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5 Things You Could Be Doing to Save Money Now

By Maurie Backman - Updated Jun 19, 2017 at 3:05PM

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Behind on savings? Here's how to fix that.

When it comes to Americans' savings habits, the facts speak for themselves: Roughly 69% of U.S. adults have less than $1,000 in the bank, which is nowhere close to what the typical worker needs to have on hand for emergencies. If you're looking to ramp up your savings, here are a few simple, painless tricks to employ.

1. Create a budget

Despite the fact that it's one of the most effective savings tools out there, only 41% of Americans actually follow some sort of budget. If you're not one of them, then it's time to start mapping out your expenses and figuring out where your money is going. From there, you can identify different ways to save.

Coin going into piggy bank


Creating a budget is especially important if you tend to use a lot of cash, because if that's the case, then there's really no record of your spending. Once you've estimated how much money you need to allocate toward various expense categories, you can better scrutinize that spending and see where you might cut corners. If, for example, you come to realize that you're blowing $100 on a month on taxi rides, you might think about walking home more often and putting that money into savings instead. If you're not sure how to get started on your budget, my colleague Jordan Wathen has a useful budgeting guide that can help.

2. Stop eating out

It's estimated that the typical American household spends close to $2,800 per year on restaurants and takeout. But while there's certainly a convenience factor associated with having someone else prepare your food, there's also a cost involved. In fact, the typical food establishment charges a 300% markup on meals, so if you're spending $2,800 a year on food outside the home, it means you're paying over $1,800 more than necessary. If you were to cut that spending in half, you'd have close to an additional $1,000 to bank.

3. Lower your credit card interest rate

The average American household has $5,700 in credit card debt. If you're carrying a sizable balance, you're probably spending tons of money each year on interest charges alone -- so if you can't knock out that balance quickly, your next best bet is to see about lowering your interest rate and saving a bit of money that way.

In a recent survey, 69% of consumers managed to snag a lower credit card interest rate simply by reaching out to their issuers and asking. If you're a long-term customer whose account is in good standing (meaning, you're making your minimum payments on time), there's a good chance your credit card company will comply -- if anything, so that it can continue collecting those interest payments.

4. Stop paying for services you aren't using

It's one thing to spend money on the things you actually need and use, but how much cash are you wasting on services you rarely utilize? It's estimated that only 18% of gym members, for example, use the health club facilities they pay for consistently, so if you're holding onto a membership you don't really need, now's the time to cut that expense. The same holds true for the video-streaming service you tend to forget you have, or even the cable plan you might easily get away with downgrading.

Imagine you're currently spending $40 a month for unlimited gym access. If you were to pocket that money and run outdoors instead, you'd have $480 a year to pad your savings account.

5. Do your own home maintenance

The typical homeowner spends 1% to 4% of his or her home's value on annual maintenance, and while you shouldn't skimp on upkeep, you can lower your costs by doing some of that work yourself. Imagine you're currently paying a lawn service $900 per season to cut your grass. If you invest in a $500 mower and take over that task, you'll save $400 your first year, and $900 annually for as long as that equipment keeps functioning. The same holds true for other common maintenance items, so it pays to take a look at what you're spending and see which jobs you're capable of doing yourself. It's one thing to hire a gutter cleaner because of the hazards involved, but if it's work that doesn't pose a safety risk, like pressure-washing your patio, you'll save money if you avoid outsourcing it.

Saving money often boils down to being mindful of what you're spending and making a modest effort to change your ways. None of the above suggestions require a major lifestyle adjustment. Rather, they're small modifications that, collectively, can pay off in a very big way. If you're serious about saving more money, it will pay to give them a try.

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