Saving money can be challenging no matter how much you earn. After all, you probably have a lot of immediate expenses, and can think of many more fun things to do with your dollars than stick them into a savings account.
But overcoming these challenges is important. In fact, saving money is essential to accomplish long-term goals, and even to make big purchases in the short-term. You should be saving money for lots of different things, from retirement to the purchase of your next car to your next big vacation -- and to save enough for all these goals, you've got to have a lot of money left over after paying the bills.
The good news is that there are ample ways you can increase the amount you save, often without making major changes to your lifestyle. Here are four suggestions that can help.
1. Take full advantage of coupons and deals
There are endless bargains to be had if you only know where to look.
You can save on the costs of everyday items, including food, toiletries, and personal items, by using coupons from the Sunday paper. And you don't have to buy a paper and spend all day clipping coupons to get these savings either -- you can take advantage of websites such as The Coupon Clippers or Klip2save that allow you to pay a small cost to have coupons mailed to you. By using these sites, you save time, and can choose to get coupons only for products you'd purchase anyway so you aren't buying a bunch of junk just because you might save a few cents on it.
Before shopping online or in any retail store, it's also a good idea to do a quick search for a printable coupon or coupon code. It takes a few seconds to do a search, and you can often find coupons for a percentage off your purchase or for free shipping. Apps such as Honey also do this automatically, finding coupons, special deals, and promo codes on items you're shopping for so you don't even have to turn to a search engine.
If you're able to save money on everyday purchases, you'll have more left in your bank account that you can use to save for big goals.
2. Buy used or borrow instead of buying
Have you ever bought something, such as a tool or a cleaning product, only to use it just once or twice a year? We have -- our garage is full of a things like power washers and chain saws and rug cleaners that we rarely touch. Instead of buying all of these items yourself, see if a family member or friend will let you borrow. Or arrange with a few neighbors to buy one item you all take turns using. You'll save a lot of space storing items you don't use often, and will save a lot of money too.
When you do need to make a purchase, consider buying used instead of new. There are some things -- like mattresses and soft furniture in bedbug-prone areas -- that you don't want to buy used. And when safety is at stake, such as when you're looking for a children's car seat or high chair, you should buy new too.
But for many other items, purchasing brand new simply makes no sense. From sporting equipment to kids toys to dress-up attire, there are ample used options out there online and from local thrift or consignment stores that can save you a fortune. Once you learn where to shop and what days new items come in, you'll be able to get great bargains on items in perfect or near-perfect condition. Plus you get the thrill of the hunt, and the satisfaction of knowing you got things you needed at a great price.
3. Be smarter about how you eat out
Giving up dining out could save you a lot of money, but it's a big lifestyle change. Fortunately, you don't have to swear off restaurants entirely to save more money. You just need to eat out in a smarter way.
First and foremost, skip the convenience meals that don't actually provide you with pleasure. If you make up a few extra servings of food each time you cook and freeze these meals, you can reach for them for lunches on workdays and quick dinners instead of stopping for take-out that you pay a premium for.
And when you go out to meals you actually enjoy, you can cut costs on those as well. Consider a late lunch instead of dinner to get the same food at bargain prices. Skip the drinks, or have just a glass, to avoid the markup on alcohol. If you share a few appetizers and one entree, you'll keep your bill down and get to try more items on the menu. And when your favorite restaurants offer deals -- like bonus gift cards if you buy a gift card during the holidays -- take advantage of them.
By being strategic with your dining-out dollars, your money will stretch further, and you can still enjoy a nice meal out on the town.
4. Have dedicated savings accounts for each goal
Cutting spending is key to saving, and it's easier to do that if you're really motivated.
Being able to track your progress can help you stay inspired to hit your savings goals, so create separate accounts for each big thing you're saving for. That way, as you see your vacation fund, house fund, and retirement fund grow, you'll know that you're not just sacrificing for something abstract -- you're actually getting closer to affording important things.
When you have dedicated savings accounts for specific goals, you're also much less likely to raid those accounts for other purposes than if you leave your savings in your checking account or have a general "savings account." And you can automate transfers of money to each account in accordance with how much you need to save to accomplish each specific goal on time.
By moving money automatically where it needs to go to save for different things, you can be sure you stay on track to hit your savings targets for each goal.
You can save money easily with just a few simple changes
As you can see, saving money doesn't have to mean great sacrifice. By being smarter about how you buy things and transferring money to dedicated savings accounts, you can hopefully put aside more money each month and hit your savings goals faster than you imagined possible.