Saving money doesn’t have to be so hard. It just takes practice.
Once you get into the habit of consistently putting money away, it’s possible to save enough cash for emergencies, retirement and other goals you’re hoping to reach. You can do it. All you need is a positive attitude and a winning strategy that’ll help you take your savings to the next level.
Ready to get started? Here are 15 savings tips you can use to boost your savings and transform your financial life.
Top ways to save money in 2018
Check out these expert tips on how to save money:
- Start saving now.
- Clearly define your goals.
- Set daily, monthly and yearly goals.
- Automate your savings.
- Put your savings in the right place.
- Consider a savings account with a bonus.
- Turn saving money into a lifestyle.
- Budget and track your spending.
- Don’t be afraid to negotiate.
- Use excess cash wisely.
- Adjust your tax withholdings.
- Find an accountability partner.
- Assess your progress.
- Save for retirement.
- Just say no.
1. Start saving now
Though the economy is doing well, most Americans haven’t gotten a raise in a while. No wonder many of us are having a hard time saving money.
But saving something is better than failing to save anything. “The sooner you develop the habit of saving, the better off you’ll be,” says Mary McDougall, a wealth management adviser with Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and a certified financial planner.
Start small and save often. If you can’t set aside $1,000 this month, try saving $20 per week.
“If you wait until the end of the month and try to save what is left over, nothing will be left over. And even when there is, there is no consistency to it,” says Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst. “So flip that around and establish the habit of saving first.”
2. Clearly define your goals
Some people aren’t motivated to save money. Others want to start saving, but don’t know where to begin. That’s why setting specific, realistic goals is important. Once you know why you’re setting aside part of your paycheck, deciding to save rather than spend your extra money should be easier.
Make sure you have enough money set aside to meet your immediate and future needs. Here are some saving goals everyone should have.
Short-term savings tips
- Save for emergencies. Having at least three to six months worth of emergency savings is critical. Prepare for the unexpected by socking money away in a high-yield savings account.
- Save up for a major purchase. Planning to replace your refrigerator or get a new car? Save as much as you can and use the right rewards credit card when you’re ready to make the big purchase.
- Save for a vacation. Everyone deserves a break. Make sure you have enough money to enjoy your time away by cutting back on unnecessary expenses and putting the money for your trip in a separate account. If you can’t afford to go too far, a staycation is always an option.
Long-term savings tips
- Save for a house. Ready to live the American dream? Start socking money away for your down payment, your monthly mortgage payments, property taxes and insurance premiums. If you’re still renting, consider finding a roommate in order to save money. Taking on a second job is another way to earn extra cash.
- Save for your child’s education. It’s never too early to start thinking about your son or daughter’s college career. Parents should consider saving money in a tax-advantaged account like a 529 plan.
- Save money for the future. Will you have enough money to survive your 60s, 70s and beyond? Create a budget for your future self and devise a plan for saving enough money to cover bills and medical and travel expenses.
3. Set daily, monthly and yearly goals
Having a list of goals you can generally work towards is a good start. But it’s best to turn saving money into something you do regularly.
Don’t just plan to save money because you want to travel to a different continent or afford a nice home. Find ways to spend less and save more every day, month and year. Here are some ideas in case you’re drawing a blank.
Daily savings tips
- Save while you shop. If you’re constantly overspending when you’re shopping for groceries and clothing, the money you’re wasting will start to add up. Comparison shop to make sure you’re getting the best deal on everything you buy. Consider using apps like ShopSavvy.
- Save on gas: Stop paying the price when you pay at the pump. An app like GasBuddy can come in handy when you’re trying to save money while you’re filling up your car.
- Save on other daily expenses. Tips and tricks — like canceling subscriptions you’re not using and bringing your lunch to work — can go a long way toward helping you save more money every day.
Monthly savings tips
- Save on electricity. If you’re utility bills are too high, it’s time to make a change. Find a way to reduce the size of your monthly electric bill. Switch to a provider that charges a lower rate and make changes that’ll save you money on heating and cooling.
