Year after year, the top financial New Year’s resolution for many Americans is to save more money. Yet, those good intentions often don’t materialize into an actual increase in savings. A survey by AARP found that 43% of adults who vowed to save more in 2019 had already broken their resolution two months into the year.
Don’t let that discourage you, though. Sticking to a resolution to save more doesn’t have to be that hard if you find easy ways to save – and there are plenty.
You may find that a three-pronged approach could boost your savings in 2020. First, look for easy ways to cut costs, so there’s more room in your budget to build an emergency fund and increase retirement savings. Then, find easy ways to generate extra cash that you can stash in savings. Finally, take advantage of simple strategies to grow your savings.
Easy ways to cut costs to increase your savings
Cutting costs doesn’t have to involve hours of clipping coupons, eating only beans and rice, or turning down the thermostat to 60 degrees and wearing five layers. There are easier – and less painful ways – to reduce your expenses to have more room in your budget to save.
1. Review your spending
Have you taken the time to see where your money actually is going every month? “The easiest ways I saved money was to comb through my bank statements and see what I was spending money on,” says Miriam Joy Niblack, founder of the financial independence blog Greenbacks Magnet. She was able to save $8,000 in just one year by cutting out all unnecessary expenditures.
2. Lower your electric bill
“One of the easiest ways to save money is by reducing your energy bill,” says Robert Farrington, founder of The College Investor. You can do this quickly – without resorting to replacing traditional incandescent lightbulbs with LED bulbs. Although LED bulbs are more expensive than conventional bulbs, they pay for themselves. Farrington says his monthly electric bill dropped by an average of $70 after he switched his lightbulbs.
3. Shop around for your renters, homeowners and auto insurance
Chances are you’re paying more for renters, homeowners or auto insurance than you need to. When Vicki Cook, co-founder of Women Who Money, recently shopped around to see if she could get cheaper insurance coverage, she found that she could save hundreds of dollars by switching insurers. “It’s a little bit of work, but the payback can be big,” she says. “I’ve taken my insurance off ‘auto-pay’ now so that I will remember to shop it each year.”
4. Switch service providers
You might also be overpaying for other services – cellular service, in particular. “Most people only know the most expensive options,” says Logan Allec, a CPA, and owner of personal finance blog Money Done Right. “But there are many other networks out there that are only a fraction of the cost.”
5. Ditch services you’re not using
“We often think we can’t cut something because it’s indispensable until you track how much you really use it versus how much you think you use it,” says Jim Wang, a money-saving expert and founder of Best Wallet Hacks. So make a list of the services you pay for on a monthly basis then keep track of how often you use them. You’ll likely find that there are at least a few you can ditch because you rarely use them.
6. Order groceries online
You can save money – and time – by ordering groceries online and picking them up or having them delivered. Andrew Daniels, co-founder of Millennial Homeowner, says he slashed his grocery bill by 30% using this simple strategy because it helps him avoid the impulse buys he makes at the store. Plus, it’s easier to stick to a shopping budget because the online cart shows the cost before he checks out. And the time he’s not spending shopping, he can work and earn more.
7. Shop with discounted gift cards
Retailers often sell their gift cards at a discount around the holidays. You also can find discounted gift cards on websites such as GiftCardGranny.com and Raise.com. Sure, gift cards make great gifts. But you can use discounted gift cards to get instant savings when you shop. “Keep an eye out for these deals and stock up on them if they have them for stores that you frequent often,” says Rachel Jones of Moneyhackingmama.com.
8. Get clothes for free
To update your wardrobe for free, iHeartBudgets.net founder Jacob Wade recommends hosting a clothing swap party. Invite friends to bring clothes they don’t want, hang up the items and let everyone pick and choose what they want. You also could join your local “Buy Nothing” Facebook® Group, which connects people who want to find and get rid of things for free. “We used this for everything, including baby and kids’ clothing, as well as clothes for ourselves,” Wade says. It has saved his family hundreds of dollars on clothing.
9. Put an end to impulse purchases
Donna Freedman, a personal finance journalist and author of the “Your Playbook For Tough Times” books, has several easy strategies to eliminate those budget-wrecking impulse buys. Before buying anything, give yourself a cooling-off period of at least a day to consider whether it’s something you really want. You could call a friend to talk you down from the purchase. Or take the time to figure out the true cost of the purchase – how many hours you’d have to work to pay for it. Then consider how you could put that money to work for you by investing it instead, Freedman says.
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Easy ways to make more money to stash in savings
You can only cut expenses so much. To really kick your savings into high gear, look for ways to generate more cash. Believe it or not, making extra money can be easy.
10. Snag a new bank account bonus
“Many banks are now offering several hundred dollar cash bonuses to new customers just to open an account, deposit money and set up a direct deposit,” Wang says. That extra cash could be the start of an emergency fund, then you could keep funding it with the money you save by cutting expenses.
11. Use cash back credit cards
You can make money by using a cash back credit card to make everyday purchases. These credit cards offer a percentage back in cash of each purchase you make. By using a cash back credit card to make all of their purchases, Whitney Bonds, founder of the blog Tried and True Mom Jobs, and her husband racked up $600 in cash back rewards last year. “This is essentially free money as long as you are responsible and can pay your bills on time” to avoid paying interest on a balance, she says.
12. Get rebates for online shopping
You also can earn cash back on purchases by using cash-back shopping portals such as Rakuten and Mr. Rebates. “Cash back shopping just requires you to take two extra steps for online shopping,” says Abigail Perry, founder of the I Pick Up Pennies blog. “Instead of going directly to the store’s website, you go to the rebate site and find the store there, then click that store link.” You’ll get a percentage of your purchase amount back by check or a PayPal deposit.
