If you feel overwhelmed about how to save money, you’re not alone. While some may think saving money is relatively straightforward, one in five Americans have nothing saved at all. So even though spending money is arguably more exciting, you should consider saving money a priority. And there are plenty of ways to save money that don’t involve making sacrifices, either. Sometimes the best way to start saving money is simply to become more aware of your finances and spending habits. With an understanding of your budget and your true needs, you may start putting away more money than you ever expected.
To effectively save money, you should consider both long-term strategies like paying down debt, and short-term tactics like skipping the cocktail at the restaurant. While you may not be able to overhaul all your spending habits overnight, with time and consistency anyone can learn how to put some money aside. Whether you’re looking to start saving for the future or you’re just looking to be financially savvy right now, there are many reasons that you may struggle with saving. Keep reading for some practical money-saving tips, or jump to the section that’s most helpful for you:
Why Is Saving Important?
Unless you’re fabulously wealthy, it’s likely that large expenses in your life will require planning in order to purchase. Define what you’re saving for to help keep you on track when it comes to avoiding unnecessary purchases. For example, if you remember that your goal is to save $100,000 over the next ten years in your child’s college fund, it will be a lot easier to stay out of the drive-thru line.
Consider that you may need to save up for pricey necessities like a car and a home. The average American will own a total of six cars in their lifetime, so it may be a good idea to start saving for your next vehicle now, even if you don’t currently need one.
Finally, it’s essential to save for retirement from your first job to your last. According to a recent study, most Americans near retirement have only save twelve percent of the recommended amount for retirement. That may be because getting to a place where you have extra income to save takes time, but may also be because many people don’t practice good money-saving techniques from an early age.
Save Money Long-Term
Even if you’re trying to save money for more immediate reasons, you may be able to accomplish much when you plan for life-long savings. Plus, understanding the strategies and mindset that make you successful long-term will also help you penny pinch every day. Here are some ways to save money over time:
1. Create a Budget
The first place to start when trying to save money is to assess how much you really have and where that money is going. Consider using the 50/20/30 rule to create a budget. The 50/20/30 rule states that fifty percent of your income should go to essentials like rent and food, twenty percent should go savings, and thirty percent should go to personal expenses like entertainment.
2. Save Automatically
If you have to manually transfer money into your accounts, you may be more likely to forgo saving altogether. Try having a portion of your paycheck automatically deposited to a savings account to keep you contributing consistently.
3. Build an Emergency Fund
Some experts recommend setting aside six months worth of living expenses in case of emergencies. This helps you avoid going into debt if you ever lose your job or have to pay unforeseen medical expenses.
4. Track Your Spending
You may be surprised about where your money is going. Keep a record of what you spend to see how small expenses add up. You may not think that coffee every once in a while makes a dent in your savings, but seeing the sum of your purchases may change your mind.
5. Avoid Debt
Pay off your cards every month to keep your debt from piling up. If possible, avoid going into debt in the first place by spending within your limits and keeping your credit card at home. With a savings built up, you won’t have to put unexpected expenses on a card.
6. Make a Plan
Break your long-term goals into smaller, more manageable milestones for the month and year. With an idea of what you need to do short-term, you can plan how much you need to be saving, and set the right limits on your non-essentials budget.
7. Use the 30 Day Rule
When you want to make a large purchase, think on it first. Write down what it is and how much it costs, and if after 30 days you still feel it’s necessary, purchase it.
8. Consider Refinancing Your Mortgage
You may find that you can save money over time by changing the rate of your mortgage. Remember to talk to a financial advisor before signing onto any major financial contracts.
9. Create a Savings Goal for Retirement
10. Maintain Your Home and Car
Keep your home in good shape and perform regular maintenance on your car to protect the value in your assets. Saving money by skipping or doing cheap repairs likely won’t be worth it in the long run. Your car’s manufacturer will have guidelines for it’s maintenance, but home manufacturers don’t provide the same. Common recommended tasks include: having arborist check the trees on your property to ensure their sturdiness, painting your home to maintain it’s exterior, checking your foundation for signs of cracking, and cleaning out your gutters to keep the flow of water off your roof.
