Are you one of those who have been unable to save because of how tight your earnings and expenses are? Or do you plan to save but find that there’s no money left at the end of every month? Many young people save year-round to cover periodic bills like healthcare, rent, tuition, or travels. We also save to have some emergency cash stashed somewhere for whatever need arises.

It is hard to save when money is tight either because your income is low, or your expenses are overwhelming. Many young people are either sending money back home to family or starting a family of their own and so are burdened with expenses that make saving seem impossible. When you are barely getting by, it seems impossible to find additional ways to save money. However, it is times like this when you need to work even harder to give yourself the extra savings you need as a cushion to cover unexpected expenses. 

This guide is for people who are looking for ways to start saving or save more money from an already tight budget. 

  • Pay Your Debts

If you’re trying to save money through budgeting but still carrying a large debt burden, you need to prioritize paying off the debts. The income going towards servicing debts and paying interest can easily go into your savings when you become debt free. If it is a short-term loan or credit, focus on paying it off as fast as possible so that you have more disposable income to put into savings.

  • Budget, Automate and Keep Away from Reach

An important hack to spending and saving wisely is drawing up monthly budgets for yourself. Every month, you must have your budget written out and allocate different amounts to different categories as needed including your savings. Yes, you have to budget your savings by also designating a specific amount or percentage of your income periodically for savings – this could be daily, weekly or monthly depending on how you earn. This way, you are not saving what is left over after spending, but actively including savings in your budget. There is no right amount, or right percentage to save, it’s not one size fits all. Find what works for you based on your income, needs and expenses. Once you have settled on that amount, automate the process to eliminate room for failure. Either set a standing order with your bank or use a savings app that periodically deducts from your account; this helps in ensuring discipline. 

Finally, keep your savings away from easy reach. I advise that while you may keep some of your savings in an account where you can easily retrieve the funds for emergencies, you should keep 60% somewhere you can’t easily get it. This will reduce temptation and stop you from spending your savings unnecessarily. Think a savings account with no debit card, a fixed deposit account, a mutual funds account, or a digital savings platform with a lock feature.

  • Invest and Earn Profit

Speaking of fixed deposits and mutual funds, these are one of the ways to ensure that your savings increase gradually instead of depleting. Putting your savings in bank accounts may lead to unnecessary charges by the bank which will eventually add up to a sizable amount. Instead, put your savings in an account that will yield profit, no matter how small. This may be fixed deposits, mutual funds, savings accounts that have a profit yield or other forms of verified and low risk investments.

  • Prepare Meals Instead of Eating Out

This is a tried and tested method of saving money. Depending on how well you utilize ingredients and the portion sizes you cook, it can be way cheaper to cook a week’s meals including work lunches, than to buy food multiple times a day. I’ve found that cooking stews, soups and sauces in large quantities and storing them makes it easier to take home cooked lunches (and sometimes dinner) with me to work. Also, home cooked meals don’t come with taxes and/or delivery fees. You may reward yourself with a certain number of times you are allowed to eat out a month, setting a budget for this. And before you say you can’t cook; this is the internet age. Google those recipes right now!

  • Use Public Transport or Carpool

Transport is another budget head that takes a huge chunk off many people’s income. If you live in Nigeria, you know that the public transport system in many states, including the mega city Lagos, is inconvenient and even dangerous. Because of this, many young people turn to ride hailing apps which are typically much more costly. 

To reduce transportation costs in order to save more, consider carpooling with a colleague who owns a car to cover some of or your entire route. You can also pair up with other people who don’t own cars to share your Ubers or bolt rides. This way, you split the costs two or three ways, and save some money. You can also use public transport if none of the above works, and you absolutely need to cut down costs. For safety, consider entering taxis instead of buses, and tricycles instead of bikes.

  • Take Advantage of Sales and Thrift Shops

When you’re trying to survive and save on a tight income, basic things like buying clothes or electronics become a luxury. One way to work around this is to buy clothing from vintage and/or thrift sellers. You no longer even have to go to the markets to ‘bend down and select’, although that may be a cheaper option. You can also buy selected thrifted items on the internet from the hundreds of sellers on social media platforms. Keep track and take advantage of e-commerce sales events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Holiday Sales (Christmas, Easter, Valentines, Independence Day etc). Many online shops and vendors typically hold sales around these periods, and you can buy the items you need at cheaper prices.

  • Ignore the FOMO and Keep Your Eyes on The Prize

With the amount of time we spend on social media, we are very likely to feel FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). You see your friends or colleagues posting up at the restaurant or bar where they are, and you feel tempted to join them even if it means spending out of your savings. Without discipline, you can find yourself saying yes to everything and spending more money than you have—all due to the fear of missing out. 

Budget for a couple outings in a month and space them out so you do not feel the FOMO. Staying focused and true to your saving goals can only happen with discipline and determination. It may be easy and exciting in the beginning, but trust me, saving gets boring and difficult after some time. Write down the reasons you are saving and check in with yourself from time to time to keep on track. You’ve got this!

Phidelia is a freelance writer who enjoys writing articles that provide value to her readers. During the day, she is an activist and a communications strategist. Find her on twitter @the_phidelia, and at her personal blog www.phideliaimiegha.com

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