Do you wonder where all your money goes? Do you reach the end of the month and dread checking your bank account because you fear you’re overdrawn? Do you wish you could build savings instead of blowing through money?
Well, there are simple, painless ways you can build savings—little tricks to help you save without even noticing you’re saving! (Seriously!!) If you’re wondering how to maximize your money, you can use these money saving hacks to discover extra dollars and wiggle room in your budget—then slide the extra money over to boost your savings account!
Don’t believe building savings is easy? I’ll show you how!
When finances are tight, maximizing money and putting savings aside is rough. Even if you are on a budget and paying down debt, it’s hard to build savings. When extra money comes along, resisting the urge to go out and spend it on fun is tough.
Well, here’s the deal: Life’s short. You need entertainment. You need a date night. You need to hang out with friends and blow off steam. We all do!
BUT entertainment doesn’t need to cost money. You can still enjoy a good time—sometimes an even better time, in fact. Imagine hanging out with friends and not stressing about how much the good times are derailing your budget!
Our group of friends holds a rotating poker night. We bring the kids with us and they play and enjoy a “sleepover” with our friends' kiddos. We put them to bed and then the adults stay up playing cards. We snack on baby carrots and ranch (cheap, satisfying and diet-friendly). We have a BLAST. Everyone brings their beverages of choice and we meet after dinner so no one worries about providing a big meal. After the game, we pick the kids out of bed and take them home in their jammies. They have fun. We have fun. …and the evening costs like, nothing!
Finding cheap, easy money saving hacks for date night, hanging out with friends or life in general can really help you build savings.
A quick tip before you start working to build savings:
If you really want to see progress, YOU GOTTA HAVE A BUDGET. There’s no way around it. If you haven’t started a budget do not pass go. I want you to check out my 90 Day Budget for Beginners Boot Camp right now.
A budget’s your road map, guiding you and showing your success as you build savings. A budget’s a tool for maximizing money and tracking finances. You need a budget. I can’t stress this concept enough, you guys.
Once you’ve started following your budget, you can move forward to build your savings using these simple money saving hacks. (YOU CAN DO THIS! I promise!)
1. Round Up
Certain banks like Bank of America offer programs to “round up” purchases and transfer the change into your savings account. This concept’s great and even if you use a cash-only budget you can still build your savings.
Simply put all your change into a special area of your wallet or purse. If you really want to maximize savings, you can put dollar bills aside whenever you break a $10 or $20. If you prefer a less aggressive approach, collecting all your spare change from shopping trips and saving your extra coins can still add up quickly!
2. Pay on Time
It’s a bit of a no-brainer, but often we end up tossing money away because we don’t pay attention to extra fees, monthly charges and late fees. These little charges add up fast and if you’re working to build savings they can derail your progress.
If you’re really struggling and are in a situation where you can’t pay your bills, there are steps you can take to get finances under control. If you forgot or made a miscalculation, call your bank, utility company or creditor and see what they’re willing to waive. Many times, bill collectors will offer a one-time fee knock off, especially if you’re a good customer.
3. Substitute and Swap
I used to use Pantene Pro-V shampoo. Then one day at my mom’s house, I tried Suave Rosemary Mint and fell in LOVE. Not only was the shampoo cheaper, but I liked Suave even more than my regular Pantene. By switching shampoos, I saved…. are you ready for this? $101.65 per year!
Find simple, frugal substitutions you can use in your household. Can you switch to a generic brand for laundry soap? Can you swap ALDI brand chips or canned veggies for your more expensive brand? Maybe swapping won’t work for every item on your grocery list, but there are several items where you might not even notice a difference and you’ll build your savings painlessly!
4. Cut the Cord
When we were building our savings, we got rid of cable and settled on watching Hulu and Netflix through our Xbox. You can use a smart TV, Roku or Xbox to stream services and you may find you hardly miss cable at all.
Cutting cable can save you over a hundred bucks a month. Talk about maximizing money! When we cut out cable we found we didn’t even miss the extra programs at all. In fact, we found we had more quality time and accomplished more because we were watching shows we wanted rather than zoning out through crappy programs and reruns.
5. Watch for Group Deals
We watch Groupon and similar sites for deals on local activities and fun activities around town. I’m amazed at how great the offers are. I find Groupon offers are awesome gift opportunities too. A trip to a museum, a day at a water park or tickets to a show are more meaningful than another “thing.”
Give experiences over gifts. They don’t even need to cost a dime—go to a park, spend a day together at the beach, hike or sight-see. Keep your eye out for special local offers, free and discounted activities in your neck of the woods.
6. Enjoy Dinner at Home
Fast food and eating out are the biggest budget busters. Spending on fast food seems like a few dollars here and a few dollars there (hey, you may even order off the DOLLAR menu), but the spending really adds up. You don’t need to swear off fast food, but cutting back a few trips a week will really help you save.
If you swap out three meals a week and eat at home rather than going through the drive-thru, you can save about $20/week or $80-100 a month, simply by opting for a dinner at home! Cooking at home doesn’t require a big production either—opt for 15-minute meals to get out of the kitchen and enjoy dinner fast!
