Saving should be part of everyone's financial plan, whether you need to set aside funds for a new car, a tropical vacation, or building an emergency fund. By making some small changes to your everyday life, you can easily reach your financial goals.
Ultimate Guide to Saving Money
1. Set Savings Goals
Why is saving money important to you? Do you have plans to purchase your first home or a new car? Are you planning to have a family and want to ensure you're all well taken care of? Maybe retirement is drawing near and there's a money-weight on your shoulders. Whatever the reason for wanting to save, establishing personal saving goals is the first step in making those savings dreams a reality.
2. Monitor Your Spending Closely
After you've set your savings goal, it's a good idea to monitor your spending closely for about a month, taking an inventory on every single thing you pay for. Yep, we're talking bills, gas, date night, those shoes you just couldn't live without, each morning's coffee shop latte and even that $2.00 ice cream cone. Track everything, put it all into a spreadsheet, and add up the total. If you've discovered you spent more than you made that month in paychecks, it's time to come up with a budget plan.
3. Establish a Budget
Did the month you spent monitoring your spending shock you? Are you spending way more than you should be? It's okay, we've all done it. But now it's time to get back on track. Once you have your goals laid out, it's important to look at all of your financial burdens and expenses and determine what a realistic budget could be for you, with savings factored into the equation. Once you've established a "household" budget, stick to it as best as you possibly can.
4. Spend Less, Save More
This is really a no-brainer. The less money you spend, the more you'll have available to stash away for future purchases or plans.
5. Cut Out Unnecessary Expenses
This savings tip takes some self-discipline and may need to be done in baby steps. Some of the easier items to cut from your day-to-day expenses are the morning latte or the deli sandwich lunch. Instead, make coffee and lunch at home and bring them with you to work or school. You'll be amazed at how much extra dough you have at the end of each week. Next, start taking a look at your subscriptions, like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify, Sirius XM radio, or that monthly shave club you saw on Instagram that one time. Do you really use all of your subscriptions to their fullest? If not, it might be time to cut ties with them and put that money aside into savings. If you can't bear to part with one of your streaming services, consider cutting the cable cord and only paying for one service that gives you access to TV shows & movies.
6. Set Up Automatic Deductions/Deposits
If you're not already doing this, start. Set up automatic deductions to be taken out of your paycheck and put directly into a savings account. You'll never miss it if you never see the money land in your checking account in the first place. And if you've established that budget previously mentioned, you should be perfectly capable of living without even a small amount being automatically stashed away.
7. Use Cash for Small Purchases
With every budget plan, it is important to account for some expenses that could pop up out of the blue. We've all needed beverage from the gas station during a long drive or a night out to see the newest Hollywood hit film starring our favorite actor. For these types of occasions, use cash whenever possible to make your purchase, that way you only spend as much as you have in your pocket/purse. You'll forgo getting the large popcorn bowl at the movies if you only have enough for the small. Or, better yet, skip the popcorn all together and hang on to your change.
8. Collect Your Change
Just as you likely had as a child, designate an item in your home as a 'piggy bank'. That few dollars and change you elected not to spend at the snack bar at the movie theater last night can find a new home inside the piggy bank, along with any other change you have lying around. Have coins randomly at the bottom of your purse? Throw 'em in the jar. Coins cluttering up your nightstand or cup holder in the car? Gather them all and listen to the clanking sound it all makes when it hits the bottom of your bank. Collecting your change is an easy way to start saving real tangible money, and believe us, it will add up over time!
9. Invest Now, Save Later
When it comes time to make a large purchase, say a home appliance or new mattress, sacrifice the expense that it will take to buy a quality item. It may seem a little against the budget and savings plan, but trust us, you'll save money in the long run when you invest in quality products that will last you for many years. Newer electronic products are also typically more energy-efficient, so while you might pay a bit more for it, your electric bill won't suffer as badly.
10. Conserve Energy
Speaking of your electric bill, there are many things you can do in your home to keep the cost of electricity down, even in the dead of winter or height of summer. Replace your old lightbulbs with LEDs, use ceiling fans instead of air conditioners, and unplug power cords when you're not using it. In the winter, keep your thermostats set at a reasonable temperature and wear warm clothes and use blankets. We're not suggesting you freeze yourself out of comfort, but you'll be surprised to see what a conscious effort to keep energy costs down will do for your monthly bill.
