Jan 3, 2024
How to Save Money: 45 Best Ways to Grow Your Savings
If you’re wondering how to save money, you’re in good company. A majority of Americans (62%) live paycheck-to-paycheck, and people across various income levels are feeling the strain. Of the 166 million people in this situation, 8 million earn more than $100,000 a year.
When your income barely covers your monthly expenses, it can be tough to find extra money to put into savings. Yet putting aside money for emergencies and future goals is an important part of building long-term financial security. The good news is that there are several strategies you can use to cut costs and begin saving.
In this article, we’ll cover these savings tips:
- Estimate your income
- Identify your fixed monthly expenses
- Manage your variable expenses
- Don’t forget about periodic expenses
- Prepare for unexpected expenses
- Compare your income and expenses
- Choose your budgeting method
- Remember to budget for discretionary spending
- Implement the 30-day rule
- Try a cash diet
- Delete online payment info
- Plan out meals to reduce food waste
- Be strategic at the grocery store
- Make more coffee at home
- Reduce restaurant spending
- Use a cashback credit card
- Opt for thrift stores and local shops
- Use browser extensions for online shopping
- Explore community events and free concerts
- Compare car insurance plans
- Maintain a good driving record
- Take a close look at your coverage level
- Remove policy add-ons you don’t need
- Switch to LED bulbs
- Optimize laundry habits
- Adjust your refrigerator temperature
- Use your dishwasher’s air-dry setting
- Manage home’s temperature
- Change furnace filters regularly
- Conduct a home energy audit
- Cancel unnecessary subscriptions
- Look for ways to save on essential subscriptions
- Choose a debt repayment strategy
- Consider debt consolidation
- Establish an emergency fund
- Plan for short-term goals
- Set medium-term goals
- Focus on long-term goals
- Check your current savings account interest rate
- Switch to a high-yield account for better earnings
- Automate transfers to your savings account
- Define your financial goals and values
- Limit your time on social media
- Have a weekly money date
- Celebrate your financial wins
Track your spending against your income
Scouring through a list of all the best ways to save money can be fun. But before start trimming down your spending, you need to get a clear picture of where your money is going every month. So, the first step in saving money is to track your spending and compare it to your income.
1. Estimate your income
Income is all the money you bring home. You need a clear picture of what’s coming in to make sure you have enough to cover your expenses and savings goals. Make a list of all sources of income, which might include:
- Your net pay from your job
- Extra cash you make from a side hustle or passive income stream
- Child or spousal support
- Disability or veterans benefits
- Dividends or other income from investments
2. Identify your fixed monthly expenses
Fixed expenses are your life’s must-haves. They’re usually consistent every month. Understanding these is crucial for creating a budgeting plan and avoiding credit card debt. Common expenses include:
- Rent or mortgage
- Utilities, like electricity, water, and gas
- Phone and internet
- Health insurance
- Healthcare, like prescriptions and regular doctor appointments
- Minimum debt payments, such as student loans and car payments
- Transportation, like bus fare, gas usage, car insurance
- Childcare and school tuition
- Streaming services and subscriptions
- Membership fees, like a gym or co-working space
3. Manage your variable expenses
Variable expenses are just like they sound: spending that varies from month to month. While the amount of money you spend may change, you can get an average by tallying up what you’ve spent over the last six months and dividing by six. Expenses you may want to capture:
- Dining out
- Pet costs, such as food, grooming, doggy daycare
- Home maintenance
- Medical and veterinary bills
- Personal care and wellness
4. Don’t forget about periodic expenses
Periodic expenses occur less frequently, so they’re easy to forget about. But you’ll need to add them to your budgeting plan if you want a complete picture of your finances. The key is to break these costs down into how much they cost monthly.