11. Invest in Quality
Think about spending a bit more money on things that will last you longer. For example, it can be worth it to buy some higher quality clothes (as long as they’re not for growing kids), because you won’t have to buy new ones for a long time.
12. Start Saving for College Early
If you know you’re going to pay for college down the road, some people recommend creating an account specifically for this expense as soon as your child is born. There are even accounts specifically designed to save for education expenses including 529’s and ESA’s or College Savings Accounts.
13. Fully Utilize Your Employer’s 401k Match
If your job matches the contributions to your retirement savings up to a certain percentage of your salary, you should consider contributing enough to max out your employer’s matching benefit. Otherwise, you’re just turning down free money.
14. Consolidate Debt
Talk to a financial advisor about your options regarding your debt. You may find that consolidating multiple high-interest payments into one lower interest payment is an effective debt management strategy.
15. Consider Accounts and Equities
You should always thoroughly research your options or talk to a financial advisor before making any riskier investment moves. You may want to be aware of certain accounts that gain interest on your money through equities. While things like stocks, mutual funds, and Certificates of Deposit shouldn’t be your only form of savings, they may provide attractive returns on your investment over time.
Save Money on Necessary Expenses
The least fun things to spend money on are the ones you actually have to pay for. But you may be surprised how simple and fun it is to find a little extra cash in your bills. Here are some easy ways to reduce your expenses each month:
16. Switch to a Cheaper Cell-Phone Plan
With the prevalence of wifi hotspots, the standard smartphone owner today only uses on average 1.6 gigabytes of data per month. Interestingly, most service providers’ cheapest data plan provides more than that. Track how much data you’re actually using and stop paying for more than you need.
17. Lower Your Utility Bills
Evaluate whether or not you’re being as conservative as you can with your utilities. Some quick tips to save money on your bills include: Insulating your windows with a simple sheet of bubble wrap, unplugging appliances you’re not using, and turning the faucet off when you brush your teeth.
18. Time Major Purchases Around Sale Periods
Because demand fluctuates by the season for certain items, you can time your big buys to rake in the savings. For example, the end of December can be a great time to buy a car because dealerships want to meet end-of-year quotas.
19. Cancel Your Gym Membership
Many of the exercises you do at the gym can be done at home with a bit of creativity. You can watch YouTube tutorials for ideas about home workouts, go for a run in your neighborhood, or swim laps at your community pool.
20. Use Coupons
Not just in newspapers and junk ads anymore, coupons are available on company websites, apps like SnipSnap, and online. Before you go out shopping, check your phone or computer and increase your savings.
21. Share Entertainment
Similar to swapping clothes, ask to borrow your friend’s DVDs and CDs, or share the payments for a joint streaming account.
22. Plan Your Groceries
Make a list of what food you’ll need for the week, keeping in mind what meals can be made from the ingredients, and don’t buy anything that isn’t on your list. It helps not to go to the grocery store hungry or with a picky eater. Meal planning is another great option that can help you save time and money while making it easier for you to eat healthily.
23. Understand Food Spoilage
Americans waste about one pound of food every day, adding up to enough food to feed 2 billion people annually. This is in part because many people don’t know that “best by” dates indicate the last day of peak quality, not safety. Many foods are still safe to eat weeks after the date on the package, so take a second look at the food inside the package before tossing it.
24. Inflate Your Tires
Properly inflated tires can increase fuel economy by over three percent. In addition, tires inflated to the correct pressure last longer and fail less often. If your car doesn’t have tire sensors, consider buying a pressure gauge and checking the pressure yourself.
25. Carpool to Work or School
Ask around or organize a carpool spreadsheet at work to see if anyone lives near you who you can swap rides with. For your kids, enlist nearby parents or friends’ parents to help lighten the burden of the school drop-off lines.
26. Lower the Temperature on Your Hot Water Heater
Your water heater can waste anywhere from $36 to $61 dollars a year if its set too high — usually above 140 degrees. Set the temperature around 120 degrees to save money and reduce mineral buildup in your tank.
