The very idea of trying to save money quickly when you’re living paycheck to paycheck may seem like a fantasy.
We won’t sugar coat it: There is no silver bullet to helping you build significant savings right away. Yet, there are a number of steps you can take now to help you quickly set aside money for the future. None of these ideas will make you a fortune, but they can grow your savings.
With a strategy in mind and some discipline, you can find yourself with more money at the end of the week or month, and in time, the year. Here are 10 ideas that can help you save money fast.
- Ditch 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.
- Prep your meals.
1. Ditch unnecessary subscription services
We save our payment cards on everything from Netflix to Amazon to free trials we signed up for but forgot about.
While we value some of these subscription services, we may no longer use others. To be an effective saver, ditch the 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, but some banks offer digital features to help you solve the mystery. 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.
Mastercard also announced a feature that requires merchants to ask you again whether you want a physical product subscription before they can charge you for, say, that vitamin subscription once your free trial runs out.
You don’t have to have an account at a specific institution or card issuer 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 $27 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 fees. In fact, the top three banks in the U.S. — JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo — earned more than $6.4 billion in overdraft and ATM fees alone in 2016, according to CNNMoney.
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 signing up for an account, too.
Move your money to a new account and stop paying fees. For your savings, look for an account that pays a competitive yield. Many online banks and fintech companies offer 2 percent APY or more for your 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 quickly.
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.
10. Prepare your meals
We need food, but we don’t need to dine out all the time. It’s easy to waste money on unsatisfying smoothies and stale sandwiches during the week, so grow your savings by prepping your meals.
True, it’s easy to overspend at the grocery store, too. So, visit the store with a plan in mind: Shop for what’s in season; it should cost less and taste better. Buy staple pantry items in bulk. And don’t rely on the closest grocery store to buy your food items if it costs more than another one just a little farther away.
Consider thinking outside of the box to uncover savings. For instance, you could subscribe to an ugly vegetable service, such as Imperfect Produce or the Misfits Market. Because their vegetables don’t look flawless, their produce costs less than the produce at the grocery store, according to the companies. But remember tip No 1: If it’s not something you use, don’t waste your money on the subscription service.