Between high-yield accounts and apps that do the work for you, there’s no shortage of ways to save money. But there are plenty of other things you can do outside of the strictly financial realm that can help you with your bottom line, while fulfilling another of your goals or desires.
One of time’s tested and true hacks is that to get better at anything, you need to start small.
Learn a New Skill
This might seem counterintuitive because you might think you need new gear or books or experiences to get started learning something new. If you want to cook, for example, won’t you need a cookbook and ingredients and an instant pot and a new set of knives, and and and?
Undoubtedly you’ll need a few things, but for our purposes, the savings comes from the time invested in learning something new. If you’re fiddling around the kitchen, or reading a new history book about the fall of Rome, you’re likely not online shopping or popping in to Target for “just one thing.”
Likewise, perhaps you just want to discover new things or interests. As I wrote here, “pick a topic you’ve always been curious about, and borrow books from your library about it, search videos on YouTube, listen to podcast episodes about it, etc. Read the authors that inspired your favourite authors.” Likewise, try branching out your music or movie tastes, or actually attending the free art exhibits in your city.
Ideally, if the goal is to learn a skill or about a new topic, it will need to be honed. That could mean weeks or months of dedicating time and attention to something, and away from spending money.
52. Be friends with Lester BangsScreenshot: Vinyl Films
Some people can dig up great music like magic, or have friends inside the industry who keep them updated. Some people are contented with their weekly Spotify Discover playlist. But if you need more ways to find music, here are 50 ideas, taken from Twitter users, my colleagues at Lifehacker's publisher Gizmodo Media Group, and some of my own habits. Some are obvious, some bizarre, some embarrassing, but they have all helped people find their new favourite song, or even their favourite band.
Invest in Your Friendships
Being a good friend or family member doesn’t come with a monetary requirement. There are plenty of cheap or inexpensive activities you can do, never mind just being there with your friend and for your friend.
Set up calendar alerts for big dates, and acknowledge them.
Be interested in their interests.
Have a monthly recipe club.
Support them when it’s not convenient.
After a year or two of increasingly frivolous spending, one of my goals going into the New Year is to save as much money as possible. In some areas of my life, like eating out or buying clothes, it’s obvious what I need to cut, and there are plenty of easy ways to save money.
Participate in a Reading Challenge
An obvious resource for free entertainment is the library (or the library app, Libby). But rather than telling yourself you’re going to stop by the library after work to pick up a new novel — because you won’t — make it a challenge with yourself.
For example, the past three years it’s been a goal of mine to read at least two non-work related books each month. This year I’m heightening it by qualifying they must be by female authors (to be clear, I can and will read books by male authors but they don’t count toward the goal). This challenge gives me the incentive to seek out new books more often and devote more time to reading. No, there’s nothing really on the line here, but it gives me immense satisfaction to find new female authors and read new works.
You might choose to participate in something like the Goodreads Challenge, where your friends and other followers can see your progress, the Book Riot challenge, or find a buddy to keep you accountable.
Create More Art
There’s no shortage of weekly/monthly/annual art challenges out there, but the best way to get involved might be to do it yourself. Pick a medium you want to improve at—writing, photography, drawing, sculpture, etc.—and commit to creating something in it every day for a however long you think would challenge and inspire you.
If you’re looking for something more structured, that could include:
Take a picture every day for a year.
Learn a new word every day for a year.
Write 1,000 words every day for a month.
Write something every day (for inspiration: check out author Austin Kleon’s blog).
Try a new recipe every week (or go for the full Julie & Julia and work your way through the cookbook of your choice). See Reddit’s 52 weeks of cooking thread for more inspo.
Create a colour palette every day, whether it’s based on your outfit, a photograph or some other scene you come across.
Depending on your interests, there are countless ways to invest your time and energy without spending much, if any, cash. If you’re trying something else or have an old standby that works, let us know in the comments.