27. Replace Your Incandescent Light Bulbs
Some experts estimate that LED bulbs can save you up to $3,260 over their lifespans. Even if some of your incandescent lights have already been replaced, run a quick inventory of your home to see if there are any other light sources you could be saving money on.
28. Install a Programmable Thermostat
Products like Nest allow you to turn your AC or heat down while you’re away or sleeping in time with the hottest or coolest parts of the day. Even if your thermostat isn’t programmable, try turning your system down or off when you leave for the day so your AC isn’t fighting natural changes in temperature. This is both economic and environmentally friendly.
Save Money by Spending Less
If your needs are a little more short-term, here are some ideas to keep from spending the money you already have, and make what you do spend go farther:
29. Try Envelope Budgeting
Credit cards help you avoid the pain of purchase, which may cause you to spend more. With cash you become more aware of what you’re spending. In addition, you can divide your cash into envelopes with allowances for different purchases, which will ensure you don’t spend too much in one area.
30. Calculate by Hours
When trying to decide if something is worth buying, try thinking of the cost in terms of how long it takes you to make that money. This can help you get a sense of the true value of your money.
31. Think Twice About Sales
While some sales are good deals, there’s no sale that’s going to cost you less than not buying the item at all. When purchasing an item on sale, ask yourself if you would have bought the item if it were full price, and if the answer is no, skip it.
32. Buy Used
Local thrift stores and online auction sites like eBay offer everything from clothes to electronics at stellar discounts. You can get slightly used high quality items at a fraction of the cost of their newer counterparts.
33. Go to the Library
Some people don’t realize that their local library is a great resource for free entertainment, especially for kids. Many offer movies and games in addition to books, as well as free events and readings for kids every week.
34. Buy Generic
Check the ingredients on brand-name medicines and foods, as they’re frequently the exact same as the less expensive options out there. If you can’t detect any difference in quality, you don’t necessarily need to buy the name brand.
35. Eat In
It can be tempting to eat out every night, but you can make eating at home more appetizing by making eating at home delicious, fun, and easy. Try to cooking new recipes, setting up a picnic, or simply meal-prepping.
36. Use the 24 Hour Rule
This is similar to the 30 day rule, but for less expensive purchases. Wait a day before buying a small item and you may find you didn’t want it after all.
37. Designate No-Spend Days
Challenge yourself and your family to go one day a week without buying anything, from your morning coffee to a movie ticket. You’ll reduce your spending and become more aware of how mindlessly you make small purchases.
38. Go Outside
The great outdoors is almost always free, and with the added benefit of free exercise, the outdoors is an incredible resource. Try going on a walk around your neighborhood or taking a day trip to a local sight.
39. Take Public Transportation
Try replacing your drive to work one day a week. This can save you both money and time because you can get other things done on the bus while saving money on gas and wear and tear on your car.
40. Clothes Swap
Before you buy a new outfit, get some friends together and swap them old pieces you don’t want anymore. You can also exchange kids clothes and toys with neighbors or family members.
41. Drink Less Bottled Water
Save Money by Creating Extra Income
According to a recent survey, 35% of Americans say lack of income is the main reason they aren’t saving money. So If you’re already living frugally but are struggling to save, here are some easy ways to add income without adding too much work:
42. Sell Your Extra Stuff
Save money on your new clothes, housewares, and electronics you purchase by selling your old ones. Check your closet for clothes you haven’t worn in months and for old electronics. There are many places to sell unwanted items online, including eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace. You can also hold a traditional yard sale if you want to sell in bulk.
43. Rent Out Equipment
Why pay for your tools or equipment when they can pay for themselves? Apps like ToolRent or PeerRenters let you get paid for sharing items like drills, whiskers, and cameras with the community. Consider listing anything you have that has a specialty use.
44. Rent Out an Extra Room
You can reduce your own housing host by adding a short-term resident. List your spare room, or even couch on an app like AirBnB to save money on your rent or mortgage.
45. Sell Your Parking Spot
If you live in an area where parking can be expensive or hard to come by, consider renting out your spot to people during the day while you’re at work. Use this money to save on your own car’s expenses and parking.