7. Start a Money Jar
A painlessly easy way to build savings to to start a savings jar. Throw your spare change in there, the $5 birthday money from your aunt and the extra cash you get from selling your old lawnmower on Craigslist. Spare change adds up crazy-fast and can really build your savings. In fact, a friend of mine recently reported saving $1,000 in six months simply by throwing her “extra money” in a jar.
When you’ve saved up your jar, take the change to the bank. Don’t go through a coin counting machine! They take a big fee for counting your coins and most banks will count money for free if you’re a customer. Credit unions will also take change for members.
8. Go Cash-Only
If you’ve ever heard of the “envelope savings system,” you know people report fantastic results with the method. You operate on a cash-only budget for all incidentals like groceries, gas, entertainment and shopping. Each month, you take your cash and divide the dollars into envelopes. When the cash is gone, you’re out until next month.
The envelope method works. Some people love this method and others say it’s tough, but a great way to maximize your money and hang onto your cash. Let me tell you, parting with cash is MUCH harder than swiping a debit card. Using cash will adjust your thinking on what you’re spending.
9. Borrow What You Need
Join your local library! If you haven't been to your library in a while, let me tell you how awesome the library is! They offer books, obviously, but they also offer magazines, software, CDs, lectures and classes! You can borrow music, movies, magazines and reading material for NOTHING. If you love to read or want cheap entertainment, the library’s where it’s at!
Don’t limit your borrowing to the library. Swap items with friends, visit Craigslist and your neighborhood boards for items you need and use rental services for videogames, movies (Netflix) and more. Getting away from the “need to own” mentality’s hard, but many items we can borrow, enjoy and return without spending money.
10. Thrift for Basics
Thrift stores aren’t the place for every purchase but they’re an awesome spot to score cute jeans for literally a few dollars. I’ve found the best jeans I own at thrift stores. Because denim’s such a sturdy material they’re often so gently used they feel like new.
Thrift and second-hand stores are also great spots for furniture (add a coat of paint or clean an item up and you can find real treasures), frames, jackets, sports gear and more. Be discerning and examine items carefully to ensure they’re in good condition and of course, buy only what you need.
11. Get Creative with Friends
Our poker nights are a great solution for us and for our friends. All of us are attempting to save money and I think they were just as relieved as we were not to fork out $100 every time we hung out. Keep the creativity going with your friends by working out together, going for walks, enjoying barbecues in the yard or park, or hosting a game night.
You can ask friends to swap babysitting and trade off play dates if you and your significant other are looking for a date night solution as well. Invite your friends over for a potluck party and pool together to share a babysitter. Hanging out shouldn’t be expensive!
12. Hydrate & Caffeinate at Home
A cup of coffee, soda or bottled water seems like no big deal—it’s only a few bucks, right? Those few dollars can add up quickly and if you’re spending $5 a day on drinks you’re spending $1825 a year! Enough money to take a vacation!
Instead of spending money on water, soda or coffee, brew coffee at home. Get a Nalgene bottle or another portable water bottle and fill up with filtered water at home. Steep iced tea and keep the tea in your fridge to drink when you need a pick me up—less sugar and fewer calories, plus tea’s way cheaper than a bottle of soda.
13. Save on Your Water, Heat & Electric
None of us want to run around worrying about turning off light switches and powering down electronics all the time, but there are simple steps you can take to reduce your electricity, water and heating bill. By turning your thermostat up a few degrees in the summer or down a few degrees in the winter you can see a big reduction in your costs.
Put a gallon bottle in the back of your toilet to cut water usage, install a water saving showerhead and turn your water heater down to 110 degrees (you won’t notice a difference when you shower, I promise). Use a power strip on electronics so you can turn them all off at once and install energy saving lightbulbs. You can reduce your utility bills by a noticeable amount with these small, painless steps.
14. Stock Up
When you come across a sale on your favorite products, stock up! If you find a great deal on a product you’ll use regularly, buy several at once to maximize savings and store extra in your storage closet. When you go to the store, buy the bigger bags of chips, crackers and other snack items in bulk sizes. When you get home, repackage the items in individual packs rather than opting for snack packs and fun sizes.
While buying all items in bulk is costly and wasteful, there are plenty of items where bulk buys can pay off. Watch for items without expiration dates—paper products and home goods. Condiments, canned goods and toiletries are often good bulk buys as well, because they have a long shelf life.
15. Use Half
One of the most painless ways I’ve found to save is simply cut my usage of items in half. Dishes still get clean with half the amount of detergent. Laundry still washes up perfectly fine with half of the soap. I can condition my hair with the size of a dime rather than a quarter.
Use the same concept when you go out to eat—enjoy half and take the other half home for tomorrow’s lunch. Stretch recipes by using half the meat called for or half the cheese (two expensive ingredients). Cutting your usage back to half is a simple way to build your savings and yet still get and do what you want.
If you’re looking for more ideas to build savings and maximize money, I’ve compiled the Ultimate Money Saving Checklist here. There are 200 ideas you can use to save money and stretch your money each month!