I’m not going to lie. Getting a tax refund can feel pretty nice. You’re basically receiving a lump sum of cash that you weren’t expecting.
But, what do you do when you don’t get a big tax refund at all?
I haven’t received a tax refund for the past three years and have owed money instead. However, I’ve still been able to save money throughout the year. The truth is that you don’t need to rely on a tax refund to fill your savings account. You can save on your own. Here’s how:
Set Up Automatic Transfers
This is one of the easiest ways to save money without even thinking about it. Just set a goal and choose a deadline based on how much you can save each month. Then, set up automatic transfers weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly to send money from your checking account to your savings account.
This way, you don’t have to worry about setting money aside. This year, my husband and I have been saving up for a big purchase. I set up an automatic transfer so I could save $500 each month.
We also do this with vacations as well since it helps to start planning early. Automating your savings is the best set it and forget it method because once you hit your goal, it will feel like you just received a big refund check.
Earn More and Save the Difference
If you want to save more money, you often need to make more money. The good news is that there are so many ways to increase your income. You can start your job and negotiate a raise or work an extra day each week.
Or, you can do something on the side whether that means a part-time job, freelancing, tutoring, babysitting, or cleaning houses or offices.
The key is to keep your lifestyle at the same level, then save all the extra income you earn from the side job.
I have a friend who took a loan from their parents and worked hard delivering pizzas all month to pay it back. Sure, it doesn’t sound as glamorous as receiving a tax refund. However, it’s important to realize that tax refunds are often just money that you overpaid the government.
You still worked hard for it, but the government took it in taxes and held it for a year then gave it back to you. Each month you paid taxes, which is similar to taking a lump sum of money and saving it each month for future use.
Another helpful way to save more money is by not paying full price for everyday items and other expenses. I love a good deal, and by purchasing things at a discounted rate, I’m able to keep my expenses low and put more into savings.
That’s where coupons come in. In the past, people would spend hours searching through newspapers for relevant coupons to cut out and use.
Thankfully, you can find coupons and deals quickly online. Coupon Chief updates offers daily, so if you’re spending money each day, there’s bound to be a coupon available to help you obtain what you want or need at a discounted price.
I personally use coupons for everyday household items, some groceries, as well as entertainment and dining out. I love to dine out and try new food, but it can get expensive. So, I set a pretty low dining out budget each month (around $60) and use coupons and restaurant discounts to help me pay for meals out.
Brown Bag Your Lunch
Yes, I know I just mentioned I enjoy dining out, but it’s only a treat I give myself about once a week in a social setting with friends. Most days, I’m packing my lunch and eating a majority of my meals at home.
This has literally saved me thousands per year. Think about it. If you usually spend $5 – $7 per day on lunches during the work week, that’s about $25 – $35 per week (not counting weekends) or $100 – $140 per month. By the end of the year, your daily lunches could add up to more than $1,000!
Remember, that’s not even counting restaurant dinners or weekend meals. Cooking at home is easy given all the simple recipes you can find online. It’s also much cheaper because your price per portion will be significantly lower than what restaurants upcharge.
If you include most of your daily meals in your grocery budget and only allow yourself to dine out a few times per month, you’ll probably save the equivalent of a $1,000 – $2,000 tax refund by the end of the year.
Cut Monthly Bills
Do you ever feel like you’re overpaying for some of your bills? That’s probably because you are. It’s easy to get comfortable with certain bills and just accept small rate increased each month, but they can add up.
Make it a habit to audit your expenses each year and see what you can cut or negotiate down. Maybe you can shop around for better insurance rates for the same coverage you currently have.
Also, consider learning a new skill so you can cut out a subscription or service you pay for. My goal over the next few months is to learn how to cut my son and husband’s hair. Doing this will save us $70 per month or $840 per year.
Maybe you can negotiate a lower rate with your internet or cable company. If you have debt, you can even consider refinancing it to save on interest.
For example, refinancing a mortgage could save you thousands in interest payments over the life of your loan.
Think Outside the Box
Saving money doesn’t start and end with your tax refund. If you feel like you can’t get ahead financially without a big refund payment, consider thinking outside the box and using some the techniques above to save more money all on your own.