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If you’re struggling to save money right now, you’re not alone. Inflation is still driving prices up faster than wages, and a Bankrate survey from June found that over half of Americans are concerned with how much they have in emergency savings.
There are some steps you can take to save a little bit more each month, though. Saving just $100 more a month would amount to accumulating a $1,200 emergency fund after a year. You can easily achieve this by making a few small changes across different categories of your budget and daily spending habits.
1. Avoid bank fees
Bank fees are sure to eat into your balance if you don’t look out for them. The average overdraft fee is $29.80, according to Bankrate’s latest checking account survey, and the average combined out-of-network ATM fee per transaction is $4.66.
One easy way to avoid fees, especially overdraft fees, is to set up mobile bank alerts. Many mobile banking apps come with the option to turn on alerts for when your account falls below a certain balance or is at risk of an overdraft. If mobile alerts aren’t an option, make sure to check your balance regularly or opt-out of overdraft coverage.
When it comes to ATM fees, you can largely avoid these by sticking to in-network ATMs. Your bank’s mobile app may come with an ATM locator, or you may search for nearby ATMs on the bank’s website. Alternatively, you can frequently get cash back for no fee when you check out at retail or grocery stores.
Some other fees to look out for include monthly maintenance fees, money transfer fees and fees for not meeting the minimum balance requirement. Many bank accounts don’t charge fees though, so it might be worth considering opening one of these accounts instead.
2. Find a higher-yielding savings account
While many large, traditional banks are still only offering a fraction of a percentage for yields on savings accounts, some of the best savings accounts on the market have annual percentage yields (APYs) of around 3 percent.
It might not make a huge difference at first, but over time, earning a higher yield on your savings can be highly rewarding. Suppose you have $10,000 in savings. At Bank of America, the interest rate on a standard savings account as of September 2022 is 0.01 percent. In this case, you would earn $1 over a year in interest.
Meanwhile, if you put that savings into an account with a 2.5 percent APY, you’d earn a whopping 250 times that, or $250 in a year. As you contribute more to your savings, those earnings will continue to increase much more than they would with an account with a lower APY.
Many of the highest APYs are offered by online banks. If you’re comfortable with online banking, it could be a good idea to look into online savings accounts, which often also come with low or no fees.
3. Curb impulse buying
We’ve all indulged ourselves in impulse purchases here and there. We’ve also all had regrets about a purchase we didn’t need but made anyway.
There’s no use in trying to avoid buying anything that’s not totally necessary, but there are a few tricks to help you withhold from making some of those unnecessary purchases, and have a bit more to save each month.
Making a shopping list before going shopping is a great way to stick to a spending plan that aligns with your budget. If you stick to the list, you can prevent giving in to temptations and avoid overspending while shopping.
Another tip for curbing your spending is to write down the item you want to buy and wait a few days or even a week before making the purchase. If you still want the item after that time, you can get it, but if you find that those desires were only temporary, you can save what you would have otherwise spent on that purchase.
4. Cut down on energy consumption
Reducing your energy consumption has the benefit of not only reducing your bills but also helping the planet. A 15 percent reduction in electricity consumption across the nation could help avoid up to $20 billion in health-related costs from pollution and environmental damage, according to a report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
The Office of Sustainability at Harvard University suggests five top ways to reduce electricity consumption:
- Turn off your computer monitor at night, as opposed to leaving on a screensaver.
- Switch to LED lightbulbs — they use 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs.
- Unplug electronics, including televisions, microwaves and printers, when they’re not in use. Leaving electronics plugged in when they’re switched off could add 10 percent more to your utility bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
- Use a power strip to easily turn off multiple devices at once.
- Turn off lights when they’re not needed.
The U.S. Department of Energy also notes that heating and cooling account for a large portion of energy costs. You can save 7 to 16 percent annually in water heating costs by insulating your water tank, and turning your thermostat down a few degrees during the day in colder months can save you as much as 10 percent annually.
5. Get a coffee maker
If you’re a regular coffee drinker, you can save a lot by making coffee at home instead of buying it from a café. A home coffee maker can cost anywhere from $50 to a few hundred dollars, but making this purchase can save you a lot in the long run.
Let’s say you spend $4 on coffee, five days a week. That would be over $1,000 spent on coffee in a year. Meanwhile, the average cup of coffee brewed at home would cost you $0.74, according to a study by MyFriendsCoffee. Five times a week for a year, that would cost you around $190, and you’d save over $800 annually. Realistically, you might still go out to a café for coffee now and then, but you’d still be saving a lot overall.
6. Consolidate streaming subscriptions
Cable television can easily cost you more than $100 each month. Meanwhile, most popular streaming services will cost you $15 or less. For example, HBO Max and Netflix each have individual plans starting at $9.99. Consider picking out one or two of your favorite streaming services to reduce your entertainment spending.
Moreover, many streaming services have premium options that allow multiple screens in a household to use the service at once. If you live with roommates or a spouse, you could share a streaming subscription and pay a lower amount per person.
7. Shop around for the best deals
Becoming more conscious about what you buy can end up saving you quite a bit over the course of a month.
When grocery shopping, look for store-brand food items, which are often more inexpensive than name brands. The same applies to drugstores, like CVS and Walgreens.
If you frequently shop online, consider getting a browser extension, such as Honey or RetailMeNot. These downloadable services are free and look for the best deals on various items you’re shopping for online, sometimes even offering cash back on certain items.
8. Find the lowest gas prices
Gasoline was the hardest hit by inflation of all consumer goods. While prices have gone a bit lower in recent months, consumers are still spending more on gas than they were a year ago. But there are some easy ways you can save on gas.
First, consider signing up for an app that can find the lowest gas prices near you. GasBuddy and Waze are two popular, free apps that can do just that. With one of these apps, you can enter your current location or ZIP code and see the prices for gas stations nearby. GasBuddy even has a trip cost calculator, which estimates how much a road trip will cost you on gas.
A GasBuddy study from earlier in 2022 found that certain days of the week are less costly to fill up on gas than others. The day that has the lowest gas prices on average is Monday, followed by Friday. It might not save you that much, but with gas prices running high, buying gas on Mondays or Fridays could shave off a bit more of your gas spending for the month.
9. Get an app to negotiate your bills
Some bills are non-negotiable, but you might find that you can save a lot by negotiating on those that are more flexible. It can be a time-consuming process to try to figure out which bills you can negotiate with and call up the billers to plead your case for a better deal — that’s where technology comes in to help.
Two apps that can negotiate bills for you are Trim and Rocket Money. Trim works by connecting to your telephone, wireless, cable, internet and medical bills and contacting the biller to negotiate a lower price. It only charges you if it finds room for savings, in which case the app takes a 15 percent cut of those savings.
Rocket Money, formerly known as Truebill, works similarly to Trim by connecting to your bills and negotiating for a lower price. Rocket Money also comes with a service that looks for any recurring subscriptions you have, and it can cancel any subscriptions that you don’t want. The app takes a cut for bill negotiations only if the negotiation is successful.
10. Set up auto-pay on bills
Another way to save money on bills is to set up automatic payments, often called auto-pay. Many billing services allow you to set up auto-pay online. Doing so can ensure you don’t miss any bill payments (and therefore aren’t charged late fees), and it usually comes with a discount. Loan servicers, for example, may lower your interest rate if you opt for auto-pay.
Make sure to check your account balance regularly, so that it isn’t overdrawn by an automatic bill payment — or set up auto-pay with an account that you know won’t be charged an overdraft fee.