It's an unfortunate fact that Americans seem to have a hard time saving money. Last year, GOBankingRates reported that 69% of U.S. adults have less than $1,000 in the bank, while 34% have no savings to show at all. But while accumulating a large chunk of cash isn't likely to happen overnight, if you start small, you can gradually build your savings so that you have a financial safety net in place. With that goal in mind, here are 10 ways you can save $300 a month -- without having to make yourself utterly miserable in the process.
1. Unload your vehicle
Having a vehicle is no doubt convenient, but if you live someplace with adequate public transportation, you stand to save a bunch of money by getting rid of that car and taking the train or bus. AAA reports that it costs $725 a month, on average, to own a vehicle. Meanwhile, the monthly cost of public transportation in Washington, D.C. (which has the most expensive public transportation commute in the country) is $237. If you subtract that amount from the $725 you'd otherwise spend on an automobile, you'll save well more than $300 a month right off the bat.
2. Lower your housing costs
Housing tends to be the typical working American's single greatest monthly expense. But if you're willing to make some compromises, you can save a bundle on your rent or mortgage payment and stick that cash directly into savings. Downsizing to a smaller living space, for example, might easily lower your rent by $300 a month, as might moving to a neighborhood that's comfortable but perhaps not the most sought-after option in town.
3. Get a roommate
If you can't find a more affordable home, or don't want to move to a less convenient neighborhood, your next best bet is to find someone to help share the cost of your current space. As long as your lease allows for it, you can convert part of your living room into a second bedroom, and essentially slash your rent in half. If you own a home and are willing to rent out a room or part of your basement, you can achieve a similar goal and take that newfound cash directly to the bank.
4. Eat at home
The typical food establishment charges a 300% markup on the items it serves, which means that if you spend $30 on an entree, you could otherwise prepare that same meal yourself for a mere $10. And if you're the type who dines out often, whether it's weekend date nights or daily lunches, you could be spending way more than necessary just to keep yourself fed. Say you typically blow $10 a day on lunch from your local deli, plus another $100 a week on restaurants and takeout. All told, that's $600 in food costs, which you can easily shave down to $200 if you make those meals yourself.
5. Do it yourself
Many of us outsource our home maintenance, even when it comes to things we're more than capable of doing ourselves. Though it makes sense to hire gutter cleaners or tree trimmers to avoid potentially dangerous work, mowing your grass, for example, is hardly hazardous to your health -- so if you're currently paying someone else to do it for you, going the DIY route could work wonders for your budget. Imagine you're currently spending $200 a month for a home cleaning service, and another $100 for lawn maintenance. If you're willing to do this work on your own, you'll easily shave $300 off your monthly costs.
6. Find free entertainment
Nobody likes to be bored, and it's natural to want to spend your limited free time doing things you enjoy. But you don't need to spend a ton of money to keep yourself occupied. Instead, explore your options for no-cost entertainment, whether it's hiking outdoors or free concerts or movies in the park. If you're smart about sourcing cheap activities, you can easily save $300 in a month's time.
7. Quit smoking
Not only is smoking bad for your health, but it's also bad for your wallet. A pack of cigarettes costs $5.51 on average, and many smokers take down two packs a day for a total of $330 a month or more. If you eliminate that habit, you'll not only free up that money for savings, but lower your risk of long-term health issues -- which could end up saving you countless dollars in lifetime medical costs.
8. Refinance your mortgage
Though there are costs involved in refinancing a mortgage, going that route could put hundreds of dollars back in your pocket if you wind up snagging a much lower rate. Imagine you took out a $200,000 mortgage five years ago, at which point your credit wasn't so great. If your score has since improved, and you're able to slash your rate in half by refinancing, you can easily cut your monthly interest costs by $300.
9. Capitalize on your employer's 401(k) match
Though not every company sponsors a 401(k) plan, of those that do, an estimated 92% match workers' contributions to some degree. If your company offers a 401(k) match, contributing enough of your own money might land you an additional $300 a month courtesy of your employer. Say your company is willing to match up to 3% of your salary, and you're a higher earner bringing home $120,000 a year. If you contribute $3,600 of your own money, you'll get another $3,600 out of your company -- just like that.
10. Get a side hustle
If your current earnings and expenses really don't allow you to save much money, working a second job could be the ticket to banking some cash. A recent study from Bankrate found that a good 44 million Americans currently have some sort of side hustle, and of those, 25% bring home an additional $500 from that second gig. If you're willing to put in the time, you stand to benefit big time by giving up a few weekends or evenings a month.
We all need a financial cushion to protect ourselves from unplanned expenses. Follow these tips, and you could easily wind up $3,600 richer in just a year's time.