I like living with technology. Especially on the saving/personal finance front. Personal Capital, Ebates, Honey, Ibotta, Fetch, Checkout51, Status, etc. are all modern ways you can save and/or track your money. These, among many others, are great tools you can use to track your spending and easily save money without thinking about it.
But at the end of the day, if you spend more than you make, or fail to have a plan or budget, it doesn’t matter how many couponing apps or savings websites you use, your finances will suffer.
Being let go from my job changed my financial outlook
I was let go from my first post-college job in 2011 after spending nearly 7 years with the company. There was a reorganization and I was one of the lucky ones to be called into the office of our Human Resources Director only to see my boss sitting there.
If you’ve never had this happen to you before, let me clue you in. It’s horrible! I had no idea it was coming and truly thought that only “other people” were let go. “That can’t happen to me,” I thought.
What was said to me at that moment was a blur, but they quickly cut to the chase and told me of my fate. My boss then left the room and the HR associate discussed the severance package with me, etc.
I signed a document that said I wasn’t going to sue them and was allowed to head to my cube to collect my things. What little I in my cube I shoved into a plastic shopping bag a colleague gave me and left the building on my own.
They gave me a small severance and filed for unemployment benefits. I knew I would find a job soon but also knew that I had to watch my spending if I didn’t want this unemployment stretch to affect my financial goals. So what seemed like a horrible situation at first helped me to change my financial mindset and improve my overall finances.
Savings apps were not as prevalent a few years ago, but I was able to make a conscious effort to watch my spending and get more serious about couponing and saving.
Check out a few ways you can easily save and not even notice!
Save money without thinking about it.
1. Wait 24 hours (or longer) to make a purchase
Once you give yourself time to think about the purchase, big or small, after a day or two, you will have likely forgotten about it, or have less of an urge to spend. It could be a new car or vehicle, could be a new shirt or a toy for your child. Whatever it is, it’s likely a want and not a need and one that will easily pass if you let some time pass.
2. Save your change
Because I like to use cash as often as possible I tend to have a lot of change lying around. This adds up over time. I feel like a kid on Christmas morning taking my change to the bank to cash it in and see how much is in the band.
Put it in your savings account. Use it as a jump-start for another savings goal. Put it aside for a donation, or use toward Christmas gifts. Because I haven’t missed it, it kinda feels like free money.
3. Pay yourself first
Invest now for your future, specifically retirement. Compound interest. I know we learned about it in school, but there is soooo much truth in the numbers. Start as early as you can to save for retirement and you won’t regret it.
I know it’s hard if you already feel like you’re living paycheck to paycheck, but your future self will undoubtedly thank you. Start small, at a minimum try to do your company’s match, and tack on an extra percentage point as you can.
4. Treat saving like a bill
There will always be unexpected expenses that creep up in life. If you have a personal savings account that you add to regularly, you will cover or hedge any major financial risk by having some money you can access easily in an emergency (or maybe that emergency vacation your mental health needs).
Have this money automatically withdrawn from your paycheck just like your 401, but put into a savings account for a rainy day. It doesn’t matter how much. Start with $1 if that’s what you can afford. Just start getting into the habit of saving like it’s a bill.
5. Save any annual merit increases
My dad always taught me to increase my 401K each year the same percentage as any merit increase. My paychecks stay relatively constant but my contribution to retirement increases. I can’t say I’ve been consistent every single year, but increasing at least 1% annually has been a great way to see my 401k grow without really noticing it.
6. View money as freedom
Envision the life you would have if money wasn’t an object. Money in your pocket is better than having it tied up in physical belongings you don’t have time to enjoy anyway.
The fewer things you own, the not only do you have more in your pocket, but fewer things to manage/clean/organize/sort, etc. By viewing money as freedom, it will help you think twice about purchases and allow you to stay focused on your savings goals.
7. Save small bills
Whether it be $5.00 or $1.00. They are small enough that you will likely not notice but large enough to add up over time. Find a jar or envelope and every time you find a $5 or $1 bill in your wallet, take it out and put it away. It adds up over time!
8. Keep savings in a savings account that is not accessible via an ATM
If you have to go to a bank to withdraw the money, the money has a much higher chance of actually staying where it is. Open a new account if you have to. Make the money intentionally hard to get your hands on!
9. Use an app like Acorns to round up your change
This works well if you’re a credit card or debit card user more often than you are cash. Similar to paying for something in cash and saving the change, Acorns does the same, but on debit and credit card transactions. Just another easy way to automate small amounts of money that add up over time.
10. Treat coupons like cash
Since you’re using coupons on items you would have purchased anyway, “cash” them out with yourself and put that money aside for a rainy day. For example, if you saved $5.00 at the store using coupons, take $5.00 from your wallet and put it somewhere safe. Separately bank the coupon savings and those extra dollars will add up fast!
11. Roll credit card points
I use a Chase Freedom credit card and take advantage of its quarterly 5% cash back categories (vs 1% on all other purchases). For example, right now I get 5% cashback at Gas Stations, Lyft and Walgreens.
Kind of random but adds up, especially on gas that I put on a credit card anyway. Being mindful of when I can earn extra cashback and using my credit card during those times can add up!
I used to cash my points out each month and simply apply them to my credit card balance. Since I pay my credit card balance off each month, and the money earned on the credit card rewards doesn’t feel like my money since I would have made the purchases anyway, let them ride.
You’ll be amazed and how much you can accumulate if you let them sit for 6 months, 12 months, etc.
12. Do you money left over at the end of the month? Make it disappear!
Cash it out, put it in savings; place it in an envelope in your underwear drawer. I don’t care where you put it, but make it somewhere where you won’t be tempted to spend it.
There will always be “those” times where you’re short on cash and could use a little something to get you through the rest of the month. Saving the excess at the end of a lighter month will help make ends meet on other months.
There are so many ways you can save money without thinking about it. The goal is for the savings to be automated or in a way you don’t have to think about it, and ultimately won’t miss it.
What have I missed? How do you trick yourself into saving more?
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