For example, if it costs $120 a year to renew your car’s tags, divide that amount by 12 to get $10 a month; that’s how much money you’d need to put aside each month to have the amount you need when the bill comes due. Check your records for expenses like:
- Annual vehicle registration
- Annual tax preparation
- Quarterly utilities
- Subscriptions that renew annually
- Car maintenance
- Home maintenance
- Periodic healthcare, like new glasses or annual physicals
- Clothing and shoes
- Household items and furniture
5. Prepare for unexpected expenses
Unexpected expenses like emergency repairs and medical bills are unpredictable. Creating an emergency fund can be a good way to cover these costs without having to rack up credit card debt. Some unexpected expenses you could save for include:
- Car or home repairs
- Medical and dental bills
- Unplanned travel
- Emergency vet bills
- Weather emergencies
- Replacement appliances
- Unexpected sudden loss of income
6. Compare your income and expenses
Once you’ve gathered the info about your income and expenses, it’s time for some simple math. Add up all your monthly expenses, including averages for variable expenses and periodic expenses. Then tally up your monthly income.
When you compare the two numbers, ideally your income will be larger than your expenses. If it’s not, you may want to consider how to save money by reducing discretionary spending or trimming the cost of necessities.
Create a budget that works for you
With your list of income and expenses in hand, you’ll be ready to make a budget. In its simplest form, a budget is a list of your planned monthly income and expenses. Once you set it up, you can track spending in real-time, compare it to your plan, and adjust as needed.
Making and sticking to a budget is half the battle of saving money. It gives you a clear picture of your finances in real time and helps you plan for your goals, like getting out of debt, saving up for a vacation, or building an emergency fund.
It also allows you to manage short-term spending, like whether you can order take-out for dinner without putting yourself in a pinch when your car payment is due.
7. Choose your budgeting method
There are many approaches to budgeting, including budgeting for young adults. While they all have benefits, what matters is finding one that works for you. Here are a few popular budgeting methods you might try:
- 50-30-20 budgeting: You categorize your expenses and allot income accordingly: 50% to needs, 30% to wants, and 20% to saving and investing.
- Zero-based budgeting: You assign every dollar to a specific expense so that the difference between your income and expenses is zero.
- Pay yourself first method: Each month you first set aside money for saving and investing, which cuts spending and prioritizes your long-term goals.
- Envelope method: You allocate funds to expense categories and put the money into literal or digital envelopes; when an envelope is empty, your spending on that category is done for the month.
8. Remember to budget for discretionary spending
While budgeting for the necessities, be sure to include space for some discretionary spending in your budget too. This promotes healthier spending habits, as it can be easier to stick to your spending plan when you have money specifically set aside for fun. Also, it can give you a bit of a buffer if you underestimate your needs in one of your budget categories.
Cut out impulse purchases
Everyone has those moments: the last thing you want to do after a long day is cook dinner, so you open a restaurant delivery app and unwittingly spend a good chunk of your grocery budget on one meal. Or an ad for a cool jacket pops up on your screen, you click the link, and suddenly you’ve spent money you’d planned to put in savings on something you don’t really need.
Impulse spending is only human, but it also creates a huge barrier to saving money. Consider trying these tricks to help you put the brakes on that spur-of-the-moment spending that undermines your budget plans.
9. Implement the 30-day rule
If you find you want to make an unplanned purchase, set the money aside and wait 30 days. This is known as a 30-day spending rule. If after a month you still want to buy the item, go ahead. But you may find that the delay takes some of the shine off of the thing that seemed so appealing at first glance, and a month later you might decide to put that money into your savings account instead.
10. Try a cash diet
A “cash diet” is where you commit to only making impulse buys in cash. Build it into your budget with an “allowance,” then take the money out in cash at the beginning of the month. Swiping a card makes impulse spending that much easier, but handing over actual cash has a greater psychological impact and makes you stop and think about the purchase more carefully.
11. Delete online payment info
The more effort it takes to shop online, the more likely you’ll be to pause and think about whether you truly want to fork over your money on a whim. Delete your saved debit or credit card information on any website where it’s stored and forget the autofill option; when you want to buy something, get your physical card and enter the number. That little work might prod you to think about your budget and saving goals.
