We all have trouble saving money. Maybe you want to save more, but your budget is already tight, and every paycheck is spent before it’s even deposited. Maybe you’re working to a goal, like saving for vacation or paying off your credit cards. Whatever the issue, here are some methods and tools that can help sneak more savings into your budget.
Save when you splurge
Even the best budgeters occasionally give into impulsive spending, whether it’s a gadget that’s on sale or some tchotchke in the checkout line. If you have a serious issue with impulse spending, you should get to the root of the problem and kick the habit. Here’s a trick to help you along the way: every time you give into a splurge, save the same amount you spend.
If you want to buy that new gadget, for example, you’d take the $49 (or whatever amount you splurged) and add that same amount to your savings account. When you’re tempted to spend the money, you know you’ll have to spend twice the price tag, which can be a deterrent. If you buy, you still save money, and if you don’t, you’ve resisted your impulse, which is great. You’ll have more to save later.
This is also useful because it forces you to think twice about your spending, and mindful spending is a good thing. You want to use your own discretion with this method, though. If your finances are stretched way too thin to begin with, for example, it might not be for you. If you’re looking for ways to boost your savings, though, you can try to make your impulsive spending work in your favor.
Make saving money your default when you get paid. One way is to pay yourself first. With this traditional method, you take your direct deposit and automatically make payments into your savings accounts.
However, you can take this advice up a notch and set up your direct deposit straight to your savings. Over at InvestingAnswers, writer Brian Reed suggests:
Have two bank accounts at one bank; a checking and savings account. Set the accounts up so that you can transfer money in between the two accounts. Here’s the kicker, as opposed to having your money first deposited into checking, have it deposited into the savings. Only transfer the amount you have allotted in your budget to spend to checking.
This method works sort of the same way as “pay yourself first,” except that it makes saving your default. It might seem like a pointless strategy—why not just create a savings goal and automate a monthly transfer from your checking account? Sure, that’s one way to go about it. I like this method because it’s focused on saving, though. It prioritizes your savings over your checking account, which can change the way you think about your own priorities and encourage you to keep your money rather than spend any extra.
Save your windfalls
When I was paying off my student loan, I created a rule for myself to boost my payoff: any and all windfalls would go toward my goal. Whether it was a tax refund, cash back rewards, or just a $5 bill I found in my couch cushions, I automatically considered any extra money as a “bonus” debt payment.
You can do the same thing with your savings. This requires some discipline; you have to resist spending any “extra” money when it falls into your lap. However, it’s a lot easier to resist spending when you already have a rule for what to do with that money. As money writer J.D. Roth has suggested, you could also set aside five percent of that windfall toward a fun toy, then use the rest toward your goal. Either way, the idea is the same: set some guidelines before you encounter the windfall.
This method works well if your budget is already tight. You can squeeze in the occasional savings without tightening your budget even more.
Use an app to make it automatic
There are some useful apps out there that make it dead simple to save more money. Qapital, a free app on iOS and Android, allows you to create fun rules for your savings. You can set up a rule to round up your purchases and save the remainder. You can automate the “save when you splurge” rule. You can connect your Qapital account to IFTTT and create a rule that saves money any time you complete a task—the possibilities are almost endless. You have to sign up for a Qapital account to use the app, but then you can easily transfer the funds to your regular account whenever you want. In general, the app makes saving money a little more fun and automatic.
Digit, a free webapp (also available on iOS and Android) works the same way. Instead of creating rules, though, the app simply saves whatever amount it thinks you can afford. It looks at your spending habits, your future bills, and your income to decide how many “extra” dollars you can save every day or week. Chances are, you won’t miss the cash, and at the end of the month, you might be surprised at how much extra money you’ve accumulated. You can squeeze more savings out of your budget without any extra effort.
Monthly challenges are a great way to squeeze in a little more savings. This year, for example, we’ve challenged readers to curb restaurant spending, save their spare change, and haggle their bills. Personally, I’ve saved over $1,000 from these challenges so far this year, and many of you have done even done better.
The point is, small challenges can help boost your savings, if even a little bit. They’re temporary, so you’re not overwhelmed, and they focus on a single action, so they’re digestible and actionable.
You can start with a “Free Weekend,” and challenge yourself to spend zero cash over the weekend—no movies, no restaurants, no Target runs. You might have to get creative and find something unique to do, but chances are, you’ll still have a pretty fun weekend and you’ll save some cash in the process.
We all know it’s important to set up a proper budget and save what we can. Sometimes, though, you want to squeeze a little bit more into your savings—whether it’s to reach a goal, establish an emergency fund, or just build better habits. If you want to up your savings game, these methods can help.