Author: Kailey Fralick | August 26, 2019
Saving money is easier than you think
Nearly everyone wishes they could be a little better at saving money. But many people struggle to find the time to create a detailed budget or resist the latest marketing campaigns that tell them they need the newest hot item.
If you're sincere about improving your money management, you can overcome these challenges. Here are 15 tricks to help you start saving more money today.
1. Cut back your spending where possible
Keep track of where all the money you spend in a month goes and look for any areas where you can reduce spending without causing yourself any serious inconvenience. This may include dining out less, making your coffee at home, or downgrading your cable or cell phone plan. You should also consider canceling any subscriptions, like gym memberships, that you don't use.
Cutting some of these expenses may not make a significant difference in your day-to-day experience, but it can free up a few dollars each week. Over time, this can add up to a few hundred dollars per year.
2. Have clear goals for your money
Saving money for the sake of saving money isn't very motivating to most people. If you want to increase your odds of success, you need a powerful reason for why you're saving money. It could be for a down payment on a home or car, for a vacation, or for your retirement. Every time you're debating whether or not you should spend or save, remember these goals. The more detailed the picture you can create in your mind, the more likely you will be able to stick to your savings goal.
3. Wait a few days before deciding on a purchase
Impulse spending often leads to buyer's remorse and it can cause financial troubles if you're spending money you don't have. A simple way around this is to force yourself to wait for a day or a week before making a purchase if you're not sure if it's a good idea. This gives you time to think it over and to decide if it's truly the best decision. It also enables you to shop around to make sure you're getting the best deal.
4. Write a shopping list before you go to the store
Everyone's probably gone to the grocery store once or twice while hungry and ended up buying a bunch of things they didn't actually need. Keep yourself focused by making a list of the items you need before you go to the store. Stick to the items on the list and don't allow yourself to deviate. This has the added bonus of speeding up your shopping trip so you don't have to spend as much time in the store.
5. Switch to cash
Several studies have shown that we're much more likely to overspend when using a credit card compared to cash. There's something about holding the money in our hand and then actually having to give it to someone else that seems to make us think twice about whether a purchase is actually worth it. You can use this to your advantage to help you save more money. Start cashing your paychecks and using that cash for your everyday purchases instead of charging everything to a card.
But this strategy may not work for everyone. Some people find carrying large amounts of cash inconvenient, and if you're prone to losing things, you might be safer leaving everything in your bank account and using a debit or credit card.
6. Use the envelope budgeting system
This goes hand in hand with the previous tip. Allot a certain amount of money for each of your major monthly expenses like rent or a mortgage payment, groceries, your cable bill, and so on. Each pay period, place the appropriate amount of money for each thing in a separate envelope.
This ensures you keep your bills prioritized and you limit your spending on discretionary purchases. If you run out of money in your dining out envelope, for example, you'll have to cook at home until the next month or your next pay period when you replenish that envelope.
7. Prioritize debt repayment
All debt is a drain on your funds, but credit card debt is especially harmful because the interest rates are so high. If you're carrying credit card debt, make paying it off a priority to free up more cash for saving and spending on things you enjoy.
There are a few different approaches you can take. You could start with the card that has the smallest balance and pay that off first and then move onto the next smallest balance, and so on. Achieving wins quickly with this method helps to keep you motivated in your debt-pay-down journey. Or you could start with the card that has the highest interest rate first. Paying off your debt with the highest interest rate more quickly saves you more money in the long run. Just make sure you make at least the minimum payment on all of your cards each month to avoid late fees. You could also try transferring your balance to a card with a 0% introductory APR or taking out a personal loan.
8. Save your loose change
Change is a burden for most people, and many won't even stop to pick it up off the ground when they find it. But even pennies begin to add up over time. Start saving yours in a special savings jar and then use that change for smaller purchases, or take it to your bank and trade it in for dollars once it's full. It probably won't add up to a lot of extra cash each year, but it's better than leaving that money lying on the ground or rolling around in your bag or car.
9. Look for ways to save when you spend
Look for coupons before you go shopping. Whether it's for a large item or something from the grocery store, you could save a few cents to a few dollars on things you were already going to buy. If you know a store has a big sale coming up, consider waiting until then to make your purchase so you can save even more.
Those who prefer to use credit cards to do their shopping should choose a rewards credit card that aligns well with their spending habits so that they can get some of their money back on every purchase. Don't forget to activate rotating cash-back categories if your card offers these.
10. Unsubscribe from marketing emails
Marketing emails can help you find coupons and other ways to save, but they can also tempt you into buying things you don't actually need just because they're on sale. If you've fallen into that trap before, you're better off unsubscribing from these emails. When you want to shop at that store, you can do a quick online search for coupon codes to see if there's anything that's relevant to you.
11. Comparison shop
You can comparison shop for anything, but it makes the most sense for large items. Before you buy, look around and see if you can find the same item for cheaper on another site. You could also look for comparable items that are more affordable. This strategy can help you find the best deal and it also forces you to slow down and take the time to consider the idea, which can help limit impulse purchases.
12. Seek out free entertainment
When we think of wasting money, we usually think of money spent on things we do for fun, like dining out, going to the movies, or going to a concert. It's still okay to do these things once in a while, but if you're trying to cut costs, seek out sources of free entertainment instead. Go for a hike or spend an afternoon in the park. You could also invite your friends over for a meal instead of going out to eat. Forcing yourself to try different activities could also introduce you to new hobbies you wouldn't have otherwise discovered.
13. Think of prices in hours
Another easy way to curb impulse buying is to think about costs in terms of hours of work rather than money. If you make $20 per hour and you want to buy something that costs $100, ask yourself if that item is really worth five hours of work. This perspective helps you get a sense for how much effort went into earning that money and it can help deter you from spending your hard-earned cash on trivial items you don't need.
14. Set your own credit card limit
Avoid credit card debt and overspending by setting a monthly credit card spending limit. You don't have to call your credit card company to ask them to lower your limit, and in fact, it's better if you don't. A lower limit will increase your credit utilization ratio -- the amount of credit you use vs. what's available to you -- and this can hurt your credit score.
Just choose an amount that you feel is appropriate and try to keep this amount under 30% of your credit limit whenever possible as this will help improve your credit score. If you lose track of how much you've charged to your credit card so far, check in your online account to see where you're at.
15. Set up automatic transfers to your savings account
See if your bank will allow you to set up automatic transfers to your savings account each month. It's up to you to decide how much you feel you can comfortably afford to save. Think about your savings goals and timelines and use this as your guide. If you're not on track for your goals, try some of the other tips listed here to free up more cash.
Automatic transfers takes the effort out of saving because you don't have to remember to manually transfer the money yourself. You won't experience the temptation to spend the funds because you won't get used to them sitting in your checking account. They'll automatically go to savings each month.
Start a new relationship with money today
Hopefully at least a few of these tips appeal to you and have helped you see that saving money doesn't have to be difficult. Try a couple of them for a few months and see what kind of a difference they can make in your budget. But remember, diligence is the most important thing. You have to stick with these strategies if you want them to work for you.
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