10 Ways To Save Money This Year
Dan Rafter6-minute read
August 12, 2021
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Need to save thousands of dollars for a down payment on a new home or a new car? If not, maybe you just want to build an emergency fund so unexpected bills won’t cause so much financial stress.
The challenge? You struggle to save money. The funds in your savings account never seem to grow.
Here’s some good news: Saving money isn’t as difficult as you might think. It’s all about starting slow, setting goals and being willing to sacrifice a bit.
Follow these 10 savings-boosting tips and you might be surprised at how fast your money grows:
Create A Household Budget
It might sound painful, but the first step to saving money is creating a household budget. You need to do this to determine how much money you can reasonably expect to save each month.
A budget should list your monthly expenses and income. The difference between the two will help you determine how much money you have for savings. Make sure, though, to include all your expenses. This includes fixed expenses such as your mortgage payment, car payment, cell phone bill, internet fees and student loan payment. It also includes monthly payments that might fluctuate such as your utility bill, transportation costs, groceries and clothing. Also be sure to include discretionary expenses such as restaurant meals and entertainment.
"Once the budget is created, it will show you where you can save money," said Jennifer Murtland, team leader for Team Synergi at Keller Williams, a real estate team that serves Cincinnati. "Once people pay attention to what they are spending, they find money that they are throwing away."
For instance, you might discover that you are spending $1,200 a month in groceries. Once you see how much you’re spending, you might find ways to reduce that expense, therefore saving up money for your savings.
Keep It One Step Away
Nicholas Vizzi, certified financial planner and vice president with the Tampa, Fla. office of Ameriprise Financial Services, says that when you start saving for a goal, you should create a savings account that is earmarked for dollars that will help you meet that goal only. Don't put other savings in that account and don't pull money out of the account for anything besides your goal.
Maybe you’re trying to save for a down payment on a home. It's easier to do this if you create a separate account to put money into. If you don't, you run the risk of accidentally spending the money you're saving for your down payment on anything from your monthly car payment to paying off your credit card bill.
"Keeping your savings in a separate account earmarked for the down payment can help you avoid dipping into the account to pay for another expense that pops up," Vizzi said.
Some banks or financial institutions will even let you give your account a name to remind you to leave the funds alone. For instance, you might name the account you've created for your down payment funds "Down Payment Savings."
Monica Lam, a financial blogger with LuckyMojito.com, said that the best way to meet a savings goal is to automate things.
This means setting up an automatic withdrawal from your paycheck and having that money automatically deposited into a separate savings account that's reserved for meeting your goal only.
Maybe your savings goal is to save $20,000 for an emergency fund or $10,000 for a new car. Once you create a monthly budget and determine how much you need to save each month to meet that goal, have those dollars automatically deposited in a new account.
"As time goes on, gradually increase how much you put into that account," Lam said. "Let's say you start by putting aside $100 a week. If you don't notice a difference, try increasing this amount to $200 a week and go from there."
Power Up Your Savings
Todd Christensen, education manager with Boise, Idaho-based nonprofit debt relief agency Money Fit by DRS, said you can boost your savings with what he calls the PowerCash method.
Using your monthly household budget, determine how much your household spends on average each month on groceries, gasoline, gifts, travel, entertainment and dining. Then multiply that amount by 10%. This amount is what Christensen calls your household’s PowerCash.
Every time payday rolls around, transfer that amount to your savings account. This will accelerate your monthly savings without causing too much pain, Christensen said.
"You will hardly notice a difference living on 90% of your groceries, gift-giving, entertainment and other expenses," Christensen said. "But you will notice the fast-growing funds in your savings."
Follow The 52-Week Rule
Cory Nichols, chief executive officer and owner of registered investment advisor Yes Life Financial, recommends the 52-week rule as an easy way to build your savings.
The rule is simple:
- In the first week, save $1.
- During the second week, deposit $2 in your savings account.
- The third week? Save $3.
- Continue until you get to week 52, when you add $52 to your savings.
If you follow this plan for a year, you'll save $1,378.
"More importantly, you'll have eased your way into saving $52 a week," Nichols said.
And if you keep increasing your savings by $1 a week past one year? You'll have saved $5,500 in two years.
As you can see, you can follow this plan as long as you like if you want to steadily build your savings.
Monitor Those Subscriptions
How many streaming services do you pay for each month? Netflix? Hulu? Amazon Prime? Maybe you also pay a monthly fee for Spotify or Pandora.
You wouldn't be unique if you do. Consumers today have a wide choice of monthly subscription services. But these fees can add up even if they are all under $10 a month, said Collin Morgan, owner of frugal living site Hip2Save.com.
That's why Morgan recommends taking a close look at your monthly subscriptions to see if you need them all. Cutting some off could save you a solid amount each year.
"Really evaluate what you do and do not need," Morgan said. "I think a lot of people aren't aware of many of the things they are being charged for each month. It's easy to sign up for something and then forget all about it."
Plan Your Meals For The Week
It's easy to overspend on groceries. You get home late from work and don't feel like making soup out of that thawing chicken. It's easier to make an extra trip to a restaurant to buy a bucket of fried chicken.
This type of shopping when you’re running to buy food several times each week can get expensive.
Beverly Friedmann, content manager with consumer reviews web site ReviewingThis, said that you can save plenty by planning and budgeting for your weekly food purchases as long as you stick to a budget. She also recommends that you prep meals ahead of time and bring them to work, a way to cut down on those fast-food lunches that can add up to big dollars each month.
"By planning and budgeting for your food for the upcoming week and not exceeding a set amount, you can successfully save quite a bit of money," Friedmann said. "Do not succumb to the temptation to dine out at restaurants or order takeout food."
Take Advantage Of Credit Card Rewards Points
Have a credit card that generates cash-back or rewards points?
Friedmann recommends that you use this card on any purchases you were planning to make anyway. Those rewards points or cash-back bonuses can help you save on everything from groceries to airline miles to hotel stays.
Make sure, though, to use your card wisely.
Pay off your balance in full each month so you aren't forced to pay interest on your payments. Never make a credit card payment late and don't buy something you normally wouldn't have purchased just to generate rewards points.
One of the easiest ways to boost your savings? Ask yourself before every purchase if the money you’re spending could be better used for a down payment on a house, a chunk of change to help you buy your next car or a boost to your emergency fund.
Nick Disney, owner of real estate company Sell My San Antonio House in San Antonio, said that when you ask this question it becomes far easier to stow away money.
When you decide not to buy a $5 latte, move that money into your savings account. Don't need another t-shirt? Move that $15 to your savings.
"Make it a game to see what you really need and what you don't," Disney said. "These small additions to your savings will really start to add up."
Cut The Biggest Expenses
Peter Koch, founder of the Dollar Sanity blog, recommends looking at your home and car if you want to truly save money. These are most people’s biggest expenses.
Selling an expensive car and replacing it with a cheaper one (or doing the same with a home) can slash your monthly expenses. And once you do this, you can dramatically boost your savings.
"If you want to save big, you will have to cut the biggest expenses," Koch said. "You won't be able to save enough by cutting small purchases. Yes, I know they add up. But they never add up to enough."
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