taken from our checking account and put into Acorns where it is invested. “From acorns, mighty oaks do grow!”
    *Click here to sign up using our link and you will get $5 in your Acorns account and so will we!*
  2. Use cash to shop- My second money saving idea isn’t nearly as cool as Acorns, but it is something you can start doing today that will likely help you save. I know how incredibly hard it can be to go shopping and stick to your budget. I always tell myself, “Okay, Elyse, you can spend $40 at TJ Maxx and that’s it.” Well guess what? I am the BEST at talking myself into or out of anything (see story about buying brand-new car) so that method just doesn’t work for me. However, if I know I want to go to TJ Maxx and spend some time shopping, but don’t want to spend over $40, I’m not taking my debit card or credit card. I will get $40 cash and spend only that. It forces me to stick to my budget and puts me in a super awkward situation if I don’t. I HATE awkward, so I’m not going to let that happen. You can do this for any kind of shopping trip. I haven’t done it for grocery shopping because Jose and I are both notorious for sticking random, not-on-the-list stuff into our cart. But now that we are cracking down on saving, we are giving this a shot. Buh-bye delicious, weird looking, foreign fruit.
  3. Eat at home- This one is super obvious and on every ” ____ Ways to Save Money” list but it’s on there for a reason. Eating out is so, so delicious. And so, so convenient. And so, so expensive. You might be thinking, “But McDonald’s has a dollar menu!” Okay well, you know you shouldn’t be fueling your body with that junk anyway, so stop making excuses. (I’m definitely unintentionally channeling the authors of my fav cookbook, Thug Kitchen. Use my affiliate link to get your own copy. It’s worth it, I promise). In my next post, I will share affordable, quick recipes that require very few ingredients and will get you through the work-week without making you throw your hands up and say, “Forget it, let’s just get pizza!” These are tried and true meals that I made throughout the school year to get us through and I can’t wait to share them with you. To begin this today, just start small. Instead of Going to Starbucks, make coffee at home. We use this tea kettle to heat up water and for french press coffee and tea (duh!).  Instead of eating pizza out, get a frozen pizza when you do your grocery shopping for the week. Little changes make a big difference. I challenge you to make something at home after work today. Get creative. I’m sure there’s something in your pantry and fridge you can work with. You can also go to All Recipes and enter the ingredients you have on hand and they’ll find a bunch of recipes you can make.
  4. Cancel Your Gym Membership- And just don’t work out. Yep, I said it. Okay, okay, I’m JOKING! Of course you should be working out (whatever that means for you)! It’s good for your body and mind. But you might not NEED your gym membership. Of course this really depends on your lifestyle. If you’re in the gym all the time, then your membership is clearly paying off. If you’re like me and love the idea of going to the gym, but don’t actually do it, then you’re wasting your money. Don’t get me wrong, I work out multiple times a week, but I do it at home, outside, or at the gym in our apartment complex. I was paying $30.00 a month justincase I actually decided I was going to be a person who wakes up early and goes to the gym for a nice swim and weight lifting sesh. I want that to be me, but it’s not. So instead, I canceled my gym membership this week and will be putting that $30.00 toward something else (ahem, car payment). I only just now felt comfortable canceling after two years because I found something I think is even better. Nike Training Club. I have been telling anyone who will listen about this app because it’s awesome. First of all, it’s free- yay! Second of all, it’s sooo user friendly and easy to use. There are tons of workouts you can choose from to do randomly, or you can create a workout plan (you don’t do any of the hard work except for the actual working out). I created a workout plan 4 weeks ago and have only missed one workout (see story about no AC in car and going to a wedding. That’s the one I missed). You can totally personalize based on what you like and have time for. Just check it out. It’s worth your time and again, it’s totally FREEEEEE! You don’t even need any equipment for some of the workout plans, but I would recommend a yoga mat.
  5. Transcribe on the Side– So this is actually a way to make money, rather than save money, but you could just save the money you make from it so it totally fits in this post, right? Last summer I started working for an online company called Rev. At the time, I was employed, but not making any money. I had a job at my current school district but wouldn’t actually start getting paid until the beginning of last school year. I wanted some way to get some extra money while I wasn’t working and I knew going to local restaurants and stores wouldn’t be my best bet since I only needed work for about 2 months. I started researching (it’s just what I do) and found out about online Transcription services. To be completely honest, the money isn’t amazing, but you can make about $30 a day for a couple hours of work and more than that if you put in a full day. What you do is listen to audio recordings or watch videos, and type everything the people are saying. It can be tricky because the audio isn’t always great. The one I’m working on today is an example. it’s an interview taking place at a restaurant so there’s a lot of background noise, but I’m making it work and I’ll get paid $36.00 when I’m done- Motivation! All of the available recordings are placed on your homepage of Rev and you can pick and choose. You can even listen to one first to see if it’s going to be too challenging to transcribe. The recordings can be super interesting, too. The one I’m working on now is an interview with a former prisoner who is getting his life back on track. It kinda feels like being a spy because you’re listening in on these conversations but no one really knows! In order to get started, you have to take a simple listening/typing/grammar/spelling test, and then you’re in. There are other companies out there, but I am only familiar with Rev so that’s the one I’m comfortable recommending. The only things you’ll need start are a computer and decent some headphones. Check it out and let me know if you start transcribing!