13. Sell what you don’t need
An easy way to generate extra cash for savings is to sell things you no longer use, says Katie Brewer, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER professional and founder of Your Richest Life. “Twice a year, I try to clean everything out of my house,” she says. For example, if she finds clothing she hasn’t worn, she uses mobile apps, such as Poshmark or Mercari to list her items and get a percentage of the sales price. You also can use local consignment stores, Craiglist or Facebook to sell unwanted items.
14. Take advantage of money-making apps
“The emergence of fintech apps, like Uber and Airbnb, is making it easier than ever to earn extra money, which you can then use to boost your savings,” says Tom Drake, founder of MapleMoney.com. “The beauty of these money-making apps is that you decide when you work, and how much money you want to make.” Plus, the apps bring customers to you. You can become a pet sitter with an app such as Rover, rent out your car with Turo or your RV with Outdoorsy, deliver food with Uber Eats, and the list goes on.
15. Consider adjusting your tax withholding
An overwhelming majority of taxpayers got a refund for the 2019 filing year, and the average amount they received was $2,781, according to the Internal Revenue Service. That means most Americans are letting Uncle Sam hang onto too much of their paycheck during the year. Use the IRS tax withholding calculator to see if you may want to adjust your withholding and put money back in your paycheck that you could consider contributing to your workplace retirement account or other account.
Easy ways to grow your savings and peace of mind
Cutting costs and generating extra cash won’t improve your bottom line unless you actually put the money in a savings account, or you may want to consider investing it. The following strategies can help you increase your savings rate and grow the money you have in savings faster.
16. Stash your savings in savings
If you use the tips listed above to cut your costs, make sure you actually put the money you save into savings. “For several years now, I’ve had a saved savings account,” Perry says. “When I save with a coupon, sale or store rewards on something I was going to buy anyway, the money goes in the account. I also put in the savings that I got from cutting the cord, getting my Internet bill lowered.”
17. Save your spare change
“Most people hardly bother to think about their pocket change,” Allec says. But a few cents here and there can add up quickly. So set out a jar to collect your spare change. “Using a change jar can help you put away an extra couple hundred dollars each year without additional effort,” he says. If you rarely use cash, you could use a savings app, such as Acorns®, Digit and Qapital, to round up debit and credit card purchases and invest that spare change for you.
18. Switch to a high-yield savings account
If you have cash stashed in a savings account for an emergency fund or short-term savings goal, check the interest rate on the account. “If they aren’t giving you any notable interest on your money, it could be time to take your money elsewhere,” says Brett Holzhauer, a writer at FinanceBuzz. You still can find high-yield savings accounts with rates of 2% or higher, according to Bankrate. The higher the rate, the faster your savings will grow.
19. Buy life insurance to benefit the people you care about most
Most of our tips deal with cutting costs in 2020. But if you haven’t bought life insurance yet, now can be the best time to do so. That’s because rates tend to be lower when you’re young and healthy. So if you know you need coverage, now is the time to get it. How much life insurance should you buy? That depends on your circumstances, but an online life insurance calculator can help determine the best plan for you that will cover what you need — without breaking the bank.
20. Save your raise
If you get a pay raise for 2020, consider putting the extra money into your retirement account instead of your checking account, or consider increasing your 401(k) contribution percentage when you receive a raise, until to help maximize your retirement plan contributions, says Byrke Sestok, a CFP® professional and co-founder of Rightirement Wealth Partners.
21. Automate health care savings
Nearly 50% of Americans aren’t prepared to cover the costs of an unexpected injury or serious illness, according to a survey by health savings account platform Lively. An easy way to save for health care costs is to take advantage of a health savings account or medical flexible spending account. If your employer offers these accounts, you can have contributions to either one deducted automatically from your paycheck.
22. Get help saving for your kids’ college education
You can consider opening a 529 college savings plan account to save for your children’s education with a deposit of $50 or less. Then you could ask family to contribute to the account for birthdays and holidays instead of overloading your kids with gifts, says DeDe Jones, a CFP® professional and managing director of Innovative Financial. “Money you don’t have to spend on your kids’ college could help you save for retirement,” she says.
23. Cut investment fees
For more of your investment money to work for you, look into the potential for reducing the fees you’re paying on the investments in your account. Even a small fee reduction of 1% can reduce the value of a portfolio with a 4% annual return by $30,000 over 20 years compared with a fee of 0.25%, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission. If the fees you’re paying on your investments are high, see if your retirement plan offers lower-fee alternatives.
24. Make saving fun
Saving money doesn’t have to feel like a chore. Make it fun – and easier to do – by creating a reward system for reaching savings goals, Jones says. Remember, though, that the reward should be something that costs little or nothing, such as taking a favorite hike.
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Cameron Huddleston is the author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances. She also is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about personal finance for more than 17 years. You can learn more about her at CameronHuddleston.com. Opinions are those of the author or the person interviewed.
Haven Life Insurance Agency offers this as educational information only and does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here.
Haven Life Insurance Agency (Haven Life) is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material has been prepared for educational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel.
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Rakuten is a trademark of Rakuten, Inc.
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Mercari is a trademark of Mercari, Inc.
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Airbnb is a trademark of Airbnb, Inc.
Rover is a trademark of A Place for Rover, Inc.
Turo is a trademark of Turo, Inc.
Outdoorsy is a trademark of Outdoorsy.
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