Do you have a financial goal you want to accomplish by the end of the year? Perhaps it's buying a home or going on a vacation.
In its 2017 Love and Money survey, TD Bank surveyed 1,482 Americans to find out more about how couples manage money, saving and spending habits, financial goals and challenges. The survey revealed 26 percent of couples said budgeting and saving are the most needed topics of advice.
You're not alone if you are skeptical about being able to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in just a few months — but it is possible. The first thing you have to do is set a goal.
"You can’t be successful without clearly defining what success looks like," said Jason Thacker, head of U.S. consumer deposits and payments at TD Bank. "You need to be intentional about what your financial goals are and then sit down with a financial professional to create a plan that works for you."
If your goal is to save big by year's end, try incorporating these 25 tips and tools into your strategy to start saving now.
1. Pay Yourself First and Automate
It sounds simple because it is, but paying yourself first and utilizing common tools like automating savings transfers can make a huge impact.
"Paying yourself first and automating your savings transfers is a convenient strategy you can leverage to help manage your finances," said Thacker. "By automating your savings before you allocate your monthly spending, you can grow your personal savings consistently over time."
Consider this example: If you're taking home about $4,000 a month, consider paying yourself $500 first automatically and budgeting living expenses with the remaining $3,500. You might not even realize it, but over the course of the next couple of months, you'll save $2,000.
Be sure to add meeting with a financial advisor to your financial to-do list to help you reach your savings goals. It’s recommended to visit a financial advisor annually — however, only three out of 10 people surveyed said they actually do.
“Just like an annual checkup with your physician, it’s important to be proactive about your financial health," said Thacker. "Meeting with a TD financial advisor at least once a year is a great place to start. From there, you can establish a regular rhythm and cadence together to work towards your financial goals."
2. Start Couponing
It seems like a lifetime ago that you had to cut out coupons from the newspaper and bring them to the store. These days, you can find tons of promo codes and printable coupons online. There are even mobile coupon apps you can download and use while shopping in the store.
"Even as a casual couponer, you can cut shopping costs by $25 a week,” said Mark Mazza, co-founder and CEO of PromoCodeWatch. “But if you put the time in — say, eight to 10 hours a month — you can start saving closer to $200 per month.” By the end of this year, your monthly savings would add up to $800.
3. Grocery Shop Strategically
A common tip for food shopping is to not go when you’re hungry. While that is a sound piece of advice, you can do a lot more than that to reduce how much you spend on groceries.
"Plan your menu around what is on sale at the grocery store, and find coupons to match those items,” said Jeanette Pavini, spokesperson for Coupons.com. “If something is out of stock, ask for a rain check. This way you can get the item when it is back in-stock at the lower price. This can slash your bill by up to 50 percent.”
According to Numbeo, an online resource that provides cost of living expenses around the world, the monthly recommended minimum amount of food for one person costs close to $325. If you cut this by 50 percent, you save $162.50 per month — and $650 by the end of the year.
4. Challenge Yourself With No-Spend Days
One of the most common pieces of advice respondents had for young couples in TD Bank's Love and Money survey was to evaluate discretionary spending. "Making minor changes to your daily routine can really add up," said Thacker. "Skipping the $5 coffee and resisting impulse buys are easy ways to save."
A great way to follow this advice is to create no-spend days.
“Assign three days a week where you aren’t allowed to spend any money," said Rachel Cruze, a personal finance expert and best-selling author of “Love Your Life, Not Theirs.”
"Maybe you do this on days you’re working and in the office. You can bring your lunch and eat at home for dinner. You can save around $2,000 in six months." By those numbers, you could keep an extra $1,333 by the end of the year.
5. Brown Bag Your Lunch
It's easy and convenient to buy your lunch at work every day without realizing how much it adds up. But do the math: If you spend $10 a day on lunch every day for just one month, that can easily cost you about $200.
Switch to packing your lunch. Pavini said doing this only three days a week can save you roughly $21 a week. Over the course of the next four months, you would save about $357.
6. Cook Once a Month
Here’s a tip to really take saving money on food to the next level. “Stock up on sale items at the beginning of the month, and plan freezer meals around those sale items," said Lauren Greutman, author of "The Recovering Spender." "Prepare 20 meals at one time, and place them in your freezer. I do this every month where I make 20 meals for under $150.”
Because the monthly amount of food for one person costs close to $325, you stand to save $175 a month using this method. With about four months left in the year, that equals $700 in savings by 2018.
7. Use Discounts on Prescription Drugs
Like with grocery shopping, you can get crafty with how you buy medication. “From paying with pre-tax dollars in your health savings account to using membership programs and coupons, there are plenty of ways to cut the costs of your prescriptions,” said Matt Brownell, editor at The Balance, a personal finance website.
