The data is clear: Almost every American needs to save more money.
Average retirement savings are too low, around 4-in-10 Americans can't cover a $400 emergency, and average credit card debt tops $6,000. But knowing about the need to save and actually doing it are two different things. Saving can be hard, especially when there are lots of pressing expenses, and income doesn't quite stretch far enough to cover them all.
But you can make saving simpler -- you just need to know the secrets to doing it. To get you started, here are three easy steps to take now to boost your savings rate and hopefully improve your financial security.
1. Target the biggest expenses first
To find ways to cut spending and increase savings, most people start by picking through their budget with a fine-tooth comb looking for areas where they're spending a bit too much -- whether that's on groceries, dining out, or entertainment.
But you're only going to be able to cut these small everyday expenses by so much unless you're really being excessive. And you can end up stripping all the fun out of life by trying to save $5 here and $10 there through taking away that morning latte or your weekly meal out with your spouse.
Instead of nickel-and-diming yourself, look at the big stuff first and see if you can change one or two major expenses that are actually costing you a lot. If you can switch to a cheaper car and cut your payment by $200 a month, that's going to be a whole lot easier to stick with than cutting out $200 worth of small expenses from every other area of your budget.
2. Get a cash-back credit card and save your rewards
There are almost countless credit cards available today that offer rewards for everyday spending. Why not turn your rewards into more savings?
You can do this if you pick a cash-back card that lets you deposit your money into a bank or brokerage account so you can effortlessly save with every dollar that you spend.
When you save your credit card cash refunds -- instead of getting a credit on your statement or opting for a card that provides travel rewards -- you can ensure you're putting away at least some money for the future. Obviously, this can't be your sole means of saving -- but if you charge all your expenses on your cards and end up automatically saving 1% or 2% of your annual spending, this can add up to a surprisingly big chunk of change by the end of the year.
3. Engage a friend in a savings challenge
Saving money can be more fun if you do it with a friend -- especially if you make a game of it. So enlist your partner or someone else in your life in a different savings contest every month. You could challenge each other to see who can:
- Go longer without making a purchase.
- Have more no-spend days during the month.
- Make cheaper, healthy meals for dinner.
- Spend less on gas over the month.
- Get your electrical bill lower.
- Deposit more cash in a savings account.
- Find more free activities during the month.
- Go longer without dining out.
- Make more extra income from a monthlong side hustle.
By trying out some different challenges each month, you can cut spending in different areas and find new ways to solve problems. And no matter who "wins" the challenge, you'll both be better off because of all the cash you're not spending.
You really can save more
As you can see, there are things you can do that should hopefully help make saving a whole lot easier. Try at least one of these to see if you can increase the amount you're putting aside for the future. Accomplishing financial goals such as saving for retirement or an emergency fund won't be possible without getting good at putting away spare cash, so it can really pay to find an approach that works for you.