Only drink water when you dine out
The average family of five spends upwards of $70 to dine out together, estimates Jeff Speight, CFP wealth advisor at Tanglewood Total Wealth Management, but you can easily cut that down by $12 by skipping one thing: Drinks! Chances are high you probably need more water, anyway, so why not save the juices or the glass of vino for when you arrive home and go the free route of H20 instead. If you dine out several times a week, you're looking at nearly $100—and more hydrated bodies!
Find out 17 habits of great savers.
Focus on debt first
WAYHOME studio/shutterstock The hard truth of saving money is that before you can truly make a strategic plan, you must rid of your debt first. From credit card expenses to student loans, it's most important to decrease what you owe ASAP to avoid paying even more through interest, according to Marcy Keckler, vice president of Financial Advice Strategy at Ameriprise Financial. "Don't be afraid to negotiate with lenders, because in some cases all you need to do is ask."
Figure out where the money is going
No, you don't have to create your own spreadsheets and pie charts to analyze your spending, there are apps and websites that do the hard work for you. Try Mint, which connects all of your accounts together and can alert you to overages or areas of weakness, or Birch Finance, which in addition to keeping track of your spending will help you use your credit card rewards to your advantage. Here are new ways to save big online.
Visualize and reward yourself
Much like when your parents tempted you with an ice cream cone if you finished your homework, or the way you reward your children with an extra hour of screen time for behaving while your friends are over, having an end goal in mind can help you stay on track. As financial aid consultant Robert Skiff, Jr., explains, when your eyes are laser-focused on the prize makes it more exciting to arrive. "Saving is easy if you can see the reward. I establish monthly and yearly savings goals," he explains. "This month I am looking to save around $500. If I reach this goal, I am going to buy myself a cool hat for $50. Every time you hit a goal reward yourself—just make sure that you don't spend more than 20 percent of what you have saved. If you save $30,000 this year then take that $5,000 vacation. You have earned it!"
Find a financial accountability partner
Andrey Popov/Shutterstock Just like an exercise partner motivates you to get to the gym, having cheerleaders and accountability partners in your corner can make a big difference when it comes to saving money. That's why Ebong Eka, CPA and author, says to find someone who is smart about dollars to keep you honest. "People are more likely to commit to a goal if it's made in writing or verbally to another person because not doing it may make them look bad. Create a saving challenge with a few friends to keep everyone on track," she says.
Drink less trendy coffee
Though of all possible addictions, coffee is one of the least worrisome, the cost of trendy northwest coffee adds up. That's why Speight says to downgrade your java bean preference by brewing at home if you can, or stopping by a mom-and-pop like shop that'll save you at least a dollar. Even with that added sixty cents a day, you're looking at an easy $20 a month back in your pocket. If you're dairy-free and you get charged more for soy, almond, or coconut milk, keep some at the office to add once you're at your desk, saving an additional 50 cents per cup. Win-win!
Save like you're paying a bill
Consider the bills you rattle off each month on your financial to-do list: mortgage or rent, car payment and insurance, utility bill, cable, you name it. You know these must get paid or you'll ensue late fees, making it more important to meet your deadline. Speight recommends applying this same logic to savings. "There's a time-tested adage that still works well today: Pay yourself first. If your pay is fairly predictable, set up an automatic savings or investing program through your bank or a discount brokerage firm," he recommends. "If you don't have an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses, set up an automatic transfer from checking to savings a day or two after you get paid. If you already have an emergency fund, set up an automatic investment into a no-load balanced mutual fund. You can usually start with as little as $50 to 100 and you will build up a nice nest egg in as little as 12 to 18 months."
Contribute more to your 401K
Africa Studio/Shutterstock One passive way to stock up more cash without feeling the pinch is to contribute at least enough to maximize your employer's matching contribution, according to Spreight. "It's basically free money to those who take advantage of it," he explains. "If your employer matches fifty cents for every dollar you contribute, up to 3 percent of your earnings. If you have 6 percent of your paycheck put into your 401k, you will not miss what you don't see and you'll get an extra 3 percent into your account—that's a 50 percent gain in the first year." Find out the 10 things Millennials should do now to retire early.
Put your budget down on paper...
...or on a spreadsheet on your computer, if digital is more your jam. However you map it out, Keckler says a written plan is often powerful and impactful, enticing you to stick to your guns and continue contributing toward your goal. It also holds you accountable for every last penny you're spending. "Keeping track of your expenses is an easy way to help you get control of your spending. Without a written plan, you may not realize how much many of those small expenses can add up, in addition to missed opportunities to save money," she shares. Once you have the info in black-and-white, you can start making adjustments that result in more cash in your account. Here's how to make a budget you can actually stick to.
Give a hard look at entertainment
David M G/shutterstock
"Many people find themselves with a premium cable TV package as well as subscriptions to one or more streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime," Keckler advises. "Re-evaluate which services you and your family really use, and consider paring back to those that give you the greatest enjoyment." Here's how to cut the cable cord—and still watch all your favorite shows.