When you work hard for your money, you want to make the most of it. This means practicing both careful spending and saving.
As of the third quarter of 2023, the median weekly earnings of full-time workers in the U.S. is $1,118 — $58,136 per year — according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. No matter what you’re working with, it’s important to stretch your salary as far as you can.
Need help finding ways to do this? Here are some tips to help you get started.
Create a Budget and Track Your Expenses
Knowing where your money is going is the first step toward squeezing the most from your salary, said Taylor Kovar, CFP, founder & CEO at Kovar Wealth Management.
“By setting up a detailed budget and tracking your expenses, you can identify areas where you might be overspending and areas where you can save,” he said.
Reduce High-Interest Debt
“High-interest debts, like credit card balances, can eat into your salary quickly,” Kovar said. “Prioritize paying off these debts to save on interest payments in the long run.”
When you finally get out of debt, he advised against allowing yourself to slip back into old habits.
“Once they’re paid off, avoid carrying a balance month-to-month to prevent those interest charges from accruing again,” he said.
Become a Smarter Shopper
“Take advantage of cash-back apps, loyalty programs, and discount codes when shopping,” Kovar said. “Additionally, consider buying generic brands over name brands, and always compare prices before making a purchase.”
It might not seem like a lot in the moment, but he said these small savings can significantly add up over time. Plus, some of these strategies require little time and effort and can easily become part of your daily routine.
Take a cash-back app such as Upside, which offers up to 30% cash back on groceries, 40% cash back on restaurants and 25 cents per gallon off of gas. Once you’ve downloaded the app, all you need to do is search for cash-back offers to claim near you. So if you need to fill up on gas, you’d simply open up the app, compare deals at nearby gas stations and select the one you want. You then fill up at that station and pay with your credit or debit card as you normally would.
Limit Dining Out
“While it’s enjoyable to eat out, it can be much more expensive than preparing meals at home,” Kovar said. “By cooking at home more often and bringing lunches to work, you can save a considerable amount over the course of a year.”
If you enjoy dining out, you don’t have to give this habit up entirely. Budget a certain amount for restaurants each month, so you can continue to enjoy this luxury without overspending.
“Many service providers, like cable or internet companies, are willing to negotiate rates, especially if you’ve been a loyal customer,” Kovar said. “It doesn’t hurt to call and ask if there are any promotions or discounts available.”
He said even a small monthly savings can add up over the course of a year, so anything you can save is a win.
Minimize Subscription Services
“Households often end up spending all their available cash flow through automated services like streaming services, subscription boxes and content and even recurring grocery delivery,” said Brian Kuhn CFP, CLU, senior vice president and financial advisor at Wealth Enhancement Group. “Almost anything you can buy now can be turned into a low monthly subscription.”
However, he said these subscription services can add up.
“Businesses know this, of course, and monthly subscriptions are more likely to lead to consistent purchases, rather than customers consciously choosing their product or service over again next month,” he said.
When trying to stick to a budget, he said avoiding subscriptions can be helpful.
“This keeps you in control of each spending decision you make, and each month, you can prioritize what’s needed or isn’t affordable right now,” he said.
“Squeezing more money out of an average salary isn’t only about making savvy spending decisions or finding deals,” said Carlos Garcia, CEO at Finhabits. “It’s about using at least a small portion of that salary to create more wealth for yourself.”
He said adopting this mindset is the first step toward achieving the level of financial security that doesn’t have you living paycheck to paycheck.
“A good rule of thumb for achieving this is to contribute at least 6% of your annual income,” he said. “If your income is $50k per year, then that means $3k per year — or $58 per week. If your income is $75k per year, then you should contribute $86 per week.”
He said putting aside small amounts of money can add up to major savings.
“If a person contributes even just $50 per week to an investment account based on a classic 60% stock/40% bond portfolio, it will have compounded to $100,000 in 20 years,” he said. If they contribute $100 per week, this number becomes $200,000.”
He said the nice thing about this strategy is you’ll barely feel a difference in your day-to-day financial situation.
“As people think about the expenses they want to cut, they might also create a habit of putting the money they saved — say, from taking public transportation instead of an Uber — and immediately putting that savings into their investment accounts, rather than simply allocating it to other expenses,” he said.
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