When it comes to saving money, people implement all kinds of strategies to do so: automating a percentage of their paycheck, using a money-saving app or spending first and saving what’s left. Or, they save nothing at all. In fact, according to a recent Bankrate.com survey of 1,003 people conducted between Feb. 26 and March 3, 2019, more than one in five working Americans, 21 percent, aren’t saving any money. While 48 percent reported saving some money — no more than 10 percent of their income — one in six, 16 percent, are saving more than 15 percent of their income.
Even though the thought of saving money may be intimidating, financial experts say it’s easier than you may think. Justin Bailey, co-founder of Vimvest, a goal-based financial planning app, said it’s best if you first assess your overall financial picture. “Start by thinking about your major money goals, such as an emergency fund, paying off student loans and retirement,” he said in an email. Although these budgeting goals take some thought and consistency to build, they’ll help guide you when it comes to saving money, he said.
Here, finance experts reveal how you can start saving money — even today.
Create a budget (or spreadsheet?) to see what expenses can be reduced or eliminated
Taking time to sit down and outline all of your expenses is the first step to seeing where your money is going and how it can be better spent. “When you start to tally everything up, you may be surprised to find there are certain spending areas that are higher than you thought,” McKinzie Bean, founder of MomsMakeCents.com, said in an email.
“Next, you need to make a budget.” You can do so by using a spreadsheet or notebook, or by using an app such as Mint. Bean said to first figure out the total amount of income you have coming in each month, followed by your fixed expenses, like rent, and variable expenses, like food. “Reduce areas of your variable expenses as much as you can in order to have extra money left over each month to start saving,” she said. So, the more you eliminate or lessen expenses, the more money you’ll save every day.
Make small goals to see what you should save each day
Oftentimes, smaller goals are more manageable than larger ones. “Making small goals will help you reach your big goal and will help you actually save money,” Ashley Patrick, owner of Budgets Made Easy, said in an email.
For example, she said that if you want to save $1,000 over three months, you need to save approximately $120 each week, or $8 per day. You can then find $8 to trim from your budget each day, whether it’s a couple take-out coffees or ordering water during dinner instead of wine.
Start using a money-saving app
If you don’t already use a money-management app, you should — they make saving simple. For example, Digit analyzes your spending patterns and automatically saves money for you every 2-3 days; plus, you can also create various savings categories — such as Emergency Money or Vacation Fund. “Find an app or tool that can help you set a goal and start automatically saving that extra amount,” said Bailey.
Focus on food
Yaz Purnell, founder of The Wallet Moth, a personal finance website, said that focusing on your food budget is one of the simplest ways to cut spending immediately, which will mean more money in your pocket. “This is one of the easiest ways to save more and will produce the most rapid results,” she said in an email. “Ways to do this include limiting eating out to once a week and making a grocery list and meal plan.”
To this point, Dustyn Ferguson, founder of DimeWillTell.com, said to also use rebate apps, including Ibotta, Checkout 51 and Drop. “Saving money on things you buy every day, like groceries, can be a big money-saver and make a huge impact on savings goals,” he said in an email.
Prioritize using credit cards that give you cash back and reduce all your cards’ annual percentage rates
If you use a cashback credit card for daily expenses, you’ll be saving money without even trying. “As long as you spend less than you earn, cashback credit cards will easily save you $1,000+ every year,” said Evan Sutherland, co-founder of the personal finance website Budgeting Couple.
Carla Dearing, CEO of Sum180, a mobile financial wellness service, also suggests contacting your credit card companies and asking if they will lower your APRs. “Many credit card issuers would rather lower your rate than have you transfer to another company; it’s worth asking,” she said in an email. Dearing also said to try to transfer balances to cards with low or zero percent interest rates.
Open an online-only or high-yield savings account
Online banks have many perks, and one of them is higher interest rates. “Open a savings account at an online bank or a credit union, as you’ll often find better interest rates with these options,” Sean Messier, credit industry analyst at Credit Card Insider, said in an email. Then, choose a percentage of your earnings to deposit rather than a hard number, he said. For instance, with the 50/30/20 rule, you allocate approximately 50 percent of your earnings to necessities, up to 30 percent on wants and at least 20 percent toward savings and debt.
Save $1 a day
Finance experts often say that saving something is better than saving nothing. So, even if you don’t think you can afford to save anything, start with $1 a day. Whitney White, a financial and wealth educator, has a similar take on this with something she calls #SavingonSunday. “This is a saving habit that I created; every Sunday, save the date,” she said in an email. “If it’s the 31st, save $31, and you’ll notice that these amounts begin to add up nicely.”
There are many steps you can take to increase your savings immediately, but even if you’re starting today, how do you make sure you continue to save tomorrow, and so on? Well, just like you may have a gym buddy, you can also have a money-saving buddy and hold each other accountable. Danielle YB Vason, founder of SheMakesCents.com, says another option is joining an online accountability group. “Saving money isn’t hard, but cultivating the habit of saving is where most people fail when trying to save money over time,” she said in an email. She founded the #SMCmoneytribe, an online community of goal-setting women wherein they identify their money goals and make weekly actionable saving deposits to reach those goals. “This creates the habit of saving and gets members closer to their larger savings goals with each passing week,” she said. “Studies have shown that when you have an accountability partner, especially someone who is working toward similar goals, you are more likely to be successful.”
Of course, overall, you have to see which money-saving methods work best for you and go from there, but start today and you could see results sooner than you expect.