Getting a handle on your finances can seem like an overwhelming New Year’s resolution goal. But once you get started, you’ll find that saving money is easier than you think! Ready to learn how to save this year? Check out these creative and practical money saving tips!
Establish a Budget
A good way to keep track of your spending is to put together a budget that allows you to categorize and keep track of everything from living expenses to flexible spending. This helps you see how much money you’ve spent in each category at the end of each month, providing a roadmap for where you can cut back on spending and where you can afford to allocate funds to savings. You can experiment with different budget plans—like the 50/20/30 or the Zero-Sum Budget—to see what works best for you. You can also use a free app like Mint or HomeBudget to monitor your spending and manage your budget.
Set Savings Goals
Being strategic with your savings can help you better visualize your financial goals. Need to save for a downpayment on a house? Have plans to buy a new car? Planning a wedding this year? Want to get rid of those pesky student loans? Trying to boost your 401k before retirement? Use a savings calculator to create a plan that helps you figure out how much you need to stash away, as well as how interest and your timeline can change your targets!
Try the 52-Week Challenge
Looking for an easy money-saving tip that can help you save over $1,000? This 52-week challenge provides a simple plan for adding small amounts each week to your savings account. Be sure to keep this chart in a visible space like on your kitchen fridge, next to your computer in your office, or in your day planner.
Save Part of Your Paycheck
If you use direct deposit and online banking, set up an auto-transfer to your savings account for every pay period. This handy financial hack is all about paying yourself first before you start spending money. A good guideline is to put 20% of your monthly income into savings. Of course, not everyone can afford to give up 20% each month, so review your expenses to see how much you can set aside comfortably.
Put Your Bills on Auto-Pay
One of the easiest ways to avoid losing money is to set up auto-pay for all of your bills. Auto-pay ensures your bills will be paid on time, eliminating any late charges or fees (which can get expensive).
Match Your Spending with Saving
Try this method—if you buy a nonessential item like a morning latte, a round of beers, or a new book, transfer the same amount you spent on that item into your savings account. This is a good way to make sure you don’t fall behind in your savings or overspend, even if you treat yourself every now and again!
Choose a Credit Card Wisely
Looking for ways to save money with a credit card? Pay attention to the rewards, interest rates, and fee structures! Choosing a credit card with low interest rates, cash back or travel perks, or zero annual fees can save you money down the line.
Use an App to Save Spare Change
Did you know there are finance apps that can boost savings or investments for you? Acorns rounds up purchases and transfers that spare change into an investment portfolio. There’s also Digit, which analyzes your spending habits and sets aside money for savings automatically based on your expenses.
Upgrade Your Bank Account
If you’re not gaining much interest from your savings account, consider transferring the balance to a high-interest savings account. These accounts can help you save money more quickly for higher ticket items like a car or downpayment on a house. Are you paying fees for your checking account? There are a number of free checking accounts with no balance requirements that can help you save as well!
Stick to Your Bank’s ATM
If you need to make a deposit, withdraw cash, or check your balance, make sure to use ATMs owned and operated by your bank. Along with non-network fees charged by your bank, third-party ATM operators can charge a separate fee, making a quick visit an expensive one.
Look for Multi-Policy Insurance Discounts
If you have your renters insurance with one company and car insurance with another, consider combining them under one policy. Most insurance companies offer a discount if you bundle your renters, auto, and life insurance policies under one umbrella, which can help lower your monthly expenses.
Prep & Cook Meals at Home
If you’re wondering how to save money on food, try meal planning and packing lunches. The average American household spends $3,000 yearly on dining out. If you always purchase the same sandwich, chips, and soda combo at lunch, buy those items at the grocery store and prep your meal at home. Use sites like Pinterest to find cheap recipes that can be made in bulk (like slow cooker meals), or sign up for the $5 Meal Plan to create delicious, budget-friendly meals with plenty of leftovers.
Grow Your Own Food
Growing your own food can help you save big on your grocery bill. If you have a backyard, a good-sized plot can turn the average $70 garden investment in soil and seeds into over $500 worth of fresh produce! Live in an apartment? Start your own DIY urban garden to grow herbs, vegetables, and much more!
Buy Household Items in Bulk
Purchasing items like laundry detergent, canned and dry goods, or toilet paper in bulk can be an effective money-saving strategy. The per-unit price of bulk items is typically much lower than regular sized items, making it easy and affordable to stock up on necessities. Make sure you have enough room to store these items so they don’t clutter your kitchen, closets, or mudroom.
Stay In vs. Going Out
Going to a movie, grabbing dinner, or meeting up for drinks can quickly eat up the money you’ve set aside for flexible spending. So invite friends over instead! Put together a dinner or potluck where everyone brings a dish, pile up cushions and blankets in the living room for a movie night, or organize a game night where everyone brings a snack or bottle of wine.
Enjoy Free Activities in Your Area
Looking for free or cheap activities to enjoy with friends or family? Take a walk on a nearby trail, shoot some hoops at a local park, or pack a picnic and find some green space. On rainy days, visit museums and galleries that offer free admission or head over to the library.
