10 Ways to Free Up Money for Trading When You’re on a Budget

10 Ways to Free Up Money for Trading When You’re on a Budget

Contributing Author, Isabelle Agerton

The best trading advice in the world does little for people without money or who have a little money but can’t risk it on potentially volatile stocks. If that sounds like you, you’re not alone. Recent research has found over half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, including many who make more than six figures annually.

That leads many with tight budgets to feel like stock trading is something they might do later in life. But “later” often means “never” for people who don’t take action now.

You can take control of your financial and investment life now by freeing up a little cash each month. Those small savings will soon accumulate into enough money to trade on the market, and you’ll be a little better off each month.

10 Ways to Find Money for Trading

1. Accumulate Spare Change

In the past, almost everyone had a jar for collecting daily spare change. Once a year or so, the household would take the contents of that jar and decide if they should save it for later, splurge on a fun time, donate it to a nonprofit, invest, or pay off a debt.

This century, with most electronic transactions, it would take a lot longer to accumulate a significant amount of money in a change jar. Buty the concept still works with a modern update.

Round-up apps like Acorns and Qapital apply the save-your-change concept to the world of electronic banking. For example, if you spend $43.26 on gas, these apps might round it up to $44 and put the extra $0.74 into a savings or investment account. You can often set these apps to round up to the nearest dollar, the nearest five dollars, or a custom amount to increase how much you save.

Some banks and credit unions also provide this service as part of their debit card functions.

2. Clean Your House

Most people know tidier houses are more pleasant. But did you know cleaning can also save you money you can use to start investing? This happens several ways.

Disorganized work spaces like your home office, garage, or shed often mean you can’t find that one tool or supply when you need it. That means you purchase a replacement, often finding the old one after you’ve spent the money. Each of those purchases is cash you could have put toward investing.

A disorganized kitchen and pantry have the same issues when it comes to ingredients you already have on hand. Plus, food is wasted as it goes bad in the back of the fridge or a forgotten corner of a cupboard. You can save a surprising amount just by cleaning your house over a weekend and implementing systems to keep it cleaner moving forward.

3. Reevaluate Your Habits

Almost everyone has one or more habits that cost them money. An incomplete list of common, expensive patterns includes:

  • Daily fancy coffees
  • Lunch on the go
  • Online shopping
  • Smoking

We’re not judging you or saying you should live life without any comforts or little joys. We are saying that many people have at least one expensive habit, which they do automatically, that doesn’t make them particularly happy. If you can identify that habit and cut it out of your budget, that money can go directly toward investing and financial security.

4. Curb Impulse Buying

The average person spends over $3,000 on impulse purchases every year. If you can cut that amount down to $1,500, you’ll have more than $100 a month for investing.

There are two ways to curb impulse shopping: a shopping list and a shopping board. You can use one or both.

List shopping is simple. Any time you go physical or online shopping, make a list of what you need. If you see something that’s not on the list, don’t buy it.

A shopping board works like this: Set up a page in a notebook or hang up a whiteboard. Every time you see something you want to buy, write it on the board. Look at your list the night before payday after you’ve already invested some of that money. Cross off the things you don’t want anymore. If you have any money left over from your previous paycheck, you can consider buying one of the remaining things on the board.

5. Maximize Your Rewards

Cash-back rewards give you a small percentage of what you spend back whenever you purchase something. You can get them from credit and debit cards or rebate apps like Ibotta.

You can accumulate more monthly cash-back rewards if you’re smart, organized, and systematic. For example, many cards give higher rewards for certain types of purchases — like gas, groceries, or travel — but you have to remember which is which when you make purchases. Some of the most successful people use a spreadsheet to keep track. Redeem these rewards for cash and invest the money.

You can do the same with coupons and coupon apps, with a tiny difference. Instead of cashing in the rewards, keep track of your savings and deposit the money directly into your investment account.

Be careful here. When you’re focused on accumulating rewards, it can be easy to spend too much money. That’s the main reason companies offer rewards in the first place. Keep your spending within your budget even though it’s “earning” you extra cash.

6. Hold a Garage Sale

Identify the things you own that you don’t use or want. Most people have plenty of unused workout gear, unwanted clothes, collections, and other stuff gathering dust in their homes.

A garage sale can sell a lot of this at once, but we recommend you use sites like eBay and Craigslist to sell higher-ticket items first. Once those are gone, a yard or garage sale can get rid of much of what’s left.

Donate anything that remains to a registered charity. The donation is tax-deductible, increasing your refund and giving you even more money to invest.

7. Take Advantage of Your Employer’s Retirement Plan

If you set up a tax-sheltered retirement plan, you save on taxes and can put those savings toward investing. The money you invest is deducted from your taxable income up to an annual maximum, which varies according to the kind of plan you set up.

This happens even when you set up a plan independently, but it’s worth considering a company-managed option if your employer offers one. You tell them how much to deduct from your monthly pay, and they invest it automatically. Some companies even match your contributions. These options are great because you don’t see the money in your account, so you’re never tempted to spend it instead of investing.

The disadvantage is that you don’t have as much control over your investments. Still, the advantage of automatically putting some of your earnings toward your future often outweighs that wrinkle.

8. Cancel Your Subscriptions

Some subscription payments improve your life, like your internet service, your kid’s karate lessons, and membership in your curling league.

Other subscriptions you forget about or pay too much for, like that gym membership you don’t use, premium cable when you only watch one or two channels, and a subscription box that just goes on a pile of other unopened packages. These cost you money every month without giving you any meaningful benefit.

Take a weekend to go over your bank and credit card statements for the previous quarter. Identify all of your subscription payments, and ask yourself one by one if you need them. Eliminate those you don’t.

Having a goal in mind can make this easier. For example, if you aim to eliminate $100 a month of expenses, you’re more likely to be aggressive about what you cut out.

9. Pay Off Your Credit Cards

A credit card costs you interest money every month without doing anything for your quality of life.

If you have outstanding credit card debt, prioritize getting that amount down to zero. If that means canceling a beloved subscription for a few months, eating in every night, or even taking out a low-interest loan, do whatever it takes. Once the balance is gone, you can immediately apply what you’d spent on interest and principal payments to investments instead.

10. Start a Side Hustle

A side hustle is a gig you work outside the terms of your full-time job. This could be a part-time job or working for yourself so you set your own hours.

A few well-known examples of side hustles include driving for Uber or Lyft or delivering food for apps like Postmates and Doordash. But that’s just the tip of the side hustle iceberg. You can tutor people in real life or online, sell things you make on Etsy or eBay, house sit, walk dogs, and teach people about your hobbies or other items, to name just a few ideas.

The best place to start is to think about what you’re good at and enjoy doing outside your regular work. Find out which one most reliably makes money, then start hustling.

Final Thought: The Compound Interest Snowball

Consider this if you need extra motivation to start this journey.

Each month you save money and invest, the interest and gains earned by your investment account add to the balance and increase your wealth. As you continue to both add to the account and make gains, it accumulates more rapidly than you might imagine. The sooner you start investing, the more you’ll have.

Isabelle Agerton is a longtime financial journalist based in New Jersey. She writes about stocks, bonds, and long-term investment strategies