Look for ways to save on food
If you’re like most people, food is one of your three biggest spending categories. Between groceries and dining out, it can add up quickly. Here are a few ways to trim down food costs.
12. Plan out meals to reduce food waste
Planning out your meals and snacks for the week helps prevent groceries from being wasted. For instance, if a recipe calls for half a head of cauliflower, you can plan to use the other half later in the week instead of watching it go bad in the fridge.
13. Be strategic at the grocery store
Efficient grocery shopping and meal planning can lead to significant savings. Here are some other ways to help keep your grocery costs down and foster better savings habits:
- Scan sale circulars and grocery store apps to find the best deals, and use print or digital coupons.
- Consider shopping at several grocery stores to get the best price on different items, if time allows.
- Check your pantry before heading to the store so that you don’t double up on products you already have.
- Shop from a list, which will help you avoid impulse spending on products that grocers put in special displays.
- Purchase items in larger quantities and use them in several meals throughout the week or freeze portions for later use.
- Buy store brands or generic brands instead of name-brand products. Most have the same ingredients.
- Keep grocery trips down to once a week, if possible, which will force you to use up the food you already have at home.
- Shop online and pick up your groceries to avoid the temptation of going off your list while browsing the shelves.
14. Make more coffee at home
It’s probably not a good idea to cut out a coffee shop for good. It’s a cozy experience all in itself. But frequent visits to the coffee shop can quickly add up, especially when a large oat milk latte can easily cost $7, plus tip. Consider brewing more coffee at home and treating yourself to your favorite coffee shop once or twice a week.
15. Reduce restaurant spending
Dining out often can significantly impact your budget. Limit restaurant spending by exploring new recipes at home, opting for takeout over dine-in to avoid additional costs like tips, or taking advantage of restaurant deals and specials.
You don’t have to cut out restaurant food completely. Start with small amounts. Try to eat out one or two fewer times per week than you do now. Over time, continue to trim it back until your food budget is where you want it to be.
16. Use a cashback credit card
For necessary purchases like grocery shopping, consider using a cashback credit card. These cards return a percentage of the amount spent, reducing the overall cost and potentially saving you money over time.
Discover ways to save on shopping and entertainment
There are tons of ways to save on shopping and entertainment. Explore these practical tips to cut down your expenses while still having fun.
17. Opt for thrift stores and local shops
Skip the brand names and shop at thrift stores and local stores in your own city instead. You’ll find unique items at lower prices and keep your shopping cart total low. Plus, you’re supporting the community!
If you find yourself on a wedding guest list, use online thrift stores like Poshmark and Tradesy to snag the perfect outfit at a discount.
18. Use browser extensions for online shopping
Online shopping is convenient but can lead to overspending. To avoid this, use browser extensions. They help compare prices and find discounts, ensuring you don’t miss out on lower prices and keep those small amounts from adding up.
19. Explore community events and free concerts
One of the easiest expenses to reduce is entertainment costs. Your own city likely offers numerous free attractions and activities.
- Explore local parks or community spaces for a change of scenery without the added expense.
- Visit museums with no admission fees and community centers that host free events.
- Look for free concerts that not only offer entertainment but also provide a chance to socialize and discover local talent.
Save money on car insurance
There are many avenues to explore when looking at how to save money on car insurance: comparing plans, maintaining a good driving record, and taking a close look at your coverage level and add-ons.
20. Compare car insurance plans
Even if you’re happy with your current insurance company, requesting quotes from several other companies might reveal opportunities for saving money if you switch. You can also call your current insurer and ask if you’re eligible for any discounts; they’re often willing to offer an incentive to keep your business.
21. Maintain a good driving record
Car insurance rates are based on several factors, including your driving record and your credit score. That means being a safe driver and improving your credit can save you money on car insurance.
