How to Save Money When You Don't Have Any

Lack of savings got you down?

Have you ever said, “This is the year I get my finances under control” or “This is the year I commit to saving more” only to have an unexpected car repair or some other unforeseeable event derail your intentions?  It’s hard feeling in control of our finances when these things happen, but until we learn to truly manage our money, our money will continue to manage us.

Many financial advisors say the first step to financial control is creating an adequate savings account.  We all know we should have one, and most of us are familiar with the recommendation of having 3-6 months’ worth of expenses in savings, but how many of us have that?  For a lot of us, saving that kind of money seems like a pipe dream, or one that, at best, will take years to establish.  But we have to start somewhere, so here are some tips for how to build your savings account when you don’t think you can squeeze an extra dime out of your budget.

Things You'll Need

A piggy bank and an interest-earning savings account at a bank.  Shop around to find a bank with a savings account that doesn’t require a minimum deposit yet has a respectable interest rate.


1. Purchase a piggy bank. For less than $10 on Amazon, you can get an electronic one that automatically counts your spare change.  Imagine the fun your kids will have watching the numbers go up with each deposit!  Don’t have kids?  Hey, it might be fun for you too!  Or start your savings with that $10 and use an empty spaghetti sauce jar for a bank.  It doesn't need to be fancy, it just needs to hold money.

2. Get started with your savings. Each time you make a cash purchase, put your leftover change in the jar.  Using cash can also be helpful for budgeting (unless you’re like me and see cash as an easier way to buy coffee every day), so it could be a win-win.  As long as you aren’t buying extra lattés with your spare change.

3. Start using coupons. Join a coupon website like; you can pick and choose coupons specific to your needs. Put the money saved using coupons in the money jar. By this time you may need an envelope to keep extra dollar bills from saving so much.  This is where the psychology can get tricky: the cash is for savings, not coffee or any other non-essentials.  It is not “extra” money; it already has a job.  Its job is to save you from losing it all over unexpected car repairs, medical bills, or other financial hurdles.  Its job is to provide you with a safety net.

4. At the end of the month take your jar and envelope to your local bank. Deposit the money in your Savings Account.

5. Repeat these steps every month. You will be surprised at how quickly the money adds up!

6. Want to give your savings a boost?  Sell some of your old and unused items, put your tax return into savings (if you don’t already have an IRA or other investment vehicle you can contribute to), or find other creative ways to earn and save money.

There is peace of mind that comes from having money in the bank, of knowing when your car needs repairs or your home furnace goes out in the middle of January you have a way to pay for it that doesn’t require a payment plan and interest.  While having months’ worth of expenses tucked away in a savings account may not be feasible in the immediate future, you can start laying bricks now to create the path to financial freedom.

*The main ideas for the 6 steps are courtesy of Braniac on