For the past few years, I've been volunteering at my church to coordinate Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University course. It's a 9-week course that helps people get out of debt and get into strong financial shape. We just started a new session and our class is focused on Baby Step 1 (save $1,000 in an emergency fund).
This step can sometimes feel daunting when you're just starting out, but it's a very important one. When you have money in the bank, it keeps you from going further into debt when emergencies happen.
A few of the class participants inquired how to get through Baby Step 1 fast so they can get right into Baby Step 2 (eliminating all of their non-mortgage debt). I developed a list of 10 suggestions that worked well for me in the past and sent them an email so they could get after it. Here they are:
1. Sell 10 items on Facebook Marketplace or Craiglist
Walk through your house and find 10 items that you don’t use or don’t make you happy.
Finding ones that can go for a good price on Facebook Marketplace or Craiglist is the key here. But even if they don’t sell, you can donate them or pitch them to create some more space and peace in your house.
Some examples of items that sell well online are …
- Baby supplies (strollers, cribs, rockers, etc)
- Kid toys
- Electronics (cell phones)
When you find these items, look for a general price range for your used item online, take some good pictures and post them! You’ll be surprised how much money you can make in one day at home.
2. Pack Your Lunch Every Day This Week
Sometimes the easiest way to save money is to not spend it at all. Make a commitment this week to eat only at home and pack your lunch for work.
Not only will you save some money, but you’ll eat healthier as well.
3. Save on Cable TV
The standard cable TV bill can be a smart place to turn if you’re looking to save some quick money. By looking at competing providers in your area, you can see what sort of savings you could have if you switched companies. Call up your provider and ask them to match the price of the competitor.
Another area to examine with your cable bill is the premium channels. Are you paying extra for premium channels you aren’t even using?
Or do you have too many non-cable subscriptions like Hulu, Netflix, Disney and Sling and they are adding up to be one huge TV watching bill?! See if you can trim back on some of them.
If you’re ready to go hardcore, consider cutting the cord on cable altogether. We did this three years ago and don’t miss it at all. We bought an HD Antenna for less than $30 so we still get our local channels.
4. Ask for Overtime
If you have a job where overtime is an option, speak with your supervisor about working some extra hours this week. That newfound money can go directly into your starter emergency fund.
Related Article: How I Took My Salary from 5-Figures to 6-Figures in 7 Steps
5. Lower Your Cell Phone Bill
Ask your employer if they offer any discounts for cell phone providers. I did this randomly one day and found out just for being an employee at my company I get an 8% discount. Since it only took me about 10 minutes to find out and then apply the discount, it was well worth the $100 of annual savings.
You can also call your plan provider and ask if are any other ways you can save money with your plan. Some options are lowering the amount of data or switching to a pre-paid plan. We received did the pre-paid route and save around $30 / month. It adds up!
6. Work Extra Hours on Your Side Hustle
According to Bankrate, 1 out of 4 Americans has a side hustle outside of their full-time career that they are more passionate about. Well, if that’s you, take your passion up a level this week and create some more income for yourself.
Some of my personal favorite digital side hustles outside of my full-time gig are:
Some easier non-digital side hustles can include:
- Dog walking
- Uber or Lyft
If you have time and some motivation, the money is out there for you!
7. Save on Insurance
Call your insurance provider and tell them you are looking to save some money on the overall cost of insurance. Here are some questions you could ask:
- What discounts am I not taking advantage of?
- Are there any discounts for bundling my insurance together? (Home, Auto, Life, etc)
- With my great driving record (if this the case!), am I receiving the appropriate discounts?
If you don’t feel like you’re getting any traction, shop around with other providers. My wife saved us over $1,200 by price comparing Progressive insurance versus Geico. That’s right. One phone call saved us $1,200!
8. Switch to a Discount Grocery Store
Our family switched from Kroger to Aldi a couple of years ago. We were spending around $900 per month at Kroger for our family of 4 and now we’re only spending $600 per month for pretty much the same groceries.
Look for an Aldi near you and give it a try. We’ve found that the produce isn’t as great as Kroger, but our everyday grocery needs (including organic items) can be fulfilled at Aldi.
If you don’t have an Aldi near you, check out Wal-Mart. Their organic selections keep growing and they have very competitive prices.
9. Take a Break from Amazon
I don’t know about you, but sometimes random Amazon boxes show up at my house and I completely forgot what I ordered. Someone in our FPU class called this “Amazon amnesia” the other day.
Take a break from Amazon for a week. Don’t order a thing. Cancel your Prime Subscription if you need to. Sometimes the ability to get what you want IMMEDIATELY makes it hard to NOT buy.
10. Cancel Your Unused Subscriptions
Are you spending money on things that you’re not even using? I’ve done this quite a bit. I remember paying for my monthly gym membership when I hadn’t even visited the place for 6 months! Talk about throwing money down the toilet.
Consider canceling unused subscriptions and memberships like:
- Club memberships
- Amazon Prime
- Costco / Sam’s Club
Now, if you use and enjoy these subscriptions and memberships then I wouldn’t recommend canceling them. The point here isn’t to kill all your joy and leave you unhappy just to get $1,000 fast. Find the ideas on this list that do resonate with you and work hard on them. And the ones that don’t fit for you, just leave them alone.
There are enough ideas here to get your $1,000 for Baby Step 1 in no time. Then you’ll be ready for crushing your debt in Baby Step 2!