Having readily accessible cash on hand is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself in the event of an emergency or loss of employment. Unfortunately, due to growing monthly bills, saving often gets put on the back burner. If you find yourself having difficulty putting away money for when you need it most or for your future goals, try the tips below.
1. Set Up a Savings Account
You may be less inclined to save without having an established savings account. Many banks will now allow a low balance to maintain a savings account, so get one started even if you don't have much to put in.
Online banks like Discover often offer a higher interest rate with no balance requirements or monthly fees.
2. Schedule Automatic Deposits to Your Account
Putting money away before you have access to it is the easiest way to facilitate savings. Set a specific amount of your paycheck to deposit directly into your savings account even if you can only part with a small portion each week. Paying yourself first should be a priority. Treat this savings just like your retirement contribution.
3. Budget Wisely
Savings is very difficult if you don't have a proper budget. Create a budget that includes all your expenses as well as the amount you want to put into savings each month and stick to it, no matter what. (For related reading, see: The Complete Guide to Planning a Yearly Budget.)
4. Find Ways to Cut Costs
There are numerous ways to cut costs at your home and during the course of your daily life. Make sure to conserve energy when you can by unplugging unnecessary electronics and reduce your energy costs by practicing energy conservation techniques. Use public transportation instead of Uber or Lyft. Find inexpensive or free entertainment ideas like local music festivals or art fairs. Cut out expensive lunches at work by packing your lunch, which can also be an easier way to eat healthy.
5. Ditch Unnecessary Memberships
Memberships that seem necessary, such as a gym membership, can add up to a significant amount of money throughout the year. While there are many free ways to get the exercise you need, for the amount you spend annually on memberships you could afford to purchase a piece of exercise equipment to get you through the winter months when outdoor activities may not be an option.
Examine other subscriptions to see if you are utilizing them every month. Has it been awhile since you used your Hulu, Netflix or Spotify account? It may be time to ditch those services to save a bit more money.
6. Do It Yourself When You Can
Many of the minor home and vehicle repairs you encounter can be easy to do yourself. Researching fixes that are easy and safe for you to do and taking care of them on your own can save hundreds of dollars in maintenance calls and repair charges. Check out YouTube for how-to videos. This can also be a fun and inexpensive way to learn a new skill. (For related reading, see: 5 Car Repairs You Should Do Yourself.)
7. Budget Shop
Don't be afraid to look for a bargain. When shopping for items like clothes, utilizing places like garage sales and thrift stores can help you find up to five times the number of pieces of clothing for the same price as one new outfit. The added benefit is if your clothes become damaged, you will not be as upset about the loss of money.
8. Take Advantage of Reward Plans
There are reward plans available for almost any type of shopping. Gas stations, grocery stores, online shopping and clothing shops almost always offer some free reward program just for signing up. While these savings can seem minimal at first, they can add up over time.
Check out your credit card rewards to see if you can take better advantage of your monthly spending habits, but always be mindful of how much you spend each month so you can pay off your bill at the end of the month. (For related reading, see: How to Make Credit Card Rewards Worth It.)
9. Put Away Your Loose Change
Oftentimes loose change is forgotten or discarded due to its low value, but those pennies can add up to a lot over time. Designate a place for your change and once it is filled, put it directly into your savings account. This is an easy way to save every month, especially if you have decided to try a cash-only plan. Get a mason jar and see your savings grow.
10. Plan Your Meals
Planning your meals can help you save money in a number of ways. You will be able to reduce the number of trips you make to the grocery store and you will be able to buy more items in bulk, which will account for a lower price per piece.
Another added benefit of planning meals is that you are less likely to spend money on take-out when you can't think of what to have for dinner.
Try some of the tips above to help grow your savings and prepare you for an emergency, a loss of wages, or just provide you with savings to start planning for your future.
(For more from this author, see: Using IRAs to Save Additional Retirement Funds.)