Anyone who’s trying to save money knows how hard it can be to find places to cut back. This is especially true when you don’t know where to look or what you should be looking for in the first place. That’s why so many people end up in debt—they don’t know where their money goes, so they make up excuses about why they’re not saving and end up spending more than they have.
1) Track your spending
Track your spending for a month. Make note of everything you spend money on. This may seem time-consuming, but it’s one of the most powerful tools for discovering areas in which you can save more. If your income is already stretched thin, you might find that you need to cut back in certain areas such as eating out or going on vacation. You may even be able to start saving small amounts each month. For example, if you typically have $200 left over at the end of each month after paying all your bills, try setting aside $50 every week instead. Over time, these small savings will add up!
2) Cut back on costly monthly subscriptions
If you’re spending upwards of $15 a month on your subscription services, it might be time to reevaluate your priorities. Try unsubscribing from streaming services you don’t use or from magazine subscriptions that aren’t worth their price tag. Even if you can afford these services, you should consider dropping them if they aren’t providing much value for what they cost. Plus, if you need an excuse for how else to save money, there are plenty!
3) Budget for emergencies
Set aside a small portion (1-3%) of your income as emergency savings. These are funds you can access easily if your car needs repairing or you lose a job. This money shouldn’t be touched unless it is absolutely necessary, but it will help you keep bills paid when cash is tight. It may also make it easier to take risks in other areas of your life, such as starting a business.
4) Budget for buying new things
It can be tough not to splurge once in a while, but if you’re trying to save money, it’s important that you plan for new purchases. Whether you’re saving up for a big-ticket item or just trying to hold on to your cash, make sure your budget accommodates purchases. If needed, cut back in other areas so you have room in your budget—or consider cutting out some nonessential spending altogether. How much should I put aside? While there’s no set rule for how much of your income should go toward savings, experts recommend setting aside at least 10 percent. For example, if you earn $4,000 per month before taxes (including bonuses), aim to save $400 per month by putting away $100 each week into an emergency fund and then using any extra money left over after covering expenses like rent and utilities to build toward larger goals like paying off debt or buying a home.
5) Transfer your debt to a card with no interest charges
While there are a variety of credit cards that offer 0% interest for up to 18 months, it’s important that you pay your balance in full before you incur any interest charges. Otherwise, you may end up paying 20-30% or more for an item that would have cost less than 10% with a cash purchase.
If you can’t afford it, then don’t buy it! The most important thing is to avoid debt at all costs because once you get into debt, it becomes incredibly difficult to get out. The sooner you start saving money on purchases by using a card with no interest charges, the better off you will be financially.
6) Invest in education that will help you earn more money
Skills are one of your most valuable assets, so invest in developing or upgrading skills that will help you earn more money. You might have to pay for training upfront, but it’s an investment that will pay off in a bigger paycheck and better job security. For example, if you want to switch careers, it’s important to learn about your new industry on a deeper level before putting together a resume. Read blogs from people who work in your desired field, take classes at local colleges and universities, or attend conferences where you can network with professionals in person. The sooner you get started learning about your desired career path, the sooner you can begin taking steps toward making it happen.
7) Get on the same page as your partner
If you live with a partner or roommate, sit down together and create a budget. Knowing what you have coming in is essential when creating a budget—so figure out how much income everyone has coming in. If it’s just you, don’t worry about it! But if you have one source of income (i.e., your salary) plus another (like your spouse or significant other), spend some time talking about money with that person, too.
8) Prioritize becoming debt free
Paying off debt should be one of your top financial priorities. Having even just one loan hanging over your head can be stressful, especially when making payments gets in the way of living comfortably. It’s tempting to put paying down debt on hold until you have more money or a bigger emergency fund, but with just a little effort you can get out from under that monthly payment—and start investing sooner.
9) Reallocate your budget every month
Reallocating your budget every month is a great way to make sure you’re putting money in savings where it needs to be. It’s also an excellent way for you to see how much money you’re actually spending in comparison with how much you bring home each month. Take a few minutes at least once a month and review all your accounts (credit cards, checking, savings, etc.)—then take another few minutes at least once a month to look over your budget one more time.
10) Look into micro-investing
If you’re looking for ways to save money but don’t want to deprive yourself, look into micro-investing—allowing you to invest small amounts over time in a portfolio of companies. It doesn’t get much easier than opening an account at Vanguard and investing in exchange-traded funds (ETFs), low-cost mutual funds that contain a diverse group of stocks. You can open an account with as little as $1,000. The company charges $7 per trade; if you buy or sell once a month, it’ll cost $84 per year.