22. Take a close look at your coverage level
If you don’t have an outstanding loan on your car, another way to save money is to change the type of coverage you carry. Generally, there are three types of coverage available:
- Liability insurance: Liability covers only the other person’s damages if you get into an accident; this is the minimum level of coverage required by law.
- Collision insurance: Collision pays to repair damage to your car if it crashes into another vehicle or object.
- Comprehensive insurance: Comprehensive covers damages and pays if your car is stolen or damaged by storms, vandalism, or hitting an animal.
Collision and comprehensive insurance never pay more than what the car is worth. So, if you have an older car that’s worth less than your deductible plus the cost of annual coverage, you might be paying more than you need to; you could save in the long run by only carrying the liability insurance mandated by your state.
23. Remove policy add-ons you don’t need
Review your current policy to see if you’re paying for any add-on services that you don’t need. Many policies offer extras like rental car reimbursement, roadside assistance, or windshield repair. If you’re paying for them, consider whether they’re really worth the cost.
Once you finish this process for car insurance, do it again for life insurance, home insurance, and any other policies you have.
Reduce your energy costs
Saving money on electricity can add up over a year. Much like with groceries, one of the simplest ways to start is to reduce waste. A few simple habits can boost efficiency and shave dollars off your bill.
24. Switch to LED bulbs
LED bulbs use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs. Making the switch can work wonders in helping you cut down on your electricity bill.
25. Optimize laundry habits
Wash your clothes in cold water and avoid overfilling the dryer to conserve energy. Adopting these simple habits can significantly lower your energy consumption and reduce your utility bills.
26. Adjust your refrigerator temperature
Maintain your refrigerator at 37°F and your freezer at 0°F, and clean the coils periodically to ensure optimal efficiency. Proper temperature settings and regular maintenance can help prevent unnecessary energy use and prolong the life of your appliance.
27. Use your dishwasher’s air-dry setting
Use the air-dry instead of the heat-dry setting on your dishwasher to save energy. This small adjustment can make a noticeable difference in your energy bill without compromising the performance of your dishwasher.
28. Manage home temperature
Close shades on hot days and turn off the air conditioner when not needed to reduce cooling costs. Being mindful of home temperature and making adjustments based on the weather can lead to substantial energy savings.
29. Change furnace filters regularly
Regularly changing your furnace filter ensures it runs efficiently, saving you money in the long run. A clean filter improves air quality and allows the furnace to heat your home more effectively, avoiding unnecessary energy waste.
30. Conduct a home energy audit
If you own your home, consider making energy-efficient updates. Your local utility company or a professional home inspector can conduct a home energy audit and tell you how much energy your home uses, where inefficiencies exist, and which fixes you should prioritize to save energy.
Review your current subscriptions
Have you been keeping up with your Mandarin lessons, or is it time to let go of that language-learning app? When you turn on the TV, how many services do you rarely, or never, actually use?
31. Cancel unnecessary subscriptions
When you’re looking for savings opportunities, review all your subscriptions. Keep the ones you use at least three times a week and cut ties the rest. Look at things like phone apps, music services, TV and movie streaming, print and digital publications, and any free trials you signed up for but forgot to cancel. What do you really use and need? Cancel subscriptions that don’t enhance your life.
32. Look for ways to save on essential subscriptions
There may be ways to save money on some of the subscriptions you want to keep. For example, some services have multiple tiers or allow you to share an account with friends and family to split costs. Also, some phone or internet plans have a streaming service included. Check to see if your library has a video or music streaming app.
Pay off high-interest debt
Whether it’s personal loans, student loans, auto loans, credit card bills, or mortgages, around 340 million Americans carry some form of debt. Saving money can be a struggle when your budget is burdened with monthly payments. Credit card debt is often a particularly tough hole to dig out of; the average credit card interest rate is 27.81% as of January 2024.
