No one ever said saving money was fun or easy. And given how thin a margin there often is these days between what people earn and what they spend, it can seem like it’s harder now than ever. So, since we can all use a little extra inspiration once in a while to help us save, here are 10 simple tactics that can help get your savings plan on the right track.
This approach puts your savings more or less on autopilot. By setting up automatic transfers from your checking account to a dedicated savings account either weekly or monthly, your savings will accumulate without you ever having to lift a finger. (Except for setting it up in the first place.)
This approach works particularly well when you’re saving for specific targets like a vacation, emergency fund, or down payment on a home. Just set aside an amount you can afford to regularly deduct from your checking account, and watch the savings add up.
Plan ahead, and eat in more often
Doing a bit of homework before you shop for groceries can actually save a surprising amount of money. Make a shopping list of items you actually need and avoid impulse purchases. Also, the savings from coupons and loyalty programs can really add up.
Another easy place to cut back is on the amount you spend eating out, since restaurant meals are invariably more expensive than cooking at home. If it’s too hard to stop altogether, at least try to minimize the number of times you visit a restaurant or order delivery. (And remember that skipping drinks at a restaurant can significantly reduce your tab.)
Watch your online shopping
We know this is easier said than done, but one way to do it is to make the process a little bit harder. Don’t opt for saved billing info or auto-fill forms. Instead, manually enter all necessary information for each order. (It doesn’t sound like much. But depending on how much you order, it can turn into a real time drag, which can disincentivize impulse purchases.)
Also, consider using a private (or “incognito”) browser window when shopping. By deleting your history when you close the tab, this can keep companies from tracking your viewing habits and arbitrarily raising prices. (A phenomenon anyone who has shopped for airline tickets on two consecutive days has likely experienced.)
Put off your purchases
It’s also helpful to give yourself a little space between the time you find an item you like and the time you actually make the purchase.
Resist the pressure to “buy now,” and instead put the item in your cart and walk away for a while. The length of time is up to you, but a week is a solid target to give yourself time to think it over. (And it might also prompt a retailer to offer coupons for the items in your “abandoned cart.”)
Save on car costs
Shopping around for car insurance is one way to save on auto-related costs. You can also reduce the amount you spend on maintenance by simply driving less or avoiding situations that put added strain on your car – like sudden braking or rapid acceleration.
And while there’s nothing you can do to control gas prices, driving less will also cut down on how much of your hard-earned money you’re putting in the petroleum companies’ pockets. (Several grocery retailers – like Kroger – also offer gas points for using their rewards program.)
Depending on your carrier, you can save significant money by bundling your cable and internet service. Some providers may even include cell phone coverage. If you want to trim even more, take a long, hard look at how much of your current package you’re actually using, and consider cutting cable altogether.
Another place to look is your streaming services. They’ll often offer an attractive rate to lure you in, then raise those rates regardless of whether you’re even watching their content.
Cancel unnecessary subscriptions
Odds are, you’re still paying for subscriptions you no longer use or need (and have likely forgotten about). To check, give your credit card statement a thorough review and identify any recurring expenses you can do without.
And to avoid falling into the same trap again, avoid signing up for supposedly “free trials” that require you to enter your credit card information. That free period will end before you know it, and suddenly you’re on the hook for something you might not otherwise have chosen.
Pay off your high-interest debt
Nothing drains a budget like debt. Particularly high-interest debt. By making every effort to pay off your high-interest debt as quickly as possible, you’ll essentially save yourself months or years of additional interest paid. Then you’re not only relieved of that extra burden, you have additional money on hand to funnel into savings.
Create a 50/30/20 budget
Once you’ve paid down your high-interest debt, a 50/30/20 budget can be an invaluable tool for establishing your savings priorities.
This approach means devoting 50% of your after-tax income to necessities, 30% to wants, and 20% to savings or other financial goals. While it’s not a hard and fast rule, it’s a handy guideline that can help you build a savings plan that works for you.
Review your budget regularly
Once your budget is created, set regular rhythms to review it. This could look like reviewing your transactions every week, and then reviewing budget totals monthly. When reviewing, are you on track? If there’s money left over, how would you like to spend (or save, give, invest) it? If the budget’s coming up short, what one or two budget items could change?
You can’t arrive unless you start
Wishing for more savings won’t make it happen. But implementing a few simple tips and tricks can start you down the right road. Remember, when it comes to saving, it’s not about how much money you make. It’s about how intentional you are about where that money goes. Sometimes it requires uncomfortable choices. But having that money available for future use – whether it be an emergency or a planned-for event – will make any short-term discomfort more than worthwhile.
Hunter Yarbrough, CPA, CFP, is a vice president and financial adviser with CapWealth. He is passionate about taking a holistic view of personal finance, including investments, taxes, retirement, education, estate planning, and insurance. For more information about Hunter and CapWealth, visit capwealthgroup.com.