While necessary, saving money, budgeting and planning might seem daunting to some people. But making smaller plans, breaking the task into bite-size pieces and finding daily ways to save small amounts also works– and surprisingly, these savings might add up fast.
“Remember, the key is consistency,” said Seth Diener, private wealth manager at Diener Money Management. “While each individual action might save only a small amount, the cumulative effect of practicing these habits over time can lead to significant savings. It’s important to track your progress and celebrate your achievements to stay motivated on your savings journey.”
Start Meal Planning
Tanya Peterson, vice president at Achieve, recommended making a meal at home in 30 minutes.
“According to one recent survey, Americans order takeout or delivery 4.5 times a month, and eat at a restaurant an average of three times a month,” she said. “In a month’s time, that could easily total $250 or more for a family. That’s $3,000 a year.”
Along the same lines, meal planning will also help you decrease food waste. According to a Department of Agriculture report, an average family of four spends between $1,047 to $1,576 per month on groceries, said Andrea Woroch, a money-saving and budgeting expert.
“Considering Americans waste around 40% of all food purchases, it appears consumers could be throwing away roughly $418 to $630 per month on spoiled food and unwanted leftovers,” she said. “To combat this and start saving, it’s important to learn how to meal plan. Meal planning helps reduce food waste since you are more strategic about what you buy and limit those impulse purchases, especially of fresh foods that can go bad quickly.”
Tap Into Your ‘Found’ Money
According to Blackhawk Network Head of Global Commerce Brett Narlinger, if you have an unused gift card lying around in a drawer or taking up space in your wallet or loyalty points sitting in a retailer’s app, put them to good use.
“Gift cards and points are ‘found’ financial resources that can help you lighten the financial blow of inflation and save money on everyday purchases -or even splurge items,” Narlinger said. “They can also avoid taking on debt during challenging economic times.”
Paying with gift cards can also help you stick to a tighter budget and get the most bang for your buck, he added.
Melissa Cid, consumer savings expert for MySavings.com, said one way to save small amounts is by unplugging electronics, TV, computer and small appliances– which will lower your utility bill.
“Turn fans and lights off when not being used,” said Cid. “The U.S. Department of Energy estimates an average household could save $100 per year on their electric bill – these small daily savings really add up.”
Use technology. Some debit cards and payment apps offer a round up option, which helps one save small amounts when making daily transactions, said William J. Luther, director of Sound Money Project for American Institute for Economic Research.
“If your lunch costs $8.82, your payment provider will deduct $9 from your checking account and send the additional 18 cents to your savings account,” said Luther. “Over time, these small contributions can really add up.”
Set Financial Challenges for Yourself
One way to do this is to plan no-spend challenges, said Diener.
“Designate specific days, weekends, or weeks as ‘no-spend’ periods. During these times, avoid non-essential purchases. The money you would have spent can be transferred to your savings account,” he said.
And along the same lines, Diener said that you can also set weekly or monthly challenges, during which you try to save a certain amount each week or month.
“For example, in week one, save $1; in week two, save $2; and so on. By the end of the year, you’ll have saved over $1,300,” he added.
Take Pictures of Your Receipts
You can turn receipts into cash back using apps, such as Fetch.com.
“Just upload pictures of your receipts and you will earn points which are good towards free gift cards to a variety of stores including Target, Walmart and Amazon,” said Woroch. “Check their special offers section to see which brands will get you more points to rack up free gift cards faster. I recently got 2,500 points for my purchase of Pampers Diapers which is like getting $2.50 back on the purchase.”
Focus on Energy-Saving Habits
For instance, Achieve’s Peterson said that by turning down the temperature on the hot water heater to 120 degrees – or, if equipped only with a scale, turning it down a notch- most people can save up to 10% of water heating costs, while still maintaining plenty of hot water.
In addition, she recommended taking a few minutes “to play the solar game with shades and curtains.”
“Whenever you are at home, open and close shades and curtains to make sure the sun is not beating in and heating up your home where you don’t want it to be in the summer,” she said. “In the winter, make sure it is doing as much of a heating job as possible. Taking this simple step can be surprisingly efficient and show up in utility bills.”
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