This is a problem people frequently have. Even with the best intentions and plans, they somehow end up with little to no money saved. This could be due to any number of reasons. Your living expenses outweigh your income; a series of unfortunate events; you have kids (those suckers are expensive). Despite all that, it is possible to save money. You just need to plan ahead, be creative, be self-aware, and be willing to make changes. There are so many ways to save money. This is only a starting point.
Open a Savings Account
Having a savings account isn’t necessary, but it sure is helpful. Having money tucked away from your checking account prevents you from spending it so easily. You are only allowed to withdraw money from a savings account six times per month before you start getting penalized for it. This is a good account to have online. Actually having to transfer money from this account isn’t as easy and instant as it is withdrawing money from your checking, so you are less likely to make spontaneous purchases with it. You also earn interest on this money which only increases your savings and some banks offer bonuses just for opening an account with a minimum deposit so shop around for the right savings account.
Create a Budget
Whether you create a budget manually or use a software or app (click here to read about how technology makes budgeting easy) you definitely need to have one. This is the most important thing on this list. Know how much you make each month and use that as your starting point. Then, subtract the amounts for the fixed essentials that don’t really change much from month to month like loans and bills. From there you subtract your other constant essentials like groceries and gas. If you’re not sure how much you spend on these things, loosely estimate the amount now and then generate a more accurate estimate after you track your spending for a month and an even more accurate estimate after a few more months. After that move on to the things that you don’t necessarily spend on each month, but you need for that month. Try to focus on your needs and not your wants. When you’ve set aside money for needs, you can look at what you have leftover. Decide to put some if not all of what’s leftover into your savings. If you want to put some money towards your current wants, go ahead. Just make sure you put away some for savings.
Why do you want to save money? Do you want to buy a house? A car? Save up for a vacation? Setting goals help keep you on track. You can watch as you gradually meet your goal in savings and visualize the endpoint. Make a list of your goals and use it as motivation to stick to your budget and not cave in to spending on unnecessary items.
Monitor Your Habits
One of the reasons why I like budgeting software/apps is because a lot of them come with lots of fancy extras. The app I use, Mint, allows you to view graphs and charts of almost anything. If I want to see where most of my money went last year, I can view a graph of it. This is especially helpful for people who might not be as self-aware as they should be. Being able to easily see where your money is going helps you pinpoint problem areas that you can work on and prevents any denial. A friend of mine asked me to help him with his finances. I made him get the Mint app and link his accounts. A few months later, he came back for help again. I made him go into the app he had all, but abandoned. I was immediately able to find a problem area. He was spending a lot on restaurants. After seeing this high spending, he started preparing his own meals and eating from home more often which helped him save. Preparing and eating meals from home is also a good tip for saving money, but I’m not going to devote an entire section to it. Just remember to find your problem areas and be willing to make changes even if it means downsizing.
Take Advantage of Rewards
I’ve already gone into detail about getting the most out of cash back credit cards so you know that I don’t believe in buying things with something that isn’t going to earn me some money unless cash is my only option. Get money from those cash back rewards cards, put it towards your savings and always pay your card in full each month to avoid interest charges. Use shopping portals through your bank or sites like Ebates to get cash back on your online purchases. Want more cash back on in-store purchases? Check out the app, Ibotta. You’ll get cash back for buying certain items in-store by sending in your receipts. Take a look at your spending habits. Notice that you shop a lot at a certain store? Find a rewards card that offers you the most rewards for shopping there, whether it be a credit card or a store card. Check to see if the places you frequent have a rewards system or discounts. A lot of shops have apps that include their discounts. You just have to search or ask for them.
This is along the same lines of taking advantage of rewards, but in this instance you are actively seeking out coupons from many sources. There are so many coupon apps available, as well as websites. Retail Me Not, Groupon, and LivingSocial are all good options. Add these discounts with rewards and you could save a lot. So start clipping those coupons like Edward Scissorhands.
Whenever you shop, always plan ahead. Know exactly what you’re going to buy and make a list. Sticking to that list prevents last minute purchases and all that rewards and coupon searching requires planning and knowing what items you want to get discounts on in advanced.
Don’t Completely Deprive Yourself
That’s just bad for the soul. Treat yourself every now and then with a little money leftover in your budget. But don’t just waste away your money. You can find great deals on fun, local things to do on both Groupon and LivingSocial. Set a mini-goal to reach a certain amount in your savings and once you reach it, buy yourself something pretty. You earned it.
Do you have other tricks you like to use to save money? Leave a comment below and don’t forget to click the subscribe button at the top of the page to receive email updates whenever I make a new post.