8 Ways To Save Money Today, Tomorrow and Every Day After
One of the main reasons that so many people fall prey to cycles of debt is because they don’t have any money in savings. In fact, a recent study from the Federal Reserve found that 37% of Americans don’t even have $400 in savings to deal with emergency expenses.
If you’re a member of that 37%, the time to take control of your financial future is now. Building up your savings is the first step towards financial security and it's a step that you can take right now. That’s why we reached out to a number of financial experts to learn their best tips for saving money both in the short and the long-term. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Save more by spending less.
If you want to save money, you need to create better habits around money. First, you have to get down to basics, and that means spending less money. That way, you’ll be able to funnel more cash into both your short-term and long-term savings.
"Take a look at your monthly expenses and see if there are any areas where you can reduce your spending,” says Josh Zimmelman of Westwood Tax and Consulting. “For example, replace expensive dinners out with more home-cooked meals or cancel your cable in exchange for cheaper streaming services like Hulu or Netflix.”
While some big expenses like rent or car payments are not negotiable, smaller expenses may be. You’ll be amazed how saving $5 or $10 here or there will add up to big savings over time.
Certified Financial Planner Byron Ellis, Founder and CEO of Doing Money Right in The Woodlands, Texas, recommends specifically that you cut down on your coffee:
“Don't worry, I'm not telling you that you can't have your morning cup of joe. However, if part of your daily routine is stopping by for a $6 coffee, you might want to consider putting that money to better use. Cut back on expensive coffees by only going once a week and brewing your other cups at home. This simple sacrifice alone can add up to a whopping $1,600 a year...or more.”
Cutting small purchases out of your budget and putting that money into savings will do wonders for your long-term financial health.
2. Build a budget and take control.
Okay, so you’ve resolved to spend less money. What’s next? Well, if your plan to cut down on spending involves just winging it, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Instead, you need to create a budget, so that you can plan your spending and track it each month.
“Creating a budget and tracking it is perhaps the most important part of any savings plan,” says Ellis. “Spend some time laying out all of your daily, weekly, and monthly expenses in order to get a solid understanding of your savings potential.
“Make budgeting a breeze by using easy-to-use software that you can find on websites like Mint.com and Quicken.com. This will provide you with helpful charts and graphs that will allow you to see where you can cut back. Focus on your biggest expenses, whether it be childcare, utilities, travel, etc., and get rid of any unnecessary costs within these categories.”
3. Automate your savings.
Once you have a budget in place, you’ll need to make sure that you actually save that money. If it just sits around in your checking account, it’s all too easy for those dollars to get spent instead of saved. One helpful thing you can do is set up a system where extra money gets automatically deducted.
“Automate your savings” recommends Zimmelman. “Use special apps or programs that will transfer money to your savings automatically. You can set up automatic withdrawals or transfers of a set amount every month or a percentage of every paycheck. You can also “round up” all your transactions and deposit the change into your savings automatically.”
Robert R. Johnson, Professor of Finance at Creighton University's Heider College of Business and Chairman and CEO at Economic Index Associates, shares this helpful anecdote about the power of automatic saving and how small changes in behavior can make a huge difference over time:
“Last year, University of Chicago Professor Richard Thaler received the Nobel Prize in economics for his work in behavioral finance. The premise of behavioral finance is that human beings aren’t rational profit-maximizing machines, but often succumb to behavioral biases. One of the biggest behavioral biases that humans succumb to is the bias toward immediate gratification over delayed gratification. That is, our present selves tend to win over our future selves.
“Making retirement and savings contributions the automatic, default option, so that we must actively opt out of saving is a wise approach. In essence, people need to predetermine savings for retirement instead of needing to decide each month (or paycheck) whether to invest in retirement or not. Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett once said ‘If you want to make saving a priority, take a look at how you budget. Don’t save what is left after spending; spend what is left after saving.’”
4. Pay yourself 10% and pay yourself first.
If you want to save more money, adjust your mindset. Like Warren Buffet said: "Don’t save what is left after spending; spend what is left after saving." This means making saving your number one priority, and it means paying yourself before you pay the rest of your bills.