33. Choose a debt repayment strategy
The sooner you make a plan to get out of debt, the sooner you can stash more money away in your savings account, emergency fund, and investments. If your budget allows, start paying down your high-interest debt like credit cards, personal loans, and car loans. Doing so can also help you improve your credit score.
But which loans should you tackle first? There are two popular approaches:
- The avalanche method is focused on paying off the debt with the highest interest rate because that higher rate costs you more money the longer you hold the loan.
- The snowball method is based on paying off your smallest balance first, then moving on to the next-highest balance, to give you a sense of momentum and accomplishment.
34. Consider debt consolidation
Debt consolidation can be a useful strategy for managing and reducing your debt. It involves combining multiple debts into one, often with a lower interest rate, making it easier to manage and pay off. This method can help reduce your monthly payments and save you money on interest over time, enabling you to allocate more funds towards savings.
Set realistic savings goals
Your monthly budget is a plan for what you’ll do with your money. That includes covering necessities like rent, groceries, and utilities as well as discretionary purchases. But your budget isn’t only about spending; it’s also your plan for saving up. So when you’re planning how to allocate your income, be sure to budget for savings.
In addition to asking how to save money, ask yourself why you want to save money. That’s how you determine your goals, and saving up can feel more achievable if you determine specific, realistic aims.
35. Establish an emergency fund
When the unexpected strikes, your emergency fund is there to cover expenses that you might otherwise have to put on a credit card or leave your budget squeezed. Keep your emergency fund in a savings account so it’s easy to access in the event of things like a big car repair, medical bill, or even covering living expenses in the event you’re laid off.
Ideally, you’ll have enough money to cover six months of living expenses in your emergency savings. That may sound like a large sum, but if you put a little aside each month, you may be surprised at how quickly it adds up.
36. Plan for short-term goals
Think about what you want to save for in the next one to three years. Maybe it’s fun stuff, like a vacation, a new bike, or a gaming console. You might want to save for practical things, like replacing your aging car or moving into a bigger apartment.
For each goal, figure out how much money you’ll need, how long you’ll save, and how much you’ll have to set aside each month to get there.
37. Set medium-term goals
Saving for things three to five years in the future is also more achievable when you set specific goals; your motivation to keep saving may be stronger if you can picture what you’re going for. You might save for a downpayment on a house, remodel if you already own a home, or start a small business
38. Focus on long-term goals
When you think a decade or more into the future, goals might be harder to picture, but saving for them now can help you get there. Building up retirement savings and paying for your children’s college education are big targets, so focus on consistently saving a certain amount over time. When the far-off future arrives, you’ll be better prepared for it.
Open a high-yield savings account
If you’re wondering how to save money more quickly, think about interest. When your money earns money, you add more to your nest egg without lifting a finger. The higher your savings account’s interest rate, the more your money will grow. And with compound interest, the interest you’ve earned also earns interest, so your savings grow even more rapidly.
39. Check your current savings account interest rate
If you’re keeping a large amount of money in a basic savings account at a big bank, you could be missing out on some serious earning potential. In December 2023, the average national bank savings account interest rate was only 0.47%, and it was a meager 0.01% at the largest banks.
If you don’t know your current savings account interest rate, log into your dashboard or look at your latest bank statement. While you have your bank accounts pulled up, review your checking account to see if you’re being charged any pesky bank fees that could be hindering your ability to save money.
Use a high-yield savings calculator to see if you could be earning more.
40. Switch to a high-yield account for better earnings
If your current savings account isn’t earning much, take 15 minutes today to sign up for a high-yield savings account. A high-yield savings account can help you reach your short-term savings goals and build your emergency fund faster.
These accounts work just like regular savings accounts; some have minimum balance requirements or monthly fees, but many don’t. With the proliferation of online banks and credit unions, there are a growing number of options; some online banks offer high-yield savings accounts with annual percentage yields of 4% or more.
