When was the last time you looked at your savings account?
If that question makes you shudder, panic, or flush with shame, you’re not alone. The Federal Reserve found that 36% of Americans can’t pay for a $400 emergency.
But saving is necessary. You never know when an emergency will happen. You want to be able to take a big vacation. And of course, one day you’ll need to retire.
If you’re like a lot of people, the idea of “saving” doesn’t exactly excite you. In fact, it sounds like a chore. After all, who wants to feel deprived all the time?
I’m here to tell you saving doesn’t have to be a drag. Read on for some of my favorite realistic ways to save money without sacrificing your lifestyle.
1. Automate Your Savings
The best way to make sure you’re saving money each month is to automate it. When you save on autopilot, you don’t have to think about it. It’s easy to set up an automatic transfer into your savings or retirement account each month — then forget about it.
If you’re in debt or living paycheck to paycheck and don’t have a spare dollar to save each month, save this step for later when you do have a little extra. Everyone should revisit their automated savings once in a while to adjust the amount as income and other factors change.
2. Store Your Savings in a High-Yield Savings Account
If you’re saving your hard-earned money in a regular savings account that’s earning a fraction of a percent in interest, you’re missing out. Your money is actually losing value as inflation outpaces that measly interest rate. Sad, right?
While savings accounts aren’t meant to be high-risk, high-reward vehicles for growing your money, you can do a little better than traditional bank accounts.
Transfer your savings into a high-yield savings account. These accounts, many of which are online-only, have interest rates up to 25 times higher than those at traditional banks. While you won’t be able to walk into a brick-and-mortar bank to withdraw your cash, electronic transfers are quick and easy. And the additional money in your account more than makes up for the small inconvenience.
3. Use Apps to Save and Score Rebates
What’s better than saving money while going about your day-to-day life? Sure, you can save money by putting off nice meals, new clothes, and household items. But to many, this approach won’t fly. The truth is, you have to eat. You need clothes and want a comfortable home.
However, you can save on the groceries, clothing, and household items you already purchase by using some helpful apps. These apps and browser extensions can help you save on in-store and online purchases with discounts, coupons, and cash-back offers.
Here are some of my favorites:
Don’t let the discounts entice you to buy more — instead, use these savings tools on products you already buy.
4. Make a List for the Grocery Store
What’s your current grocery shopping strategy? Do you go to the store several times a week, picking up a few things to throw together a last-minute meal? Do you stare at the shelves, wondering what to buy, eventually giving up and ordering takeout (again)?
If any of this sounds like you, it’s time to restrategize. Take the time to make a plan before heading to the store. Consider making large batches of 2-3 meals and eating leftovers later in the week. Or, if you love cooking, plan out a meal for every day of the week.
Next, make a list. Inventory what’s in the fridge, freezer, and pantry, and only buy what you need for the meals and snack items in your plan.
Rethinking your grocery strategy takes some time and effort upfront — especially if you’re used to eating out all the time. But within a few weeks, you’ll spend less time stressing about groceries and more time celebrating the savings in your wallet.
5. Consign, Buy Second-Hand, or Rent Your Clothes
If you like to shop (no judgment here!), you probably have some clothing items lying around that you don’t wear or like anymore. Don’t feel guilty while they take up space in your closet. Instead, consign them, and earn some cash in return.
Some stores give you store credit for these items — and that’s where second-hand shopping comes into play. Think about this: The average American bought 68 pieces of clothing in 2018. And throughout the world, the average piece of clothing is worn only seven times. Why not purchase lightly-used clothing for a fraction of the price and trade-in when you want something different?
Second-hand shopping in different neighborhoods or nearby towns can be a fun way to spice up the experience. Fun, savings, and new (to you) clothes? It’s a win-win-win.
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6. Enforce a Waiting Period Before Making Big Purchases
You know that feeling when you see something you want — online, in a store, or at a friend’s house — that you never knew you needed? All of a sudden, you don’t know how you’re living without it. Within days, hours, or even minutes, you’re adding it to your cart and making an unplanned purchase.
One of the simplest ways to save money is to give yourself a waiting period before making a big, impulsive purchase. Depending on the cost, you can enforce a certain amount of time before you allow yourself to buy. For example, for items between $50 and $100, you wait 24 hours before buying. For items above $100, you wait a week. And so on.
With this simple trick, you can let your emotions settle before clicking “buy.” Most of the time, you’ll find the impulse is gone, and your life will be just as great without the new gadget.
7. Find Free or Low-Cost Alternatives to Your Self-Care Habits
Everyone wants to feel like a million bucks, and if you ask me, we all should. But we don’t all have access to millions (yet!). Luckily, you don’t need to spend a lot of cash to live a life that makes you feel amazing.
Start by brainstorming all the ways you currently spend money on entertainment, self-care, and wellness. Movies? Dinners out? Gym membership? Juice bar?
Now consider less expensive options that deliver the same (or similar) benefits. Can you host a movie night at home? Cook a nice dinner for date night? Go on a hike with friends?
Maybe the juice bar is non-negotiable — and that’s okay. Decide to spend money on the things that matter most, and be willing to get creative in other areas of your spending. You might even find you prefer a free hike in nature to the loud and busy gym.
Work With Wealthly to Save More Money
Saving doesn’t have to be difficult, and you don’t have to sacrifice your lifestyle to make it work. With some thoughtful prioritization and planning, you can bulk up your savings in no time.
At Wealthly, I love helping individuals and couples create a plan to save for their future while living a life they love. To see if we can help you with budgeting and saving, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to fill out a contact form today. I’ll be in touch soon!
Content in this material is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.