I’ve Saved $880+ Just By Watching YouTube. Here’s How You Can, Too

saving money
Photo courtesy Desiree Stennett

I tried — and failed — to control my spending in the past.

As a working woman finally living in the real world, I was determined to be responsible with the newfound riches that came in the form of a biweekly paycheck.

A few years ago, fresh out of college, I downloaded Mint, a budgeting app.

After about three weeks and a handful of emails with subject lines like “Exceeded budget for grocery” and “Exceeded budget for shopping,” I deleted the app out of a mixture of guilt and rage at the folks at Mint for constantly reminding me of my shortcomings.

I accepted my spending issues, telling myself I would start saving “later.”

Well, here I am firmly in my late 20s. Later arrived, and my savings account was still empty.

Last year, I decided to give Mint another shot. This time, I had thicker skin to guard me against Mint’s passive-aggressive criticism and a willingness to shake some bad habits.

But I also had an extra helper: YouTube.

YouTube can teach you almost everything worth learning. But only recently did I realize my favorite internet gurus’ teachings could save me from my budget-busting habits.

While I’ve also found some helpful blogs over the years, when I’m working with my hands, having the visual is almost always most effective for me.

Here’s how YouTube videos helped me learn quickly so I could start saving money keep Mint off my back and my budget intact.

I Started With Saving Money on My Hair

I have full head of thick, naturally curly strands. Some of my more intricate hairstyles can take hours and cost a couple hundred dollars, too. The Senegalese twists I wanted were no exception. The hair extensions cost $34.93, but the budget-breaker would be paying someone to do it for me. A salon would charge at least $200 in addition to the hair.

Unfortunately, a pricy hairstyle was not in the budget.

But there were hundreds of videos teaching black women like me and other curly-haired girls how to accomplish the style I wanted.

I bought the hair extensions, an extra comb and hair gel for a total of $39.78 from a local beauty supply store and got to work on a Saturday morning. One day, and countless breaks and YouTube searches later, I was done.

My hair looked amazing, and I managed to hold on to the extra $200 I would have paid a stylist. Since then, I’ve done the same style two more times. That’s another $400 I saved in four months, or $600 total.

If you want to give it a shot, just search for a hairstyle. There’s probably a tutorial. There are even videos that teach men how to cut their own hair at home.

I Moved on to My Eating Habits

saving money
Photo courtesy Desiree Stennett

Restaurants and bars were bleeding me dry.

In December, I ambitiously limited my budget to $100 for eating out and drinking with friends.

I spent $343.48 – almost four times my budget.

Last month, I was determined to do better. I wanted to start cooking for myself again, but I didn’t want to sacrifice any of my restaurant-quality meals while I reined in my spending.

I come from a family of cooks, so my skills in the kitchen aren’t too shabby. But I struggled with finding the time to cook, and I wanted a wider variety of choices when my go-to meals get dull.

That’s where YouTube saved me again. I follow a handful of internet chefs, but my favorite channel is Brothers Green Eats.

I’ll admit these guys are a bit quirky, but if you’re a beginner cook, they are perfect for you. Unlike some of my favorite Food Network celebrities, they go slowly and explain everything clearly. They use easy-to-find ingredients and often post real-time cooking tutorials so you can follow along.

They even have a series on awesome 15-minute meals that made me realize I do have time to cook.

I made their 15-minute vegetable curry. I already had curry powder at home, and the broccoli, carrots, ginger, shallots and coconut milk all cost less than $10 to make four servings. Even at an inexpensive Indian restaurant, you’d be lucky to get one serving for that same price.

I learned to debone chicken thighs for another recipe and now save at least 50 cents per pound by buying chicken with bones and removing them myself.

I learned how easy it is to make yellow rice. And after spending less than $3 on the ingredients I didn’t already have at home, I made four servings of an awesome mango coleslaw. I used to pay $5 for a single-serving side of coleslaw at one of my favorite restaurants.

By the end of January, I brought my restaurant and bar bill down to $192.54 without sacrificing the fun of eating out or raising my grocery bill. Obviously, that is still well above my $100 goal, but give me a break! I’m taking baby steps.

I Even Made My Own Household Products

I recently revived one trick for saving money from when I was in college, and it solves another hair issue. What can I say? Curly hair comes with its challenges.

If your tresses are anything like mine, you already know the cheapest shampoos and conditioners will only betray you and turn your curls into frizz.

The most inexpensive shampoo and conditioner I’ve found that gets along with my hair costs $15.98 for a pair of 8-ounce bottles. I used one bottle of conditioner every month and one bottle of shampoo every other month. That’s $143.82 each year.

Enter YouTube.

The YouTube gurus who taught me how to twist also introduced me to bentonite clay, which comes in powder form. Just mix the powder with water to make a hair mask that replaces both shampoo and conditioner.

After watching a few YouTube tutorials on how to mix it and use it on my hair, I was in business. (Bonus: You can also use it as a face mask and skip your next facial!)

One 8-ounce jar of clay costs $7.49 and makes enough to last all year. That saved another $136.33 annually. If you’re not a fan of the bentonite clay, don’t worry. You can stick with your shampoo and conditioner. There are countless videos to help you replace other expensive cosmetics and household items.

Up Next: A Home Decor Project

I spend my weekends scouring Goodwill and other thrift stores for the perfect secondhand coffee table. My budget is $25 — far less than the $150-$250 range of the ones I’ve seen in furniture stores.

When I do find my table, I’ll be ready. April Bee’s YouTube series on do-it-yourself furniture makeovers has already taught me everything I need to know.

Desiree Stennett (@desi_stennett) is a freelance journalist who is only now realizing how much money she wastes each month. She’s trying to be better.