11. Institute the 48-Hour Rule
The convenience of online shopping can be both a blessing and a curse for someone trying to stick to their savings goals and budgets. With services like Amazon Prime offering free 2-day shipping on many products, including household necessities, it can be very easy to go a little overboard with online purchases. When you feel like you might be falling victim to impulse buying, take a step back and think "Do I really need this?". If you have any initial hesitation, follow the 48-hour rule and give yourself time to think about it. Often, the urge to hit the 'checkout' button will pass and you'll avoid spending money on something you don't really need.
12. Plan Out Your Meals
Set aside time each week to plan your meals for the upcoming week. This includes lunches and dinners. Not only will this make your grocery shopping trip easier, you'll also avoid buying more than you need, which will reduce the amount of food waste at the end of the week. Plan to bring leftovers to work for your lunches and simply buy a little extra for your dinner meals. The urge to eat out at restaurants or fast food places will be greatly reduced when you have a plan in place and good food waiting for you at home.
13. Commute a Different Way
How do you get to work in the morning? How do your kids get to school? Do you live close to any coworkers you'd be willing to carpool with? Creating a carpool schedule so that each person takes an even (or close to even) number of turns driving to work, or dropping the kids off at school, every day can help you save on gas and can reduce wear and tear on your vehicle. If you live along a school bus route, have your kids take the bus if possible so that you don't have to make multiple stops each morning. It may be a small change in your daily routine, but every little bit helps when you're trying to save money.
14. Take Advantage of Deals
Coupons, discounts, and packages can serve as a great way to save some money when you're out on the town or taking a vacation. Stay up to date on special dining deals at your favorite restaurants, use coupons on shopping trips whenever possible, and be on the lookout for hotel/travel packages when booking your vacations. The extra time and effort put into finding these kinds of deals will contribute to keeping more money in your pocket.
15. Stash Away Extra Funds
Congrats on that bonus you've worked so hard for. What are you going to do with it? If you're really serious about your savings goals, then you'd be wise to deposit it into your savings account and forget that it even exists. Or, if you're trying to climb your way out of debt, use it to pay off some extra on your student loans, mortgage, or credit card bills. Also, when you get your income tax refund in the spring, apply it to that debt or stash it away. Out of sight, out of mind, and there for a rainy day if need be!
16. Start an Emergency Funds Account
We hope that it never happens, but sometimes a rainy day comes along and you need to dig into your savings to cover the cost of an unfortunate situation. Whether it's unexpected medical bills, replacing your hot water heater when it breaks, or getting your car repaired after you hit a deer, having emergency funds set aside for these types of situations is important for every household. It has been said that you should have at least three months of living expenses in your emergency fund, but that can sometimes be difficult for those just starting out. No matter how much you have saved for a rainy day, it will come in handy if the occasion ever arises that you need to dip into it.
17. Refinance Your Loans
When was the last time you compared rates for your home, vehicle, or student loans? Refinancing might be a great option that could save you tons of money down the road. Consider refinancing to a lower interest rate so that you pay less on your loan balance or consolidate high-interest-rate debts into lower-interest-rate debts. It's always important to communicate with your loan originators and also see what other programs are out there that can assist with getting things paid off sooner. The shorter the term of your loan, the less money you will ultimately pay in interest over time.
18. Create Alternative Sources of Income
Whether it's getting a part-time job, starting a business, or having a garage sale to get rid of unused items, there are numerous ways you can create alternative sources of income. Start thinking creatively and you could easily increase your monthly contribution toward savings.
19. Think Outside "the Box" When Gift-Giving
When holidays or birthdays come around, it can be easy to get lost in the commercialism of it all. Stop and think for a minute what would make that special someone in your life feel the love. More often than not, a handmade gift created with love and care will prove to be even more valuable than that expensive watch or fancy new tech gadget. DIYing your gifts will not only save you money but will also make the person who you made it for feel special and appreciated by you. Or, if you're not the crafty type, offer to make someone dinner or sweet treats. Sometimes, the gift of time spent together is the best gift of all.
20. Commit To Your Future
Make a firm commitment toward your future by writing down your savings goals for retirement. Review this written commitment on a regular basis and create a manageable time frame to complete your stated financial goals. Remember, generating significant savings for your future doesn't happen without a plan.