How to Save Money When You Feel Broke as Hell

03/08/2017 11:33 am ET Updated Apr 19, 2017

Based on this statistic, there’s a good chance most people are teetering on the brink of broke.

So if you found this post because you're feeling broke as hell, don’t feel too bad — you’re not alone.

Here are a few things you can do to beat broke and stash away more money in savings.

1. Pretend You’re a Saver

Yes, fake it until you make it.

If you currently hold all of your money in a checking account, open up a separate savings account. Keeping all cash in one place makes it too tempting for you to spend more than you can afford.

At this very second, you may have $0.25 in disposable cash to put into a savings account.

It doesn't matter.

The fact is, if you ever want to have thousands of dollars in savings you need to take action.

Open a savings account that has no fees and requires no minimum balance.

Then transfer the $0.25 you have into that savings account — today.

2. Cancel It

You probably don’t know how much money you’re actually spending if you hardly pay with physical cash.

There are hundreds of things you can sign up for that draw automatically from your account.

For subscriptions, there’s Apple Music, Tidal, Hulu, and more. (Not going to lie; Apple Music has gotten some of my money with album exclusives. Damn you Drake!)

For memberships, there are gym memberships, wholesale club memberships, and more.

It’s all a bunch of miscellaneous stuff.

Cancel it.

Scan through every expense on your statements. Research any reoccurring transaction that you see from iTunes, Google Play, or any other service and figure out what is. If you pay for stuff with PayPal or another virtual wallet, go through those transactions, too.

If you find stuff you don’t need, “you need to cut it.” (Wise words from O.T. Genasis.)

Take the money you save from minimizing your expenses and put it into your savings account.

3. Reevaluate Your Means

There are levels to broke.

There’s the type of broke where you can still find $10 to spare for an eyebrow waxing and $15 for a manicure. This type of broke means you really do have some flexibility to save more cash.

Then there’s the type of broke where you literally have no pennies to rub together and cobwebs in your bank account. This type of broke can happen if you experience a financial emergency or lose a job.

Which level of broke are you?

If it’s the first type of broke, you’re not “technically” broke.

You’ve just been temporarily living beyond your means.

This is good news because you have the power to cut back on your excess spending to beat broke and to save money. Take these baby steps:

  1. Try no spend days. Don’t spend money at all on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays or any variation of days that you want. That means no coffee or vending machine snacks. Put the money you save in the savings account we talked about above.

  2. Add up all the money that you usually spend in problem areas. Where do you have a spending weakness? If it’s happy hour, add up all the cash you usually spend on beer, wings, and mozzarella sticks weekly. Put that savings into the account we talked about above.

  3. Create a budget. My favorite is the zero-sum budget. You can create one with a paper and pen. It’s a budget where your income minus expenses equals zero. You give every one of your dollars a job including your entertainment money and money that is for saving. Since every dollar has a job in this budget plan, it’s harder to overspend.

4. Downsize, Sell Stuff, Part-Time Hustle

Now let’s talk about the second level of broke.

This level of broke is when you really have no money. There is simply not enough money to save after keeping a roof over your head and food on the table.

There’s no shame in doing what you have to do to bring in more cash when you’re in this situation.

I took on part-time jobs as a dog walker, in retail, and as an apartment building concierge at the beginning of my freelance writing career while I was building traction.

There’s literally no shame in my game. I get it how I live.

Getting it how you live could mean:

  • Renting out a spare room in your house

  • Renting a smaller apartment or getting a roommate

  • Selling clothes, furniture, electronics, or toys that you don’t need

  • Applying for a part-time job

  • Turning your hobby or special skill into a business that makes money

Do what you can to bring in more income.

I picked up dog poop. It’s all good.

When you get back on your feet, head back up to the to-dos in step three. Be mindful of your excess spending, and create a budget with savings as the main focus.

The Key to Saving (Even When You Don’t Think You Can)

Half of saving is about the money.

The other half is having the right mindset.

There’s no way around it; our culture is big on spending.

It’s tough to save cash when we’re constantly digesting ads, social media posts, and information that tells us to spend.

But once you get determined and realize being frugal or being on a budget is a sign of responsibility instead of desperation, saving becomes much easier.

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