3 Steps Anyone Can Use to Build Your Bank Account (Even When You're Broke)
Step 1: avoid spending in the first place
An obvious first step to living on a shoestring budget is to simply avoid spending the money in the first place. One of the absolute best resources I've ever come across is "The Frugal Zealot" Amy Dacyczyn. Her "Complete Tightwad Gazette" is full of amazing money saving ideas.
Talk about DIY. This woman really has it figured out, having not only been on a super tight budget earlier in life, then having kids and an even tighter budget, but she also became a maven of sorts for the DIY lifestyle. A huge part of me really enjoys learning about how fanatically you can approach being a tightwad. The answer may surprise you unless you try it, because that answer is: virtually unlimited, as long as you make a sort of game out of it.
Amy Dacyczyn (pronounced "decision") figured out "hacks" on all sorts of stuff you likely already have around the house, covering very broad topics such as recipes that will feed your whole family (or you and your girlfriend or boyfriend) for less than $10 for a week, how to cut down on your utility bills every month, making Halloween costumes, saving a bunch of money on groceries and other weekly necessities, and just about anything else you can think of where you might be spending too much money (and probably even a few areas you didn't even know about).
Dacyczyn's frugality knows no bounds. In fact, she even had a DIY newsletter called "The Frugal Zealot" going around back in the 80s and then an email list in the 90s where she shared tips on a regular basis with loyal (and I do mean loyal) readers. I no doubt purchased this book myself from a thrift store or used bookstore, but this was long before the awesome, affordable days of Amazon and free delivery.
Do you consider yourself:
Step 2: start small, but save
Here's where a little (okay, a LOT of) discipline comes into play. You need to start saving money. By far the easiest way to get this going is to open up a savings account. Next you need to figure out what you can afford to save each month. If you're thinking, I can't afford to save anything each month right now, then you're not alone. However, even a dollar a day can be the start of a very nice nest egg. Can you afford a dollar a day? If not, apply more concepts from step 1 (above) until you can.
Now, here's the trick: set up a recurring account transfer with your bank account. You can probably figure out how to do this online, but if not, you can visit your local bank branch. Set it up so that a dollar a day is transferred from your checking to your savings account. At the end of one month, you'll have about $30 in there, and at the end of a year, you'll have $365, give or take. It might not seem like much, but it's certainly a start, and when you don't have much money, having a $365 cushion can be tremendously helpful, as I know full well from personal experience! Even if a dollar a day isn't attainable, start with a dollar a week. It's better than not having anything at all going on, as far as saving money goes.
Looking a little skimpy? Let's fill it up.
Step 3: open up your income streams
This third step is completely based on principles I've used in my own life, and if you'd like, you can read all about them here. In a nutshell, you've got to start earning money from multiple sources, even if the additional sources are very, very small earners at first. Writing online isn't going to make you millions or get you rick quickly, but it's a good place to start, if you haven't already considered it. A second job is also a viable additional income stream, but it can also be exhausting (not that writing can't too!). It's all about using step 2 (above) to start that asset column.
Remember, none of this will happen overnight. You must have the patience of a saint at first, but once you turn these practices into habits, everything will happen automatically. It's not that you can't continue to focus energy and improve your station in life, but you won't have to think about the habits you currently have, and you'll be able to use that energy in order to improve. Now go get started!