As we begin a new decade, it’s time to reevaluate your financial strategies and set new savings goals. If you feel overwhelmed about how to save money, you’re not alone. One-in-five adults in the U.S. report that they have no savings. While there will always be daily living expenditures, there are plenty of ways to save money that don’t require big sacrifices. To help you accomplish your long-term financial goals, we have compiled a list of 12 spending and savings strategies.
- Create a Budget
The first place to start when trying to save money is to assess your current spending habits. Mint.com offers a free budget tracker that can help you understand your spending decisions. By reviewing your current spending habits, you can determine what you can eliminate today to save more for tomorrow.
- Establish an Emergency Fund
Some experts recommend setting aside three to six months’ worth of living expenses in case of emergencies. Though this could seem overwhelming, don’t let it deter you. Start small and set a goal of saving $1,000 dollars for unexpected expenses.
- Avoid Debt
Pay off your credit cards in full every month. If possible, avoid accumulating debt in the first place by spending within your limits. Miles, cash back and other credit card rewards are only valuable if you don’t have debt or are paying interest. Learn more about debt and credit by visiting America Saves.
- Save Automatically
Setting up an automatic savings plan, which saves a certain amount of money at regular intervals, is the most effective way to begin saving. Automatic savings apps can be great tools for reluctant savers. Saverlife.com and Claritymoney.com are two of the most popular apps to assist you with your new savings goals.
- Use Cash Back and Rewards Apps
Whether you are saving for a specific goal, hoping to reduce expenses or seeking to get rewarded for the money you are already spending, cash back and rewards apps offer a plethora of features that make spending and saving fun. Some of the most popular websites include MyPoints, Fronto, iBotta and Checkout51.
- Start Saving for Retirement
Compound interest – earning interest on your savings over many years – builds wealth. The longer the time allotted to compounding, the greater the final reward. Explore the savings options available through your employer, especially if they offer a matching program, and learn of the various ways to save on your own at NerdWallet and The Balance.
- Save and Invest any Windfalls or Tax Refunds
Windfalls can take the form of a work bonus, inheritance or contest winnings. You can splurge a little with extra cash, but the main objective should be to reduce any debts and then invest the remaining funds wisely. A CFP® professional can help you strategize how to save or spend any newfound assets.
- Use Only ATMs From Your Bank
Using an ATM is convenient and can help with budgeting by controlling spending and providing a statement of transactions. But using the ATM of another financial institution can trigger substantial fees that could add up to hundreds of dollars each year. Using the ATM of your financial institution can eliminate these extra charges.
- Check Your Credit Report
Under federal law you are entitled to a copy of your credit report annually from all three credit reporting agencies—Experian, Equifax® and TransUnion®. Credit reports are used by loan providers, landlords and others to determine what they can lend you. For example, a low credit score can increase the cost of a 60-month, $20,000 auto loan by more than $5,000 dollars. Visit Annual Credit Report.com to access your reports.
- Choose Generic Options
Ask your physician if generic prescription drugs are a good option for you. Generic drugs can cost several hundred dollars less to purchase annually than brand-name drugs. Even the cost of generic drugs can vary significantly between pharmacies. Compare prices offered by your pharmacy, supermarket, wholesale clubs and mail-order pharmacies before choosing where to purchase.
- Refinance Your Mortgage
Explore if you have the option to refinance your mortgage to a lower rate. On a 15-year, $100,000 dollar fixed-rate mortgage, lowering the rate by one half of one percent can result in saving upwards of $5,000 dollars in interest charges over the life of the loan. And, you will accumulate home equity more rapidly, thus increasing your ability to cover those unexpected home repairs. Learn more about refinancing options at Debt.org.
- Open a Health Savings Account (HSA)
An HSA is a tax-advantaged medical savings account available to U.S. taxpayers who are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan. The funds contributed to an account are not subject to federal income tax at the time of deposit. HSA savings may be used to pay for qualified medical expenses without tax liability or penalty. Over time, if medical expenses are low and contributions are made regularly to the HSA, the account can accumulate significant assets that can be applied toward healthcare costs tax-free or used for retirement on a tax-deferred basis. Visit HealthCare.gov for more information.