Use Public Transit
A great money-saving tip you can utilize this new year is taking advantage of your local public transit options like buses, light rails, trolleys, or trains. Using public transportation instead driving can save you over $9,000 annually (i.e., about $800 a month in gas, parking, maintenance, and other vehicle costs)!
Switch Out Your Light Bulbs
Are you spending a lot on electricity bills each month? Ditch regular light bulbs for energy-efficient LEDs (light-emitting diodes) or CBLs (compact fluorescent bulbs). LED light bulbs can last up to 25,000 hours or almost five years, and CBLs use about 70% less energy and can last up to 8,000 hours. Both options use less wattage and much less electricity, saving you money on monthly utilities.
Do you keep your coffee maker, toaster, TV, or computer plugged in at all times? Even if they’re not turned on, they’re still drawing energy and increasing your electric bill. Whenever you’re not using them, unplug nonessential appliances to keep costs down.
Save Money with a Low-Flow Shower Head
Low-flow shower heads can save up to a gallon of water a minute, which can add up to huge savings for you each month with your water bill. You can find these shower heads between $10-$30 at local home stores, and installation is quick and easy!
Spending a little extra time comparing prices can save you money in the long run. Price comparison tools like InvisibleHand and Honey are browser plugins that alert you if an item, airline ticket, or hotel booking you’re about to buy can be found cheaper elsewhere. Both apps also find sales and codes from across the web to apply coupons to each purchase and ensure you’re getting the best deal!
Take Advantage of Shopping Apps
Never buy household goods, grocery items, or clothing at full price again! Apps like RetailMeNot and SnipSnap do all the deal-seeking work for you. All you have to do to take advantage of coupons and deals is show your phone at checkout. Many grocery stores also have their own free mobile apps that offer great coupons and deals. Be sure to check coupon apps like Checkout 51 or Ibotta as well. These allow you to scan certain grocery store receipts and receive cash back.
Buy Generic Brand Items
Another great money-saving tip for shopping is to buy generic items. You likely won’t notice a difference in product quality, but you will in price! Some generic products can be 30-60% lower than name-brands. Generic brands are available for food items, bath products, household cleaners, over-the-counter medications, and much more.
Shop Around for Gas
Instead of stopping at the most convenient gas station, utilize online tools and apps like GasBuddy to find cheap gas in your local area. If you spend a significant amount on fuel, there are a number of cash-back credit cards that will give you up to 5% back each time you fill up. Certain grocery store chains also offer rewards like discounts on fuel, so do your weekly shopping at these spots to take advantage!
Get a Library Card
Utilizing the library can save you tons of money on miscellaneous purchases like movies, books, or printing documents. Along with free books, most libraries offer ebook downloads, computer access, and free or discounted tickets to local events and attractions. You can even take writing classes, join a chess club, or participate in a book club. Just make sure to return your items on time to prevent any late fees!
Change Your Car’s Air Filter
Preventative car maintenance can help save on repair costs down the road, but did you know changing your air filter can actually save gas? This money-saving hack can improve the gas mileage of your car by up to 7%, which averages around $100 saved for every 100,000 miles driven! Air filters are easy to change in most vehicles and can be bought from most auto parts stores for less than $20.
Evaluate Subscriptions & Memberships
How many subscriptions, clubs, and memberships are you currently signed up for? When’s the last time you evaluated them? Ditching a few services or memberships you don’t need (or don’t use) can help you save tons of money each month! Use an app like TrueBill to find and manage recurring payments on any forgotten subscriptions. In addition, review everything from cable and streaming subscriptions to Amazon Prime and food delivery services to determine if you’re getting the same value you’re putting in.
Create Your Own Home Gym
The average monthly cost of a gym membership is around $58, and if you never use the gym, that’s money you’re throwing away. Cancel your membership and create your own home gym instead! Subscribe to free YouTube workout channels like BeFit or PopSugar Fitness, or rent workout videos and instructional books from your local library. You can also find at home workouts for all abilities and levels from online magazines like Women’s Health, Self Magazine, or Men’s Health.
Wait Before Making a Nonessential Purchase
How many times have you gone shopping for one thing and come home with a bunch of stuff you don’t need? Here’s a handy trick to avoid those guilty purchases—if you’re thinking about buying a nonessential item, give yourself 30 days to make sure you really want it. If 30 days have gone by and you’re still thinking about the item, you can treat yourself. But if you haven’t thought about it, then you probably don’t need it.
Sell Items You Don’t Want or Use
If you’ve recently decluttered your home, you may have a pile of items you want to get rid of. Go through that pile and see if there’s home decor, accessories, clothing, and other gently-used items that you can sell. Consignment stores or websites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or eBay are all great resources for selling new or used items. Just make sure you deposit all of the money you make into savings!
Shop Strategically for Holiday Items
This budget-friendly technique can help you land some excellent deals! Buy Christmas lights, holiday cards, Easter baskets, Valentine’s Day candy, Halloween decorations, and other items the day after the holiday in question. Many items will be on sale for at least 50% lower than the original price!
With these creative tips, getting your finances in order is an easily attainable New Year’s resolution! Looking for more ideas to improve your life in the new year? Try moving to a new city or overhauling your home!