Hope you all learned something from this post and if not, I hope you were at least entertained. I’m assuming if you made it this far, you probably did/were. But you know what they say about assuming…

Let us know what you’re going to try in the comments below!

Until next time and happy saving,



Time. The most valuable of resources. Yet we all seem to have so little of it.

Since I have been on summer break for exactly 9 days at this point, I have had more time on my hands than I have possibly ever had. I certainly have significantly more time now than I did during the school year.

With all this time, I have realized a couple of important things. The first is that instead of working for the life we want, it seems so many of us are just working our lives away. And for what purpose? To buy, buy, buy? We are like fish- we fill the spaces we are in. If we are moved to a larger tank, we will grow larger. If we stay in a tiny fish bowl, we will stay small. I’ve proven this to myself over and over again. I started out in a small one bedroom apartment. I had no furniture, decor, or kitchenware. Yet, by the time my lease was up, my apartment was fully stocked. When Jose and I moved into a larger apartment together, we of course had more stuff because we combined two households. But then we moved into a smaller apartment and managed to get rid of what we didn’t need. Presently, we are in the biggest apartment we’ve ever had and we are somehow running out of room! Mind you, we have only lived here for a year and a half, but have already managed to fill it to the point that I have caught myself thinking, “We need a 3-bedroom soon.”

The more space we have, the more things we buy. The more things we buy, the more space we need. The more space we need, the more money we need. The more money we need, the more we work. The more we work, the less time we have.

Guys, here’s what I’m beginning to realize. Without time, there is no creativity. Without creativity, there is no progress toward your goals. As an example- Jose and I “started” this blog in December. I wrote one measly “About” section, then promptly passed out due waking up at 5 a.m. and working until 7 or 8 every evening. I had no time or energy, so I had no opportunity to tap into my creativity and take this blog anywhere. My brain was too full of work.

It makes my head spin, this crazy cycle of work, buy, work, buy, work, buy… But I’m trapped in it. I want out. With the time that I’ve had, I’ve been researching… a LOT. Like, researching as if it were my 9-5 job. Through my extensive research, I’ve discovered some really intriguing Podcasts. Through a Podcast titled Afford Anything by Paula Pant, entrepreneur and investor, I ended up down a rabbit hole of a movement called FIRE. Financial Independence, Retire Early. Here’s the thing- People (normal people!) are actually do this. They’re downsizing and investing wisely in order to get themselves untangled from this web of consumerism. The result is that they find themselves with enough free time and financial security to be creative, to travel, to pursue their passions.

I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this. I don’t know if the FIRE community is even what I’m after. But man, it got me thinking. There is so much more to life than working, buying, and dying.

That brings me to the second important realization. We can’t be afraid to go after what we really want. It’s easy and comfortable to fall into what we know and what we’ve seen throughout our lives. What I’ve seen is this idea that we work until we’re 65, retire IF we planned well and get a little lucky, then we get the last 10 or 15 years (generously) of our lives to attack our passions. Except, many people don’t even make it that far, and if they do, I’m not so sure traveling the world as an 80 year-old would be as exciting as it is in my 20’s.

I’m just not into this never-ending cycle. It’s not because I’m lazy. It’s because I know how short life is. Even if you’re lucky and get to live into your 80’s or 90’s, did you even really live if you never took a risk or followed your dreams? I’m more than willing to put in the work now so Jose and I can follow our dreams early and know for sure that we’re really living.

The final epiphany I’ve had over the last few days is that money isn’t what buys happiness. Enough of the right kind of money (passive income) buys time.

And time is happiness. 

But how do we get there without losing the little money we do have? How do we get there when it’s not what we know or what we’re comfortable with? Is passion enough to make something out of nothing?

Until next time,