10 savings tips you should know (and FAQs to help)
Saving money doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a lifelong process. A skill you develop over time. And it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. For some people, the hardest part is simply getting started.
The key to saving money is developing smart habits and disciplined behaviors. But there are also a few tools and tricks to help you grow your savings faster. If you’re looking to take control of your financial future and finally get serious about saving money, read on for essential saving tips and strategies everyone should know. Now, onto the saving tips.
Here are 10 tips to help you start saving money:
1. Start with your savings goals.
Think about WHY you want savings in the first place. Is it to pay down debt? Or to save for a house? A car? Would you have less stress with a rainy day fund?
Setting an initial savings goal can add extra motivation because you can picture the finish line. The more specific each of your goals, the less intimidating they seem. After all, the idea of saving a ton of money seems like a pretty daunting task.
Breaking your savings up into smaller, more achievable goals along the way can help keep you on track. For each savings goal, put a timeline around it. WHEN do you want to have reached $X,XXX amount in your savings account?
2. Establish a few ground rules.
You know yourself. Your existing habits. Good and bad. Establish some checks and balances to make sure you’re sticking to your own plan. For example, ask yourself a set of questions before you allow yourself to dip into your savings.
- Is this an emergency situation?
- Is money right now more important than my next savings goal?
- Will I be able to get this money back?
- When will I be able to put the money I take out back in?
Life happens. You can’t always save as much you’d like to —?it’s okay for today’s needs to come first when it makes sense for you and your family. As long as you’re having honest, upfront conversations with yourself, you won’t have as many regrets later.
3. Pay yourself first.
When that next paycheck comes around, make sure you’re looking out for you – that means paying yourself first, in savings. Talk with your employer about setting up an automatic deposit into a savings account. That way, you don’t have to think about taking money out of your budget to set aside for savings. When your savings is automatic, you don’t miss the money as much. The process becomes a lot less painless.
And if your income stretches beyond your own individual needs, you don’t have to negotiate what part of your paycheck goes where.
4. Pay ahead on your debt.
Not only does debt eat away at your disposable income each month, the longer it drags out, the more it costs you in total interest. Plus, having to worry about making your monthly payments also makes it difficult to start setting aside real money on a regular basis.
When you pay down your outstanding credit card bills and loan debt as soon as you can, it actually saves you money on interest in the long run —?even if it takes a bit more money out of your budget right now.
You should prioritize getting out of debt as one of your first savings goals. Once you’re finally debt-free, you can start actively saving more money for your future.
5. Make sure you have a good bank account.
If you’re paying monthly service fees or too much in ATM fees, you really don’t have to. There are more options out there than “the account my parents set up for me” or even “the place I’ve always banked.” In fact, a lot of local community banks and credit unions (and definitely ?Kasasa?ones) will actually reward you for banking there — not only letting you earn higher APYs on checking accounts, but they can also provide you with cash back,?refunds on purchases, and other rewards. And if you don’t have a saving account yet, you can comparison shop for the best APYs on your savings too.
Some megabanks simply charge fees and offer lower rates because they can. But when you know your options, you can get a lot more for your money. Literally. Those same community banks and credit unions also let you build a real relationship for when it’s time for a loan or mortgage, too.
6. Compare insurance plans and choose the right type of health insurance.
A lot like your bank account, your health insurance plan can make a real difference in how much money you have to budget each month —?and it’s something you shouldn’t take for granted. Finding the right health insurance for you can save you a lot of money —?whether in terms of how much you’re paying as a monthly premium, or how much you might rack up in medical bills.
Two common types of health insurance plans are PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) and HDHP (High Deductible Health Plan). With a PPO plan, you typically pay more upfront in your monthly premium, but you’re on the hook for more money when it comes to your medical bills thanks to a lower deductible. An HDHP, on the other hand, saves you money with a lower monthly premium, but if you do get sick, you run the risk of more out-of-pocket costs.
If you’re the type of person who rarely goes to the doctor, you can also check out a Health Savings Account (HSA), which works in conjunction with an HDHP — offering tax-advantaged savings to help you cover qualified medical expenses (that you would be paying for out-of-pocket with your higher deductible).
7. Pay more attention to your spending.
We all spend money. It’s nothing to feel bad about. But do you actually know how much? And on what?
The most basic step in saving money is understanding where all your money goes. That means checking your account balances regularly and looking at your transaction history in full detail. When it comes to your money, ignorance isn’t bliss. It’s a dangerous game.
Once you know what you’re spending the most money on, you know where you can cut back. Do you still use all those monthly subscriptions? Are all your Amazon purchases piling up? If you’re spending too much money going out to eat — then a trip to the grocery store for some meal prep might be a great place to start. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spent $8,169 on food alone in 2019 ($3,526 on eating out), so for a lot of us, this is an easy place to start.
But to get your finances where you need to go, first you need to know where they stand with a full breakdown of your own personal spending.
