Does it seem like your hard-earned paycheck isn’t stretching as far as it should be? Fortunately, there are a few changes you can make in how you earn and spend your money that can help you save more of your paycheck. From decreasing the deductions taken out of your check to making small life changes to spend less and save more, we’re rounding up the best ways to hold on to more of your cash.
Click through for tips and tricks to make your money stretch — that don’t require much effort.
Last updated July 25, 2019.
1. Adjust W-4 Exemptions
If you’re getting a sizable tax refund, you’re actually missing out on money you could be getting paid upfront.
“The best way to boost your take-home pay is to adjust your taxes,” said Debbi King, personal finance expert, life coach and author of “The ABC’s of Personal Finance.” “Most of us are getting big refunds every year because we are having too much taken out each payday.”
If you take a minute to adjust your W-4, you can have some of that refund now to invest and grow instead of waiting for it all later.
2. Freeze Your Gym Membership
Investing in your health should be a priority, but if you need to boost your take-home earnings, consider freezing your gym membership. There are plenty of workouts you can do for free, such as hiking, running, biking or following along with a YouTube workout.
Use the cash you would be spending on your membership to help you reach your financial goals, and unfreeze your membership if you want when you get back on better financial footing.
3. Put a Percentage of Your Paycheck Into a Money Market Account Each Month
It can be easy to spend your whole paycheck each month if you cash it out right away or put it into a checking account. To make sure you end up saving some of your paycheck, transfer a fixed percentage of each paycheck into a money market or savings account every pay period. Money market accounts typically offer higher interest rates than traditional savings accounts, so that direct deposit from your paycheck will compound even faster. For example, the SunTrust Advantage Money Market Savings account comes with a competitive interest rate for balances of more than $10,000 and offers easy access to your money whenever you want. If you’re just beginning your savings journey, consider the SunTrust Select Savings account.
Whether you regularly contribute 5% or 20% of your paycheck, the savings will add up faster over time than they would in typical checking or savings accounts.
4. Change Your Healthcare Plan
Along with taxes and retirement fund deductions, healthcare costs are usually deducted directly from your paycheck. To lower your deductions, consider if you are actually using all the healthcare you have paid for and change your plan to one with a lower cost if possible. Be cautious when making adjustments though, as cheaper plans often mean higher deductibles.
5. Ask To Be Reimbursed for Work-Related Expenses
You shouldn’t have to pay for work-related travel or client meals. If you find these expenses are eating away at your earnings, verify your company’s policies on work-related expenses and consider asking your employer to reimburse you. Or, request a business credit card that your employer can pay directly.
6. Take Advantage Of Office Perks
Many offices now provide their employees with perks to attract and retain their workforce. If your office has an on-site gym or provides you with free snacks or meals, take advantage of these benefits. You can save a lot by quitting your gym and spending less on outside food purchases.
7. Differentiate Between Needs and Wants
You might really want a new TV or a trendy pair of shoes, but unless your TV is broken or all of your shoes are worn out, these purchases qualify as “wants” rather than “needs.” Focus on spending money on needs only, and keep the money you would spend on wants in your pocket (or savings account).
8. Decrease Fixed Expenses
There are certain expenses you have to pay every month, such as rent, utilities, cable, cellphone and car payments. While you will have to dedicate some of your paycheck to these expenses no matter what, there are ways to decrease the amount you pay.
If your cellphone bill seems astronomical, consider changing phone plans or shop around for a new provider. And while car payments are usually fixed, you might be able to save on your car insurance by shopping around for a new insurer.
9. Opt Into 401(k) Contributions
In addition to automatically transferring funds into a savings or money market account, you should also opt into a 401(k) plan if your company offers it. You should at least contribute the max employer match amount but more if you can. This money compounds over time, so it’s one of the best ways to watch your savings grow. And since it comes out of your gross pay, you won’t even feel the deduction.
10. Have a Savings Goal
It’s easier to prioritize saving over spending if you have a goal in mind. Whether you are saving up for a large purchase such as a car or house, or you want to make sure you have a healthy emergency fund ready in case of job loss or other unforeseen events, having an end goal will make you work toward it.
Putting funds in a CD account can help you reach your savings goal faster. You might consider opening a CD account with SunTrust, which allows you to select your term and has a guaranteed interest rate. You can also leave funds in for shorter or longer — SunTrust has terms ranging from seven days to 10 years — and you only need $2,000 to open a CD. Since interest rates are guaranteed and funds are protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., you’ll know ahead of time exactly how much interest you’ll earn.
11. Track Your Spending
Consider using a budgeting app to see exactly what you’re spending your paycheck on. If you see that you’re spending a lot of your earnings on unnecessary things like a daily coffee from a coffee shop, consider scaling back on these expenses.
