Between 401(k)s, 529s, IRAs, high-yield accounts and apps that do the work for you, there’s no shortage of ways to save money. And using these accounts and apps effectively is key to long-term financial health.
Maybe your 2019 money goal is to save more money, by taking advantage of all of those options: You’re increasing your 401(k) contribution, or using an app like Digit or Qapital to save for your next trip. 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.
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 favorite 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.
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.
Buzzfeed has a great list of ways to show true appreciation, which we summarized here. Here are some basics:
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.
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:
There are some more ideas here and here.
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.