“The best advice, I believe, is to always pay yourself first” says author, speaker, and personal finance expert Debbi King. “This is information that I wish I had 28 years ago when I graduated college. If you set aside, automatically, 10% of your wages every check, you will always have money (as long as you live on the 90%, of course). There are so many ways to save: couponing, sales, thrift stores, etc., but setting aside cash from every paycheck is the best way to build wealth and reach financial freedom.”
As King mentioned, you should set the goal of saving 10 percent of your earnings with every paycheck. While that might seem like an ambitious goal, you’d be surprised how much some tweaks to your habits and a change in how you think about saving can make a difference. As Krista Neeley, Managing Vice President of Appreciation Financial puts it:
“I attribute most savings habits are difficult for people because they perceive it as a loss, rather than a replacement. We have too many of us who seek instant gratification rather than long-term longevity benefits. When we think of savings as someone or something taking away from us rather than a gift we are giving to ourselves, it can make it harder to save.
“We have so many bills to pay or financial responsibilities to meet, sometimes we forget to get ourselves onto that list! You should always remember that one of the primary principles to building WEALTH is to PAY YOURSELF 10%. That's money you've earned and deserve to keep.”
5. Saving money needs to be a top priority.
Simply put, there is no time like the present to start saving. That’s not just a cliche, it's actually the truth. The sooner you start saving, the more money you will have saved for when you actually need it.
“Don’t wait to start saving,” says Zimmelman. “The best way to build your savings is to start early. The sooner you start saving, the more time you have to build your funds and the longer those funds have to grow. Don’t put off saving until you have a considerable amount to start with; you can start small, as long as you start as soon as possible.”
If you want to save more, you need to make it a priority—a top priority. Saving money might feel like something that’s negotiable, but your financial health is of the utmost importance. According to Neeley, “Our financial health and strength are just as important as our mental, emotional, and physical health and strength.
"Taking time to better understand and empower yourself financially can be the backbone to creating the freedom, flexibility, and peace of mind you desire for your future. Having a strong, stable foundation for your finances is the easiest way to create a bright future in all other areas of your life.”
6. Make saving money a habit.
Saving might feel difficult at first, but the longer you keep at it, the easier it will become. Make saving money an everyday habit like showering or brushing your teeth, and eventually it will just become second nature.
“Saving is a habit,” says Neeley, “And the same way it took us multiple attempts over time to learn how to correctly, then effectively, then quickly tie our shoes, the same principles apply when seeking how to improve or build habits of financial abundance and stability. Starting young means building a healthier relationship with money and a high expectation of the goals and life money can create should you choose to create it.
“Money can be one of the most empowering tools and one of the most frustrating, but it's determined 100% by us! Saving for long-term goals while you are young is also vital when remembering interest and accounts build up over time, which is only on your side before age 40. After that, long-term savings (like retirement) become increasingly expensive!”
7. Cut down on impulse spending.
This goes back to budgeting and deciding ahead of time where your money ought to go. A lot of the smaller purchases that get us in trouble are the ones that we make spur of the moment. When we’re tired and hungry or we just something on the shelf at Target that “OMG we have to have right now” even though we don’t. Cut down on your impulsive purchases and the savings will pile up.
According to Richard Gutkowski, author of the DEBT is a Four-Letter Word, But it Need Not Be! book series, “Impulsive purchases; things you buy that sooner or later you regret having bought, are savings busters. You forgot you bought a brand new driver sure to improve your ‘twice a year’ golf game. We all do it, at least now and then. The key is the ‘now and then.’
“Otherwise, impulsive overspending creeps in and can become a habit. Your credit card balances continually shock you. Impulsive purchases have led to that surprise setback. If you prepare an accurate monthly budget and adhere to it all that is unlikely to happen.”
Don’t worry that cutting down on extra spending will make your day-to-day life a drag. As Krista Neeley puts it, “You can still go out to dinner and enjoy life, maybe just remind yourself that the $10 movie popcorn or $8 dessert when at dinner would feel better in your bank account instead of in your belly. Instead of giving in to that $7 Starbucks run, take the cash and put it into savings for your future goals (maybe that's a future Starbucks run).”
