by Maurie Backman | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on Nov. 22, 2019
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A small amount of effort could go a long way.
We're often told that saving money requires major sacrifices -- downsizing our homes, moving to different parts of the country where it's cheaper to live, or giving up cars and turning our 20-minute commutes into hour-long ordeals.
The reality, however, is that you don't need to upend your life to pad your savings account. If you're just a bit more mindful about how you spend money and are willing to make small adjustments to your current habits, your bank account balance will take a turn for the better.
Here are a few painless ways to boost your savings -- and buy yourself some peace of mind in the process.
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A budget won't make the things in your life cost less, but it will help you better understand where your money is going and help you identify spending habits that may be derailing your savings efforts.
Setting up a budget involves listing your ongoing expenses, factoring in sporadic expenses (think quarterly property taxes, if you own a home), and seeing what your total is. If it's too high for comfort, you can go through your spending categories and make modest changes to those with more flexibility.
You may be loath to give up the data plan on your cell phone or the home internet connection you rely on regularly. But chances are you're paying for at least one or two things you don't get a lot of value from, like the gym membership you use twice a month or the streaming service you rarely watch.
Cutting those expenses out will free up some amount of cash -- and some amount is better than nothing.
An estimated 51% of Americans routinely throw out leftover or expired food, according to a recently published wasteful spending study by The Ascent. And poor planning is a big reason.
If you regularly take inventory, you'll know what your pantry and fridge look like so you can map out your meals. You'll know exactly what and how much to buy at the supermarket and you'll be less likely to waste food -- and money.
Along these lines, dining out even a little less frequently will also be a huge money saver. If you currently go to restaurants or order takeout six times a month, replacing just one of those meals with a home-cooked alternative will put a little cash back in your pocket.
It's rare for purchases to amount to even dollar amounts. If you put that spare change in your bank account, you'll slowly but surely add to your savings without having to stress yourself out in the process. Apps like Acorns let you round up purchases and send your change to savings (which you can then invest). Or find an unused jar at home, collect all of the physical change from your cash purchases, and bring it to the bank once you have a substantial amount.
When you need to wear professional attire to work and the bulk of your slacks and shirts are worn and fading, you need new clothes. But when you see a nice-looking jacket in a store window on your walk home from dinner, you don't need to buy it, as much as you may want to.
It's hard to train our brains to avoid wants and limit our spending to needs, but the more you do, the more you stand to save. Make a deal with yourself -- for every three weeks you go without making a non-essential purchase, you get a certain allowance to spend on something fun. That amount could be $30, $40, $50, or more -- it depends on your finances. But this way, you'll motivate yourself to be more frugal, knowing there's a reward at the end of the tunnel.
You need to have a decent amount of savings for emergencies, retirement, and other important goals. If you've been struggling in this arena, a few easy yet meaningful changes could make a world of a difference.
Many people are missing out on guaranteed returns as their money languishes in a big bank savings account earning next to no interest. The Ascent's picks of the best online savings accounts can earn you more than 8x the national average savings account rate.
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