- Lower your debt payments. Spending too much money on credit card or student loan interest? Improving your credit score will help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Consider low-rate balance transfer offers and find out whether you could save on student loans by refinancing or applying for an income-based repayment plan.
- Save on insurance. Shop around to see if you can get cheaper insurance from another provider. And do the math to find out whether you can afford to pay a higher deductible (and therefore reduce your monthly premiums).
Yearly savings tips
- Save on taxes. Find out if you’re paying the IRS more money than you should. Make an appointment with a professional, especially now that a new tax law is in place.
- Max out your retirement accounts. If you can, plan every year to save as much for retirement as possible within the annual limits.
- Boost your income. Anyone at any income level can save money. But there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make more money with the intention of saving more. During your annual performance review, see if you can secure a raise. Or look for passive streams of income.
4. Automate your savings
One of the easiest ways to meet your short- and long-term goals is to make saving money something that happens automatically.
Set up direct deposit so that a portion of every paycheck automatically goes into a savings account for your emergency savings, McBride says. If you haven’t signed up for your 401(k) or another employer-sponsored retirement plan, change that so that you’re making contributions and saving for retirement every time you get paid.
Don’t have a retirement plan at work? Open a traditional or Roth IRA. Look for a firm that lets you make automatic contributions, like Wealthfront or Fidelity.
If you’re looking for other ways to automate your savings, try using an app like Acorns or Digit that save money for you so that you don’t have to think about it. Or use a cash-back credit card that lets you save money every time you spend.
5. Put your savings in the right place
Make sure you’re putting your savings in the right account. If your savings account pays less than 1 percent, you’re missing out on the opportunity to earn more interest and reach your savings goals faster.
The best savings accounts pay around 2 percent APY. Many of the top savings accounts require a low minimum deposit and don’t charge any monthly maintenance fees.
Consider opening a CD if you’re putting money away for a short-term goal and you don’t mind tying up your funds for a year. And take advantage of the power of compound interest. Look for an account that indicates that interest compounds daily rather than monthly. That way, you’re earning the highest amount of interest.
You can compare rates on savings accounts and CDs on Bankrate to find the right account for you.
6. Consider a savings account with a bonus
Some banks will pay you just for opening a savings account. You’ll have to follow the rules and meet certain requirements — like having a specific number of debit card transactions or making a direct deposit. But with some of the best bank account bonuses, it’s possible to walk away with hundreds of dollars in free cash.
But don’t be fooled. Just because a bank is offering to give you $300 doesn’t mean you’re getting a good deal. Often, the banks offering bonuses pay savers a low rate. If you’re planning to open a savings account, proceed with caution.
“You’re kind of getting that bonus, but you’re sacrificing the long term return,” says Deacon Hayes, personal finance expert and founder of Well Kept Wallet. “So you just want to weigh those options.”
7. Turn saving money into a lifestyle
The key to saving money is having the right mindset. Unfortunately, the messages we receive often drive us to spend more and live beyond our means. “We’ve been brainwashed to think like spenders and not really value that old-fashioned habit of saving and thrift,” says George Barany, national director of America Saves, a campaign under the Consumer Federation of America.
Thinking like a saver is all about making smart purchases and being more conscious of how you’re using your money, Barany says. People who think like savers, he says, take the following steps:
- Make lists.
- Avoid impulse buying.
- Avoid charging too many items to credit cards.
- Avoid payday lending traps.
8. Budget and track your spending
It’s critical to know where your money is going after each pay day, particularly if you’re trying to develop better financial habits.
“I don’t know anybody who really likes to track their expenses, but it is such an important undertaking to help you understand what you could potentially save or what changes you need to make in your spending,” Barany says.
Keeping track of what’s going in and out of your bank account is easier than ever, thanks to the countless number of financial apps that have been created. Develop a spending plan and come up with a method that will help you keep tabs on how you’re using your hard-earned money. A simple change, like making your own coffee instead of buying it could lead to other cost-cutting measures, like bringing your lunch to work or taking public transportation instead of driving.