8. Nights in and staycations will save bundles.
One way you can save a ton of money without dramatically decreasing your quality of life is to opt for a night in instead of a night out. You could even take an entire vacation at home instead of dropping thousands to travel elsewhere. Byron Ellis explains:
“Vacation or Staycation? Visiting a new state or country that you've never seen before is undoubtedly exciting, but getting to know your own city better is invaluable. There's no getting around it, vacations are expensive; airfare, transportation, accommodations, and attractions can really put a dent in your savings account. But you can greatly reduce these costs by vacationing in your own city (or one close by). You can rediscover why you love where you live by visiting local attractions or just turn your own house into a retreat so you can relax and unwind.
“Enjoy your home theater. The smell of popcorn, the giant screens, and of course, the over-priced tickets; all of the things we enjoy when going to the movies. But with home theater systems that now rival the neighborhood theater, you can stay home to enjoy the latest flicks. Instead of giving your hard earned money to Hollywood executives, put it in your bank account and opt for budget-friendly streaming or rentals. You can still go to the movies on occasion, just pick and choose the ones you think are worth the money.”
You can start saving today. You really can; just follow these tips, make a plan, and stay consistent. Years from now, you’ll look back on this decision as one of the best you ever made.
Byron Ellis (@byronellistweet) is the Managing Director at United Capital Financial Life Management (@United_Capital) and the Founder/CEO of Doing Money Right. He has been helping families with their Financial Life Management since 1989 and has built and grown one of the most successful firms in the entire country! Byron lives in The Woodlands, Texas where he has a weekly financial column in The Villager and Courier, two local newspapers.
Richard M. Gutkowski, Ph.D, P.E. is an Emeritus Professor at Colorado State University experienced in teaching and research. Globally he directed numerous workshops and conferences. He managed budgets totaling millions of dollars. He transferred his fiscal skills into managing family finances. Discipline, wise financial decision-making, and strategic borrowing became his forte. He is author of DEBT is a Four-Letter Word, But it Need Not Be!, a book series to help parents and young people maneuver through first-time debt worries.
Robert R. Johnson, Ph.D., CFA ® , CAIA ® , CLF ®, is a Professor of Finance at Creighton University's Heider College of Business and Chairman and CEO at Economic Index Associates. Bob is the author of multiple books and scholarly articles. He is co-author of the books Invest With the Fed, Strategic Value Investing, The Tools and Techniques of Investment Planning, and Investment Banking for Dummies. His articles have appeared in The Journal of Finance, Journal of Financial Economics, Financial Analysts Journal, and Journal of Portfolio Management.
Debbi King (@DebbiKing) is a personal finance expert, motivational speaker, and the author of two award-winning books, The ABC’s of Personal Finance and 26 Weeks to Wealth and Financial Freedom. She is also the host of a weekly radio show, The ABC’s of Personal Finance. Debbi has been featured in numerous media outlets empowering others to win in the area of money. In addition to her work, she is the founder and President of Lovell Ministries and is happily married with a beautiful 19-year-old daughter, 4 stepchildren and 5 wonderful granddaughters.
Krista Neeley is the proud mother of three amazing girls, passionate about finances and helping others, and is blissfully married to her sweetheart. She’s been in financial services for 5 years and enjoys supporting people in achieving financial liberty. She enjoys traveling, photography, reading, and Disneyland trips during her free time.
A forward-thinking entrepreneur and passionate family man, Josh Zimmelman graduated from Yeshiva University in 2003 with a degree in accounting. After learning the ropes and excelling at several large firms, Josh took the leap to launch his own firm in 2010. In just a few years, Westwood Tax and Consulting has become a booming full-service accounting firm that demystifies the perplexing world of taxes for individuals and small businesses. It is his goal to make taxes not only bearable, but even a little bit fun for his clients. Always excited to share his tax knowledge, Josh has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Newsday, USA Today, The Huffington Post, and US News & World Report.
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