12. Avoid Unnecessary Bank Fees
You could be spending more than you’d like on easily avoidable bank fees. Many banks charge fees for using an out-of-network ATM, so only make withdrawals at your own bank or take advantage of the cash-back option when making in-store purchases. Your bank could also charge a fee if you don’t keep a minimum balance in your account, so make sure you know the criteria for fee waivers.
13. Allow Yourself To Splurge, but Keep It to a Minimum
Although you can save big by not buying a daily latte — averaging $3.65, you would save $1,332.25 a year — you shouldn’t completely deprive yourself if it’s something you really love. If coffee is your financial Achilles’ heel, consider buying your beloved caffeinated drink once or twice a week or month rather than every day. If you love buying new shoes every month, limit yourself to one pair a season.
Yes, it’s important to save, but you should also be able to enjoy your hard-earned money from time to time — latte included.
14. Join a Carpool
Commuting to work can cost you a considerable chunk of your paycheck. Carpooling with friends or co-workers is an easy way to save money. According to Paycheck Advance, carpooling can save you $200 on gas bills. Plus, if you’re able to take advantage of HOV lanes, you’ll save time on your commute as well.
15. Use Coupons and Online Promo Codes
You don’t have to clip physical coupons anymore to save while you shop. Use online coupon sites to find coupons and promo codes for many of your favorite retailers. And if you online shop, try to make purchases from retailers that offer free shipping year-round. The money you save on shipping fees means more money in your pocket.
16. Shop With a Credit Card That Offers Cash Back
Whether you’re spending on “needs” or “wants,” make your purchases with a credit card that lets you get money back and ultimately spend less of your paycheck than you would with a regular credit card. However, it’s important to keep in mind that these credit cards often come with higher annual percentage rates, so only use one if you are able to pay your balance in full.
17. Buy Generic Products When Possible
Generic brands often cost significantly less than name-brand products, and for certain items, the generic is just as good. The best things to buy generic include cereal, spices and seasonings, diapers and medications, so consider switching from making name-brand purchases in those categories to a generic option if you want to hold on to more of your paycheck.
18. Turn Down Your Air Conditioner
Cranking up your air conditioner can mean a large electricity bill during the summer months. Consider raising the temperature in your home a few degrees for significant savings so you can put that money to better use. According to Pacific Power, you should set the temperature to 78 degrees for optimal saving while still feeling comfortable — keeping your house at a cooler temperature can increase your air conditioning bill by as much as 8%.
19. Pack Your Own Lunch
Buying lunch every day can quickly deplete your paycheck. If you spend $10 a day on lunch during the workweek, that adds up to $200 a month. While it’s okay to treat yourself to a lunch out every once in a while, aim to bring lunch on more days than you eat out if you want to save.
20. Unsubscribe From Streaming Services You Aren't Using
If you have multiple streaming services across the same categories, you likely aren’t using all of them. Do you really need Hulu, Netflix and HBO Now? Are you listening to Spotify Premium, Pandora Plus and Sirius XM radio? Consider limiting yourself to one subscription service per category to easily save on your monthly expenses.
21. Save Your Raise
If you get a raise at work, maintain your current lifestyle and expenses, and save the difference instead of spending it.
“The most common mistake is that people let their spending increase commensurate with their new salary,” said Robert Johnson, chairman and CEO at Economic Index Associates. “For instance, people move into a bigger apartment or buy a more expensive car to reward themselves for receiving the raise. What happens is they are unable to improve their financial condition because they spend everything they make.”
Since you’re already used to living a certain way, it won’t be a lifestyle adjustment to put that new pay increase toward savings instead.
22. Only Buy Things With Cash or Debit
Putting everything on a credit card enables you to spend beyond your means without realizing it. When you only make purchases with cash or a debit card, it forces you to spend only the money you have and be mindful when you are running low on funds. You’ll likely save when you’re only buying things you can actually afford at the moment.
23. Always Make a Shopping List
Making a shopping list — and sticking to it — will not only keep you organized on your next shopping trip, but it can also curb impulse purchases. A survey by NPD — a company that offers data, industry expertise and analytics to clients — found that 72% of American shoppers who shop with a list never or only occasionally buy items that aren’t on their list.
24. Before Making a Purchase, Sleep On It
Another way to curb impulse purchases and save more of your paycheck is to take the time to think about a purchase before making it. If you’re online shopping, keep the item in your cart overnight. If you’re shopping in a store, don’t buy unnecessary items that same day. Sleep on any potential purchase that could derail your budget. You’ll likely find that many times, the appeal of the purchase is gone by the next day.
25. Clear Marketing Emails From Your Inbox
Saving more of your paycheck can be as easy as clicking “unsubscribe.” When you stop receiving marketing emails from the companies you tend to shop the most at, you’ll be much less likely to spend because the temptation won’t constantly be popping up in your inbox.
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About the Author
Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert.