Saving money doesn't have to be a numbers game; anyone can accomplish it with proper planning and discipline. Instead of putting off the practice until you reach certain milestones like that next raise, make saving a priority every day to secure your financial future. Follow these money-management tips in your daily life to watch the savings add up.
- Build a money-management system by evaluating your spending and setting a budget.
- Avoid comparing yourself to others and buying based on trends rather than need.
- Pay down debts using the avalanche method.
- Cut expenses by reducing dining out and preparing coffee at home.
- Save money by purchasing groceries in bulk and researching prices before you buy big-ticket items.
Build a Money-Management System
It's easy to blow through your paycheck if there's no rhyme or reason to your spending. Creating a systematic approach to everyday spending and saving through these tips can stretch your dollars further.
- Evaluate your spending before building a budget. Document what you buy, where, and in which spending category for 30 days to gauge your spending habits. This approach will ensure that your budget is rooted in reality.
- Set a monthly budget. Use budget spreadsheets, software, or old-fashioned pen and paper to plan incoming deposits and outgoing expenses. Once you have established a budget, exercise the discipline needed to stick to it.
- Track your spending on an ongoing basis. Schedule a time and day each week to compare your actual spending against your budget to avoid overspending, and realize opportunities to save any extra incoming deposits.
- Pay for day-to-day expenses with cash. Evaluate your budget, and determine spending categories you can switch to cash-only payments (for example, entertainment or dining). Whereas credit card payments can tempt you to make impulse buys, cash helps you stick to your budget, because you can't spend any money you don't have.
You can use debit cards in lieu of a cash-only budget if you keep the amount on the card low enough that you can't overspend.
Change Your Mindset About Money
Even with a budget in place, you're liable to slide back into bad money habits if you don't alter your day-to-day spending philosophy. These saving tips can help you replace negative spending behaviors with positive ones.
- Don't play the comparison game. Stop "keeping up with the Joneses" or with anyone else. Let your budget alone guide your spending and saving habits.
- Try to curb emotional spending. Avoid the temptation to buy yourself a "treat" when you're upset. When these feelings arise, redirect them toward other positive behaviors that don't require spending money, such as calling a friend or exercising.
- Delay gratification. When you get the urge to make an impulse buy, evaluate whether you need or only want the item. If you determine that you need it, wait for one full day before buying it to see whether the item in question still appeals to you.
- Don't buy according to trends. Instead, buy what is meaningful to you rather than the highest-priced fad item; you'll be more discerning about your spending, which can save you more money every day.
Pay Down Your Debts
Whether it's a sky-high credit card balance or a bank loan, debt can eat into your cash reserves and make it more difficult to keep up with day-to-day expenses and to save. These debt-management tips encourage you to pay off what you owe so that you can keep more of what you earn.
- Pay off debts as soon as possible. This habit can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in interest over time.
- Consult with creditors. If you're in credit card debt, call your creditors and ask them whether they can lower your APR (interest rate).
- Pay down your remaining debt using the avalanche method. This approach involves paying the minimum payment on each account and then taking any remaining funds and paying extra on the account with the highest interest rate. High-interest debt can substantially eat into your everyday spending money, so it's prudent to pay it off quickly. The feeling of accomplishment you will get from paying off one debt can motivate you to make progress on other debts.
- Set debt-payoff deadlines. Mapping your debt-payoff goals with amounts and a timeline can help you track your progress, remain accountable for actually paying off the debt, and visualize how good it will feel to make that final debt payment.
- Consider refinancing your home loan. If you own a home, try to lower your monthly payments by refinancing your mortgage at a lower interest rate.
If you're paying pricier private mortgage insurance (PMI) and think you have enough equity to waive the PMI, call your lender to start that process. In general, you can request PMI cancellation when your mortgage balance drops below 80% of the original home value.
Insource Everyday Spending
There are many errands you might outsource now but that you could do yourself to reduce living costs. Follow these tips for saving money on day-to-day expenses:
- Reduce or eliminate dining out. Cooking more—or all—meals at home can easily save you $100 or more per month.
- Prepare coffee at home. Brewing coffee at home instead of buying a three-dollar cup of coffee at a local coffee joint every day can save you over $1,000 a year.
- Do your own personal grooming. You'll save a little every month if you skip the trip to the nearby salon to have your hair cut by a stylist or your nails done by a manicurist, and do them yourself (or with the help of a family member or friend). If you cut your hair every other month, you can easily save $250 per year or more in professional hairstylist fees alone.
- Clean your car at home. Washing your car on your driveway instead of visiting a drive-through car wash can save you $180 to $360 a year.
- Avoid professional dry cleaners. You can save $720 per year in dry-cleaning costs if you switch to wearing machine-washable wrinkle-free shirts.
Adjust Your Shopping Habits
From groceries to gasoline, some purchases are unavoidable. Fortunately, you can save money on day-to-day expenses by using these tips:
- Buy in bulk. Buy your groceries in bulk at wholesale stores, including Costco or Sam's Club. Prepare a meal plan once a week so that you buy only what you need.
- Shop secondhand. Explore garage sales, thrift stores, eBay, and Craigslist for items you need.
- Buy less. When you buy at retail stores, buy fewer items, and focus on purchasing higher-quality items. You'll find over time that quality items actually cost less per use than lower-priced items, because they last much longer and often have classic designs that don't go out of style.
- Compare prices. Look up prices online before buying something at a store to determine whether another store sells the same item at a lower price. When shopping online, always check for and use coupon codes.
- Borrow instead of buying. Items that you don't need to own to enjoy can be borrowed from friends or neighborhood resources. For example, you can use the library instead of the bookstore to pick up recent books.
Bundling your errands into one long trip per week allows you to save on fuel costs.
Reduce Recurring Costs
Ongoing services such as cellular service or utilities often charge you based on the features you choose or your usage, so they can quickly put a dent in your wallet without your knowing. Use these daily money-saving tips to minimize these repeat expenditures:
- Pare down or cancel your cable/satellite TV packages. You can save a bundle every month by switching from your current 500-channels cable package to streaming content providers, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu. If you're not ready to cut the cord, consider switching to a cable package with fewer channels.
- Reduce cell phone minutes or data. If you're on a prepaid cell phone plan, change to a plan with the lowest amount of minutes you need. If you're on a postpaid plan, scale back on the data amount. Set an automatic calendar reminder on your phone to check your minute or data usage a few days before the bill is due. That way, you can minimize your usage if needed and avoid overage charges.
- Plant trees to reduce cooling bills. Station shade-giving trees around the perimeter of your house to save on the costs of air conditioning during the summer.
- Plug appliances into a power strip. Flip the strip's switch off whenever you're not using one of those appliances. You'll save on the cost of "phantom energy," which is the slow drain of energy that stems from keeping things plugged in.
- Reconsider that gym membership. Join a gym only if you'll use your membership regularly. There are endless free fitness opportunities, including running, walking, and cycling in your local park.
- Tweak the thermostat. Keep your home a little hotter in the summer and a little colder in the winter. Don't feel the need to go overboard; turning the thermostat down by even one degree in winter can yield an energy savings of 1% if the temperature is maintained for eight hours.
- Improve the efficiency of your heater. Put an insulation blanket over your water heater to prevent heat from escaping. While you're at it, caulk or weather-seal gaps around your doors and windows to reduce heating bills.
- Service and maintain your car. Repairs can easily recur if you don't. Protect your investment.
- Get bank account fees waived. Traditional banks charge monthly account-maintenance fees, which can draw down your balance by small amounts over time. However, these fees can often be waived by meeting a certain minimum account balance or minimum monthly deposit. Check the fee schedule so that you can determine how to waive fees.
Save Money in the Future
Whether it's buying a car or deciding where to bank, big financial decisions that you make today can often impact your wallet for months or years. Follow these money-saving tips to make more well-informed choices about where your earnings go:
- Go online to spend less on vacation. Use Airbnb or other lodging-rental sites to find vacation rentals for less money than traditional hotel accommodations.
- Buy a more fuel-efficient vehicle. Although the fuel savings will help you recover what you paid for the car over time, you can also sell or trade your gas-guzzler to immediately recoup part of the costs. If you live in an area with good public transit, commute on the subway or the bus, or consider becoming a one-car family.
- Keep appliance documentation. If you buy a new appliance, keep the warranty certificate, or at the very least, the receipt, in an envelope or file folder that is organized by store or by month. If anything breaks, you'll have proof that your appliance is still under warranty, which could save you hundreds or thousands in repair costs.
- Choose a high-interest bank account. Your bank savings account or CD should pay decent interest so that the money in your account earns more over the year. Online banks tend to offer higher interest rates than brick-and-mortar banks do. Interest is important, because it represents free money that grows in your account while you sleep, allowing you to meet your financial goals even sooner.