9 ways to save money fast

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With millions of Americans out of a job or working reduced hours because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the idea of trying to save money may sound far-fetched. Yet, there are a number of steps you can start taking today to help you save money quickly.

None of these ideas will make you a fortune, but they can grow your savings. By following a plan and using some discipline, you can find yourself with more money at the end of the week or month, and in time, the year. Here are 9 ideas to help you save money fast.

  • Cancel unnecessary subscription services.
  • Try an app that helps you save without thinking about it.
  • Set up automatic payments for bills if you make a steady salary.
  • Switch banks.
  • Open a short-term CD.
  • Sign up for rewards and loyalty programs.
  • Buy with cash instead or set a control on your payment card.
  • Stop paying for convenience.
  • Sell unwanted items.

1. Ditch unnecessary subscription services

We use our payment cards for everything from Netflix to Amazon to free trials we signed up for but forgot about.

To be an effective saver, get rid of unnecessary subscriptions. Then, put the money you’re no longer spending into your savings.

It may seem like a chore to examine your credit and debit transactions to figure out which subscription services you pay for. Some banks offer digital features to make it easy. For instance, Wells Fargo showcases all of your recurring transactions in a digital hub it calls Control Tower. Bank of America’s virtual financial assistant, Erica, flags customers when a recurring charge or membership fee increases. Same with U.S. Bank’s mobile banking app.

You don’t have to have an account at a specific institution to get a helping hand. There are a number of fintech apps, like Trim, Truebill and Bill Slasher, that are designed to help you find ways to save on subscriptions and other bills.

2. Try an app that helps you save without thinking about it

If you often forget to put money into your savings account or struggle to know how much to sock away, consider using an app that does the work for you.

There are plenty of options. Consider trying an auto-savings app like Qapital or Digit or Fifth Third Bank’s Dobot. These automated savings apps are designed to move money on your behalf so that you’re building a savings habit while living your life.

You won’t earn the highest APY on your deposits (or sometimes any) with these apps, so once you’ve saved up a bundle, consider transferring the money into a high-yield account.

3. Set up automatic payments for bills if you make a steady salary

We’re busy. It’s all too easy to forget to pay all of our bills on time, especially if we travel a lot.

One of the easy ways to save money is to pay your bills when they’re due, assuming you can afford to do so.

Companies charge you late fees for any balances that are overdue. While this might amount to just $5 here or $10 there, those fees quickly add up — especially if you pay multiple bills late. Some billers might charge you steeper fees, too. If you’re late on your credit card bill for the first time, issuers can charge up to $28 for your first delinquency, for instance.

If you earn steady paychecks, set up automatic payments for bills to make sure they’re paid whether you’re home or traveling. It’s also important to keep an eye on your bank account balance to avoid overdraft fees.

If you have an irregular income, you may want to hold off automating your bill payments. Instead, consider trying a service like Steady. The app will help you boost your income by connecting you to side hustles when your payday and bill due dates are at odds. Then, add to your savings account whenever your paycheck hits. Potentially, you can automate this task.

Some banks let you set up a rule within your digital banking account. At JPMorgan Chase, digital bank customers can set up an auto-savings rule so that when they, say, receive a $1,000 deposit, the bank will automatically move $100 of it into a savings account.

4. Switch banks

Banks make a lot of money from account fees. In fact, big banks with at least $1 billion in assets made $11.68 billion in 2019 in overdraft and non-sufficient funds fees alone, according to an analysis of FDIC data by the Center for Responsible Lending.

If you pay monthly fees for a checking or savings account, it’s time to switch banks to save money. There are plenty of banks that offer free accounts. Some banks will give you a generous bonus just for opening an account.

For your savings account, look for one that pays a competitive yield. Many online banks and fintech companies pay 1 percent APY or more on savings. Compare savings accounts to find one that fits your needs.

5. Open a short-term CD

If you can afford to leave your savings in a certificate of deposit for up to a year, you may find value in opening a short-term CD. The best one-year CDs can help you earn a higher APY than a savings account. Make sure to shop around to find the highest yields.

If you’re just starting to build your savings, look for an account that requires no minimum deposit or a small one. You can compare rates and minimum deposits for CDs ranging from one-month terms to one-year terms on Bankrate.

One important caveat: If you think you might need the cash before the CD term ends, avoid CDs so you won’t have to pay early withdrawal penalties.

6. Sign up for rewards and loyalty programs

There’s a good chance you already have discount cards for grocery stores and drugstores in your area. If you don’t, sign up for them to get immediate savings on food, household supplies and other goods you use on a daily basis.

If you do, make sure you’re using the programs to their fullest. Sign up for emails and download the stores’ apps to receive additional savings. Use the cards regularly to help save money at checkout or to earn rewards for free items, discounts at the gas pump or even money off of future purchases.

Pay attention to the brands’ social media handles, too. The brands you buy from could promote specials among their tweets and Instagram photos.

7. Buy with cash or set a control on your card

You can trick your brain into saving money every time you go to the store by using cash instead of a credit card to make a purchase. If you have $100 in cash, that’s your spending limit.

You have to start putting items back if you exceed that limit. If you have a credit card, you can go over your $100 limit and justify it by saying that you were close.

If you prefer to avoid visiting ATMs to take out cash, you can potentially set a control on your debit or credit card. Check your bank app to see if it lets you set spending parameters on your payment cards. It’s not uncommon for a bank to let you control what you want to spend and where from within its mobile banking app.

8. Stop paying for convenience

It’s the American way to pay for convenience. People are willing to pay $5 for a taco they can make at home for less than $1. They pay $6 for a cup of coffee at a local cafe rather than brew an entire pot of coffee at home for a few dimes.

Taking a little extra time out of your day to brew your own coffee or clean and repair things around the house can grow your bank account.

Choose to reduce your expenses on things you care less about. If you value a well-made latte, buy it. But find something else to cut.

9. Sell unwanted items

If you need an injection of cash fast, sell items you no longer want.

Look at your closet, attic, garage or storage space to find the dress or ring you no longer wear. Then, write a post about the item(s) and sell them on, say, eBay or Nextdoor. You could also head to the local thrift store to sell items you no longer use.

If you discover a number of things you want to sell, go bigger: host a garage sale to really pad your wallet.

Whatever approach you take, do your homework to avoid regrets. Make sure you know the value of an item before you sell it for less than it is worth.

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