We've all heard the old proverb, "a penny saved is a penny earned." There's no denying that having money set aside for emergencies and retirement is vital; unfortunately, people often think that they must make major sacrifices in order to save money, and that can sometimes deter them from ever starting a proactive plan to save money. You may be surprised at how much money you can save by making simple lifestyle changes.
By nature, humans are impulsive. Without a clear idea of where your money is, or should be going, you could easily derail any chance you have of saving a substantial amount of money. This is robbing you and your family of the kind of security and peace of mind that healthy nest egg can provide.
Consider these seven simple lifestyle changes as ways to jumpstart you on the road to saving more.
- Split your direct deposit.
One of the easiest ways to save money is to tuck it away before you have a chance to spend it. Most people have their paychecks automatically deposited into their checking accounts. By having a portion of your paycheck automatically deposited into an interest-bearing savings account, you can quickly accumulate a substantial amount without noticing. You'll simply adjust your spending to the new amount that is in your checking account. When money is deposited into savings first, before you've had a chance to spend any of it, you are more likely to save it. Keep in mind, your savings account should be easily accessible; in the event that you face an emergency, you'll have immediate access to your money. You have multiple account options available, ranging from brick-and-mortar financial institutions to online-only institutions. Why would you settle for a 0.01% interest rate when another institution may be offering 0.87%? Always shop around for the best interest rate.
Learn to practice the same habit with your retirement savings. If your employer offers a retirement plan, automatically deduct a portion of your paycheck into a 401(k) or Roth account. If they offer a contribution match, try your hardest to contribute the maximum amount to get the full match that is offered. If you don't, it's like throwing away free money.
- Avoid fees whenever possible
It may not seem like paying an ATM fee is a big deal, but consider this: if you pay a $2.50 ATM fee five times per month for one year, you'll pay more than $150 just to access your own money. Keep in mind that in addition to the fee you incur when you use an ATM not supported by your financial institution, sometimes your bank, too, will charge a fee. ATM fees may not be completely unavoidable, but when possible, plan ahead by making cash withdrawals from your financial institution or by getting cash back from a retail location.
Also, have you examined your credit card statements recently for the fees you may be required to pay? Not all credit cards are created equal. Depending on the type of credit card you have, there may be annual, cash advance, or balance transfer fees tacked on to your bill. Be mindful of this, and consider shopping around for a credit card that doesn't charge unnecessary fees.
Like ATM fees, late fees can quickly snowball out of control. The Credit Card Act of 2009 capped the amount a credit card company could charge for a late fee at $25 for first-time offenders and $35 for a second violation, if it's within six months of the first missed payment. However, getting hit with a $25 late fee several times a year can impede your efforts to save money. Paying your monthly expenses (utilities, car loans, etc.) late, can also come with hefty late fees. By simply paying your bills on time, you can avoid paying unnecessary late fees, and potentially save hundreds of dollars a year.
- Research large purchases
Sometimes large purchases can't be avoided. The car needs new tires, the washer and dryer goes out, the kids need braces—these can all be unavoidable expenses. While you may be obligated to make this purchase, you should make informed decisions before you hand over your hard-earned cash. Most, if not all, businesses have websites where you can comparison shop, check for online coupons, and scout sales and promotions. Some businesses will even price match if you provide proof that a competitor is selling an item for less.
In some cases, purchasing a product online may be less expensive than a brick-and-mortar location, so it could benefit your wallet to "pre-shop" online before you head out to a retail location to make a major purchase.
- Create a "what can I live without" inventory
One of the things that deters people from saving more and spending less is the idea that they would have to drastically change their lifestyle. We all have standards and certain things that we feel that we can't live without, but have you considered the things that you can live without? Do you purchase a gourmet cup of coffee on the way to work each day? Perhaps you could make coffee at home a few days a week. Cutting out three cups of designer coffee per week could potentially save you $15 per week, $60 per month, and $720 per year. If you rarely use your landline and prefer to use a cell phone, it may be time to consider cutting your traditional home phone service. Since we're on the topic of phones, must you absolutely have the latest and greatest phone, or can you wait a year and purchase it when the price virtually cuts in half? If you love wearing designer clothes and accessories, consider shopping at consignment stores, outlet malls, or on discount websites such as ideeli, Snob Swab, or Ebay. If you can live without buying new designer fashion off the rack, you could potentially save yourself thousands of dollars a year!
- Adjust your eating habits
According to Forbes, Americans eat out for lunch on average twice a week and spend more than $900 per year on lunch dining. If you go out to eat for lunch more than the average American, you could easily spend more than $2,000 per year on lunch, alone. Foregoing the local deli a few times a week and bringing your lunch from home is an easy way to save more than $100 dollars per month. When you do go out for lunch, order water instead of a soft drink, and skip dessert to keep your bill (and your waistline) from expanding.
The average cost for a typical date is approximately $85 ($50 for dinner for two, $20 for two movie tickets, $15 for movie snacks). And if you need a babysitter, don't forget to factor that in, too. You could easily spend more than $100 on a night out with your significant other. Try some of these tips to save money on your next date night:
Go to a matinee movie instead of the primetime showing to shave $3-$5 off each ticket price
Have a lunch date instead of a dinner date to enjoy lunch specials at significantly lower prices
If you and your main squeeze enjoy the great outdoors, pack a picnic and head to a park or lake
Check local museums and art gallery websites for nights or days with free admission
- Keep the change
We often overlook spare change, opting for the kind of money that folds; however, spare change can quickly add up. Set a jar on top of your dryer to catch change that falls out of your pockets. Save every piece of change you find laying around the house, between the couch cushions, and on the floorboard of your car. When your spare change jar(s) are full, you can deposit the money into a savings or into a "fun money" account for date nights, gifts, and other discretionary spending.
- Keep a healthy credit score
Keeping a healthy credit score is one of the premier ways to save money. The higher your credit score, the better rate you'll get on auto and home loans. For example, according to Go Banking Rates, if you borrow $175,000 for 30 years with a 4% fixed interest rate, your principal and interest payment calculates to $835 per month. If the interest rate increases 2% to 6% with all other factors remaining the same, you can expect your payment to balloon to $1,049. That's a 26% increase in your loan payment.
There are numerous lifestyle changes that you can make to increase your savings. The important thing to remember is to start somewhere. Whether you implement one or all of the above changes, take one step at a time, and remember, there is no such thing as saving too much money.
Do you have any creative ways for saving money? Share them with us in the comments below.