9 Easy Ways to Save Money When Times Get Tough

When it comes to your finances, do you take a head-on or head-in-the-sand approach? If you identify with the latter, the good news is you’re not alone. The bad news? You’re not alone. New data suggests that when it comes to managing money, women are not as independent as you’d expect. In fact, 91% of women in heterosexual couples are not participating in financial decisions. But we want to change that statistic. To help you become a master of your own finances, we’re debuting a new series called The Paper Files, where we uncover tricks and tips that will help you manage your money and your future. Ready to take it head-on?

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Life is filled with ups and downs, and one of the many things that can fluctuate is your financial status. After unexpectedly losing my job years ago, I found myself living on meager savings and unemployment. I quickly had to change my lifestyle and cut back anywhere that I could. This experience has trained me to make money-saving moves when times get tough. 

Now, if I need to save money or am met with an unexpected bill, I can easily remember the ways I used to live lean and put them into practice again. Whether you want to save for a vacation or are dealing with an unforeseen expense (a car accident, medical emergency, job loss, etc.), here are nine money-saving moves you can rely on.

Change Your Beauty Routine

The first thing I cut back on pertains to my beauty regimen. Instead of paying someone to pluck my eyebrows and paint my nails, I do it myself. If you don’t know how to sculpt brows or polish fingertips, search YouTube for an informational video—there are tons. Another way to save money in relation to beauty products is to shop drugstores instead of department stores. Yes, Dior makes an excellent mascara, but L’Oréal’s is equally good, and it’s $20 cheaper.

Shop Smart

Whole Foods is three blocks from my house. Trader Joe’s is six blocks away. When the cash flow is positive, I buy groceries at Whole Foods. When it’s negative, I always shop at TJ’s. It’s significantly more affordable. Be intelligent when it comes to shopping for essentials like groceries and toiletries. Pay attention to sales at Target, use coupons, and stock up on indispensable items when they are a few dollars off. Remember every dollar adds up.

Cut Out Cable

Get rid of your cable plan, and you can save hundreds of dollars. From Netflix to AppleTV to internet streaming, there are so many different types of television plans to choose from. Find the most affordable one and go with that. If watching TV isn’t your thing, sell your TV on Craigslist and use the money to purchase something you really enjoy and need.

Don't Make Frivolous Purchases

Now is not the time to splurge on that designer dress or high-end furniture, even if they are 40% off. Resist the urge (no matter how hard it is) to buy things you don’t need. You don’t want to purchase a new pair of boots and then not be able to pay your rent. If it’s your birthday or you want to treat yourself to something special, select an affordable option, like a new lip gloss or candle.


One way to ensure that you don’t make frivolous expenses is to unsubscribe from emails to the websites you don't need to shop from. You’ll never know when there is a sale or see that new must-have article of clothing or piece of furniture. You can always resubscribe to the emails in the future when your bank account is a little fuller.

Say Yes to Freebies

If your best friend offers to take you to dinner, say yes and don’t feel guilty. If your older brother wants to pay for your business cards to help get your new entrepreneurial idea off the ground, let him and follow up with a heartfelt thank-you note. Seek out fun free activities in your city. There are plenty of free concerts, and most museums offer one free day a month. Not everything fun costs money!

Walk Places

Swap cabs and Ubers for some good old-fashioned walking instead. You’ll instantly save money. If you have a car, reduce the amount that you use it. You’ll save on gas and parking meters and reduce the risk of expensive tickets. You can take public transportation, but if you live in a big city, consider walking to your final destination. Wear comfy shoes and take in the city in all its glory.

Walking also clears your mind and can help reduce anxiety. I started walking everywhere when I didn’t have a job, and now I crave at least one walk a day. It makes me feel healthier and more grounded, and I always seem to come up with great ideas while I’m walking. It’s also the perfect time to make phone calls and catch up with old friends and family members.

Use What You Already Have

If you’re like me, your closet and kitchen are stocked with clothes and food, respectively. When you start to feel like you hate all your clothes, pick out something you have not worn in forever and wear that. When you feel like you have nothing to eat, raid the pantry for pasta or couscous and challenge yourself to come up with a delicious meal with only what you have on hand—use what you already own before purchasing something new.

Be Open With Your Friends and Family

You don’t have to tell everyone about your financial situation, but be honest and open with your A-team. If your best friend invites you to the Beyoncé concert but you can’t afford a $250 ticket, simply tell her that you wish you could go, but right now it’s not financially feasible. If your sister wants you to go abroad with her for New Year’s Eve, tell her that you would love to but you don’t have the funds to afford it at this time. It's not always an easy conversation, but they'll understand and just think how much more fun that trip will be when you do have the money.

What are your money-saving moves?

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