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3 ways to save money without a budget

How much did you spend last month? For those of us who want to save money, knowing the answer is essential.

And we’re not talking ballpark. Or being $200 off and thinking “close enough!” We’re talking down to the cent. Most of us should know the answer. However, many of us just think we know the answer. 

Here’s the thing: if you want to save money, you can’t kind-of sort-of know the answer. You need to know exactly where your money is going every month.

We check our social media accounts 500 times a day. Why shouldn’t we give our money even a fraction of that attention? Use these three steps to start saving now.

Check your income vs. your expenses

Every financial check-in needs to start with a baseline. How much are you spending and where are you spending it?

Knowing where every cent (yup, cent!) is going will help you identify areas where you can redirect your income towards your savings goals. Track your expenses for several weeks (or even a couple of months) to see if there are any trends. A simple spreadsheet works, or use an app like Mint. Then, highlight specific purchases or note entire categories (travel, restaurant, auto, etc.) where you may be able to cut back.

You may want to separate your musts (rent, insurance, groceries) from your nice-to-haves. Can you commit a monthly amount ($10, $20, $100, whatever it may be) to your savings and add that to the “musts” category? What would you need to adjust in the nice-to-have category?

Even if you are a budget-y person, you still want to track your actual spending. 

Automate your must-pay bills

There’s nothing worse than fees or interest when you don’t actually need (or want) to pay it. And who wants to pay money if they don’t have to?

Automating your monthly expenses, such as phone, internet, and other must-pay bills helps ensure you pay for your expenses on time and before you spend money on the more fun—a.k.a. unnecessary—expenses. Paying the expenses on time, and not having to stress about it, will give you peace of mind and reduce the chance that you’ll be whacked with any late fees or interest.

Of course, automation isn’t for everything (see below re: pesky recurring subscriptions), but when it comes to your monthly must-pay expenses, it’s worth considering.

Add everything to your calendar

In the age of monthly subscriptions and auto-renewals, it’s easy to have many what-the-heck-is-this-charge moments. That streaming service “free trial” that required a credit card. Digital magazine subscriptions you stopped reading. Auto insurance that auto renews.

Pull up your calendar. Add any recurring payments, and add a reminder at least a week before your subscription is set to renew. Heck, set multiple reminders if it’s helpful. The reminders will give you time to evaluate whether you’re still using the subscription, need to cancel, or want to change it.

While you’re at it, include all the automatic payments you just set up. You’ll want to check on them each month so you can catch, and address, discrepancies as they arise. There’s nothing worse than trying to dispute a double charge from a restaurant—that you ordered from 10 months ago.

Bonus tip: Reach your savings goals even faster by ramping up (or starting) your investing. Moka makes it simple to invest your spare change by rounding up your purchases—including those automated must-pay bills (see step 2, *cough cough*). Can your piggy bank do that?

Even if you make small adjustments to your finances, they can have a major impact and help you save money in the long run. Next time you’re scrolling through your socials, take a few minutes to check in on your finances. You’ll be able to go over your income and your expenses, including recurring payments and make any necessary adjustments to keep your savings goals on track.

It turns out, every cent really does add up.