46. Trade Gigs With a Neighbor
While not monetary income, you can earn favors by trading jobs with your neighbors or friends. For example, you can take turns babysitting your friend’s kids, or watch your neighbor’s pets while they’re out in exchange for them mowing your lawn.
47. Monetize Your Passion
Make your free time earn you money as well. If there’s a hobby or skill you do for fun, consider selling the fruits of your labor. If you love photography, try selling photos on stock websites, or if you find yourself writing at the end of the day, try starting a blog.
48. Become a Mystery Shopper
You can save money on services, meals, and experiences in exchange for completing honest feedback to companies. This can be especially effective if you use it to do things you’d normally do.
49. Work at Your Favorite Place
If you already spend a lot of time at soccer games or at the bar down the street, become a referee or bartender on the weekends and you will save money on game tickets and drinks. Plus, it won’t won’t feel like work.
50. Consider Signing up for Cash Back Offers
Take advantage of the fact that some major credit cards offer cash back on purchases. You can also use a service like Ebates, which partners with retailers to give you cash back. Keep in mind that these services are designed to motivate you to buy things you wouldn’t normally buy, so use caution.
If you’re an animal lover, getting paid to play with other people’s animals could be an excellent option for you, and help you save additional money on entertainment. Depending on the owners’ needs, you may even be able to keep their pet at your home, cutting down on the work for you. Apps like Rover make it easy to connect with owners.
Save Money With Easy Hacks
No matter your stage in your money-saving journey, these hacks are easy and interesting, so there’s no reason not to try them out:
52. Round Up Your Payments
Like a virtual piggy bank, some accounts allow you to round up every purchase to the next dollar and put that money in savings. Check whether or not your bank offers it, as it is an easy way to save money and you’ll likely hardly notice.
53. Use a Savings Calculator
Putting money away consistently is hard enough as it is, so utilize an easy online tool that can calculate interest over years and help you determine how much your savings may grow in the years to come.
54. Switch Your Ceiling Fan Direction
That’s right, your fan can go either clockwise or counterclockwise thanks to a tiny switch, usually on the side. The angle of the blades mean that the fan is actually more efficient going clockwise in summer as this pushes a breeze around. Use the counterclockwise direction in winter to pull heat towards the ceiling and around the walls.
55. Purchase Discounted Gift Cards
Websites like CardPool allow users to sell gift cards they’ll never use, for slightly lower than their values. Consider buying gift cards to places you frequently shop to save instantly on everything you buy there.
56. Teach Yourself Skills You Would Otherwise Pay For
Take advantage of online tutorials and articles that can teach you to do small things you would otherwise pay for. You can learn anything from how to change your own oil to how to make a bouquet.
57. Make Your Passwords Reminders
If you force yourself to type a phrase on your online shopping account that reminds you of a goal saving date, you’ll be less likely to overspend. You can also make your password things you’re saving for such as “beachvacation2018” or “2020weddingbudget.”
58. Delete Your Card Number from Online Accounts
Make it harder to buy impulsively from websites by deleting your credit card information in their system. This will force you to consider your purchase as you type in your number.
59. Utilize Your Savings Account
Your current bank may offer a savings account with interest that can make your deposits easy to make and retrieve. Some even offer the ability to divide up the money in your savings account by what it’s for. Help motivate yourself to save by watching you the funds for your specific goals grow.
60. Use a Budgeting App
Consider using an app like Mint that keeps track of your spending goals, expenses, and budgets. This can be an easy way to see how you’re doing and get more familiar with your finances.you save. Since this money is relatively easy to access, consider using this account to save for unexpected expenses.
You may not become rich overnight, but the key to amassing a huge savings is patience. Saving money comes down to becoming aware of your unconscious habits and making a consistent effort to change them. Anyone can be more financially responsible in a few simple steps, using the many resources available to them.
Sources: America Saves | NerdWallet | SimpleDollar | BetterMoneyHabits | Forbes | USNews | BankRate | Greatist | MakingSenseofCents | Discover | Bankrate | Investopedia | Fidelity | SEC | SimpleDollar