8. Cut down those energy bills.
Energy saving tip time. Unlike cutting into your spending, cutting down on your energy costs doesn’t require hard choices. Rather simple changes in lifestyle and habits. And those changes add up.
According to Energy.gov, you can save up to 10% on your annual heating and cooling bills by turning your thermostat down just 7°to 10°F, for only 8 hours a day, or consider a programmable thermostat. If you still work in an office or are out of those during the work week, you won’t even notice the change most days. Plus, using power strips for your electronics and remembering to turn off your devices when you leave can save you up to 12% on your electric bill.
9. Don’t deprive yourself.
Just like a diet, going too hard, too fast might make you splurge, crave, and binge more on the back end.
Saving is about making smarter choices. Not suffering. So instead of thinking about your budget like cutting out all the things you enjoy, turn your favorite luxuries into a reward for sticking to your plan.
You also don’t have to cut out your most expensive hobbies or habits entirely. Try scaling back a bit first and see how much you can save.
10. Think about retirement now.
Like right now. Compounding interest is your friend. Unfamiliar with the term? It’s when you earn interest on your interest. As in the money you earn earns more money. The sooner you start making contributions to a 401k or retirement plan, the more money that money can earn.
Five to ten extra years of compounding interest can make a HUGE difference in how much retirement savings you have when you reach retirement age. Huge, as in hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on how much you contribute each month.
If you have a 401k through your employer, make sure you’re contributing to that plan — especially if your employer offers to match funds. That’s almost as good as getting an actual raise. Money you save in a retirement account also has distinct tax advantages to help you save more money overall for the future.
Saving money made simple: Savings FAQs explained.
How much should you have in savings?
That depends on your age. Obviously, if you just graduated college you’re not going to have had the time or means to save as much as someone who’s approaching retirement age. It also depends on how much money you can live on and still live comfortably. People who make more money often need to save more as well because they develop expensive habits that are tough to break, even once the money stops rolling in.
At age 30, you should have saved roughly one year of salary. At 40, you should try to increase your savings to 2x to 3x your current salary. By age 50, that number should be all the way up to 5x to 7x your current salary. In your 60s —?as you get closer to the retirement age of 67 (when you can withdraw without tax penalties from our 401k or retirement account) —?you’ll want to have saved at least 10x to 11x of your annual salary.
If those numbers sound ambitious, don’t let the anxiety set in. You’re not alone. In fact, nearly one quarter of all Americans have no money set aside from retirement yet at all. Falling behind doesn’t mean you should give up on retirement. It means it’s time you get started.
What's the right emergency fund amount?
The size of your emergency fund also depends on how much money you make and the amount you’re used to living on. Your emergency fund should be enough to account for three to six months of your living expenses, whatever that total may be.
That’s money you should have quickly on hand in case of a crisis. After all, you can’t really prepare for the unexpected —?that’s why they call it an emergency fund.
Of course, you can also have too much in your emergency fund. Unlike a savings or investment account, your money won’t grow if it’s just sitting there waiting. So don’t spend too much time or money worrying about what could happen today instead of putting money away for your future.
Can multiple savings accounts help you save more?
Yes, it can. But not because you’re earning any additional money. You can earn just as much money in one savings account as multiple savings accounts as long as you have a really high APY (“annual percentage yield,” the amount you get paid on your money per year).
However, having multiple savings accounts is a tactic some savers use to compartmentalize their savings goals. Opening a specific savings account for something like a new car or vacation can help you visualize what you’re saving for —?it also can make it less likely that you dip into that money if you set it aside in its very own separate savings account.
If you think multiple savings accounts make sense for your savings plan, just be sure you’re getting a competitive APY on each account, so you don’t miss out on extra money and more total savings overall.
How can you start saving more money today?
Direct deposit is the easiest way to start — and stick to — a savings plan. Have money go directly from your paycheck to your savings account.
Also make sure to enroll in a 401k plan ASAP if you’re offered one through your employer. Again, both time and compound interest are your friend when it comes to retirement savings. Contribute as much as you comfortably can today because you can’t get that time back later.
Does switching insurance save money?
If you watch TV, you’ve certainly seen the commercials. For auto insurance, “Fifteen minutes can save you up to 15%!” How much you can actually save on any type of insurance will ultimately come down to your specific situation.
That’s why any insurance company will offer you a quote of how much your plan should cost, accounting for specific factors like your age and other personal questions.
The trick to saving money on insurance is getting quotes from multiple insurance providers. Though insurance shopping may not be as much fun as traditional shopping, comparison shopping is always a smart strategy when it comes to saving money.
So shop around before you decide to switch. Start with a free quote. Then get another. And another. There’s no obligation and the price you’re quoted isn’t binding.
Money saving tips are just the start.
There’s no one life hack, savings tip, or answer on the internet that can solve all your savings goals. It comes down to planning, smart spending, and commitment. The next step is an honest assessment of where your finances stand today and setting attainable targets for where you want to be.
Only then can you implement these simple saving strategies and lifestyle changes to better fit your budget within your means. Happy saving!