41. Automate transfers to your savings account
Saving up money is an exciting idea in theory; in practice, though, it can take a lot of discipline. That’s where automatic transfers come in. Setting up an automatic monthly transfer from your checking account to your savings account is an effortless way to make sure you don’t accidentally spend.
Another option is to have your employer direct deposit a certain percentage of your paycheck into your savings account. As the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” goes, tucking away your funds before you see them will help to reduce the likelihood that you’ll spend all of your money each month.
Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses
Your college roommate is posting photos from another Caribbean vacation. Meanwhile, you’re clipping coupons and eating leftovers for lunch. When you compare your life to what everyone else around you seems to have, it can lead to anxiety and poor self-esteem.
Trying to keep up with the Joneses can lead you to torpedo your financial plan, spend money on things you don’t really want, and even accrue unmanageable levels of debt.
Learning how to save money isn’t just about the logistics of budgeting and adding to a bank account. It’s also about adopting a mindset that puts your financial priorities first:
42. Define your financial goals and values
Get clear about your money values and both the short-term and long-term financial goals you’re working toward. This clarity will help you stay focused on your priorities, rather than getting swayed by others’ spending habits.
When you see someone else splurging, picture the things you’re saving for. This mental imagery can act as a powerful motivator and reinforce your commitment to your financial objectives.
43. Limit your time on social media
Minimize your time on social media and unfollow accounts that make you feel envious or discouraged. Reducing exposure to ostentatious displays of wealth can help alleviate the pressure to conform to societal spending norms.
Associate with people who have similar values and personal finance goals. Being around individuals with comparable financial mindsets can help reinforce your saving habits and reduce the temptation to overspend.
44. Have a weekly money date
Make a weekly date with yourself to update your budget and check on your progress. Regularly monitoring your financial situation keeps you informed and motivated to achieve your set savings goals. If you have a partner or spouse, be sure to include them. Only if they know your household financial goals and the steps you’re taking to achieve them, can they make fully informed spending decisions with household dollars.
45. Celebrate your financial wins
When you achieve something, whether it’s hitting a set savings goal or coming in under budget on your groceries, celebrate your accomplishment. Acknowledging your successes, no matter how small, can boost your morale and keep you motivated on your savings journey.
Save and invest for the long haul with Stash
Once you get clear on your goals and figure out how to save money in ways that work for you, you may find yourself looking for more ways to work toward your long-term financial health. And that could include investing.
If that sounds daunting, you’re not alone: 90% of Americans say they want to invest, but nearly half don’t know where to start. Stash makes it easy to begin putting your money into the market with automated investing and fractional shares that allow you to become an investor with as little as $5.
The sooner you start saving money and investing, the longer your money has to grow. Whatever methods you use to save, and no matter how small you start, taking the first step can set you on the course toward long-term success.
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Start today with any dollar amount.
Frequently asked questions about how to save money
What is the 30-day rule?
The 30-day rule is a simple budgeting technique where you wait 30 days before making a non-essential purchase. If you need help controlling impulse purchases, this rule is a good one to use. It helps you determine whether the item is a true necessity.
How can I save $1000 fast?
To save $1,000 fast, consider cutting non-essential expenses, selling unused items, working extra shifts, or finding additional sources of income. Creating a budget and tracking expenses can also help you best save for your goals.
How can we save money in the current economy?
In the current economy, you can save money by reducing discretionary spending, shopping smarter with discounts and coupons, and prioritizing needs over wants. Consider refinancing high-interest loans and consolidating debt to further reduce expenses.
How can I save money with high inflation?
During high inflation, prioritize essential expenses, and cut back on non-essential spending. Consider buying store brands instead of name brands, and look for discounts and sales. Also, keep money in interest-bearing accounts to offset the impact of inflation.
Is it safe to keep money in the bank during inflation?
Yes, keeping money in the bank is generally safe during inflation due to the FDIC insurance protecting deposits up to $250,000 per depositor, per bank. However, the purchasing power of your money may decrease, so consider diversified investments to hedge against inflation.
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