“One step potentially could influence other actions,” Barany says.
9. Don’t be afraid to negotiate
As you’re trying to get better about saving money, there’s one mantra that can potentially work in your favor: Ask and you shall receive.
Charged a bank fee you’d rather not pay? Ask the bank if it can waive it for you. While this won’t work in every scenario, it may be something you can try about once a year.
If you have a good financial track record and are a loyal customer, see if you can talk other financial providers, like your credit card company, into lowering your interest rate. Being polite and being prepared can pay off immensely when you’re looking for a fast way to save more money.
10. Use excess cash wisely
Just got a raise or a bonus? Don’t spend it all in one place. While it’s nice to have extra money in the bank, you don’t want to go overboard and overspend.
If you have more money at your disposal, put it to good use. “Make a list of what your priorities are and attack the list and do the highest priority things first,” says McDougall from Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.
Use the extra money in the bank to make additional loan payments. That way, you can potentially bump up your credit score and qualify for better interest rates (which will save you more money in the long run).
Also, remember that ‘no’ is a powerful word. If you’re tempted to spend more money than you should, walk away. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying life or going out with friends and family. But turning down invitations every once in a while and limiting the number of days you go to brunch could eventually pay off.
Bottom line: Use a cash windfall responsibly. And if you wish you had more money to save, start freelancing or find a side job.
11. Adjust your tax withholdings
Getting a big tax refund every year isn’t necessarily a good thing. Depending on your situation, you could be paying the IRS more than you should.
It’s customary to fill out a new W-4 form whenever you change jobs or something significant happens in your life (e.g. you get married or divorced). But you should take another look at your W-4 to see if you’re claiming the right number of allowances.
If you’re not claiming enough allowances, you’re essentially letting Uncle Sam borrow money from you without paying interest. Make changes to your tax form so that you have extra money to save throughout the year.
12. Find an accountability partner
Some of us have no problem saving money on our own. Others may need someone to help them reign in their spending.
Choose a family member or friend who can help you stick to your spending plan. This should be someone who can check in with you regularly and keep you from making decisions that would cause you to spend money unnecessarily. You could even come up with a game and compete with the person holding you accountable to see who can save the most first.
People who take America Saves’ pledge automatically gain an accountability partner.
“We communicate with them both through text messaging and emails specifically around that savings goal to keep people motivated,” Barany says.
13. Assess your progress
Make time to check in with yourself (or your accountability partner) to see how well you’re sticking to your spending plan. If you can, try to do this at least once a week or every couple of weeks.
Identify missteps and come up with solutions. If you’re making progress toward achieving your goals, reward yourself. That will drive you to keep moving forward and making good financial choices.
14. Save for retirement
Don’t wait until you’re preparing to leave the workforce to start saving for the future. Depending on the kind of lifestyle you plan to live, you may need a significant amount of money in retirement. That means you’ll need to start saving as soon as possible.
Getting into the habit of saving for the long-term is important. And putting your own financial needs first instead of paying most of your kid’s college costs, for example, is something worth considering.
“Your retirement is most important to you. Whether or not you pay for your children’s education is secondary,” McDougall says. “And here’s why: You can borrow or the child can borrow to go to college. You cannot borrow to retire.”
If you need help getting started, check out our guides for saving for retirement at every stage of your life:
- How to save for retirement in your 20s
- How to save for retirement in your 30s
- How to save for retirement in your 40s
- How to save for retirement in your 50s and beyond
15. Just say no
‘No’ is a powerful word.
If you’re tempted to spend more money than you should, walk away. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying life or going out with friends and family. But turning down invitations every once in a while and limiting the number of days you go to brunch could eventually pay off.
Sign up for alerts so you can keep track of your bank account and credit card balances at all times. That way you’ll know whether you’ll need to cut back on spending and focus on saving.