Check out sites like HelpRx and GoodRx, which offer savings of roughly 75 percent to 80 percent off some of the most common prescriptions, according to Dan Gay, president of Sinus Survival.
Some prescribed medications used to treat a cold, flu and sinus infections can add up to an estimated $960 a year, he said. That's $80 a month. By saving 75 percent on prescription drugs, you can save a total $240 by the end of the year.
8. Ditch Your Car
“Between insurance, gas, maintenance and monthly payments, the costs of car ownership can really add up," said Brownell. That's why he recommends just selling your car.
"Sure, car ownership is a must in some areas," he said. "But if you live in an area with public transit or ride-sharing services, it pays to consider whether it’s feasible to go car-free.”
The suggestion might seem far-fetched, but the potential savings aren't. According to AAA, the annual cost to own and operate a vehicle is $8,469. Ditching your car could mean saving approximately $706 per month, and over the next four months, that would be $2,823 saved.
9. Get New Car Insurance
If you can't bring yourself to sell your car, don't fret because you still have options.
"To save money by the end of the year, it's an excellent idea to shop around for new car insurance," said Neil Richardson, a licensed insurance agent at The Zebra. "It's a good idea to shop for car insurance every six to 12 months anyway, because oftentimes, the things that determine your car insurance rate have changed in that time frame: your car is older, has more miles, you've accumulated years of driving experience, gone months without an accident, etc."
Compare rates using online calculators. For example, a recent search on CarInsurance.com found that the highest annual rate for a 40-year-old male in Los Angeles is $3,078. The lowest rate is $1,415. By taking advantage of the lowest rate, a man fitting this demographic can save $1,663 a year — or around $416 in just a few months.
10. Renegotiate Other Insurance Policies
Review all of your insurance policies to find potential savings opportunities. "Most of us get our life and homeowners insurance policies and just keep them on autopilot," said Cruze.
“Find an independent broker who can make the calls for you and get the best rates possible," she said. "People who shop around on an annual basis to make sure they’re getting the best rates possible save an average of $500 per year." So, you could possibly save an additional $167 over the next four months with this strategy.
11. Get Rid of Monthly Subscriptions You Forgot About
With so many mobile and online-based services these days, it’s easy to lose track of the subscriptions you’ve signed up for. It's even easier to forget how much you're paying for them. Finance expert and best-selling author David Bach calls these expenses the “Double Latte Factor.”
“[These expenses] show up each month, and you tell yourself you’ll cancel and then don’t," he said. "You’ve probably now got $20 to $30 a month of those."
In order to eliminate them, you need to identify them first — and that’s where an app like Clarity Money comes in handy. It identifies these recurring expenses and can attempt to cancel them on your behalf. Instead of shelling out $20 to $30 every month, you could potentially save up to $120 by the end of the year.
12. Create an Account at a Cash-Back Website
Did you know you could save and earn money while shopping through certain websites? For example, BeFrugal is a cash-back website that lets you take advantage of coupons and earn money on purchases.
"You simply click through [the BeFrugal website] before doing your regular online shopping," said Jon Lal, the site's founder and CEO. "This is a great way to start putting money away for holiday shopping."
So how much money can you save before 2018 by using a site like BeFrugal? If you earn the U.S. median income, which is about $54,000, you should spend approximately $16,200 on discretionary spending year. This is based on the 50-30-20 budgeting rule, which states 30 percent of your income should be directed toward discretionary purchases. So, you might spend $1,350 each month.
13. Set Up Airfare Alerts
Are you planning a trip sometime between now and the end of the year? If so, keep in mind airline prices can be volatile and inconsistent, making it difficult to determine the best time to buy tickets. Purchase them at the wrong time, and you could be coughing up a lot of money.
"The best way to get the best deal when booking airfare is to set up alerts prior to your trip," said George Hobica, founder and president of Airfarewatchdog, a site that helps travelers find airfare deals. "With airfare alerts, travelers will know when there are great deals or promos available for their specific routes. The alerts include all airlines and many fares are vetted and found by real experts, so price and quality are taken into account when they post fares.”
According to the Airfarewatchdog website, 40 percent of travelers said they have saved $50 or more using airfare alerts, but the savings can be much more dramatic. For example, between August and September, the average airfare for trips from Los Angeles to Atlanta swung from $850 down to $474 — a savings of $376.
14. Know Where to Save for Back-to-School Shopping
A survey by the National Retail Federation revealed that families with kids in grades K–12 planned to spend an average of $687.72 on clothes and school supplies this year. If you pick the right store, however, you can cut this cost down and save at least $100 when shopping this year.
“Head to Dollar Tree, and stock up on inexpensive back-to-school items,” said Collin Morgan of Hip2Save, a site that features coupons, deals, freebies and more. “As an idea, you can pack fun school snacks using Dollar Tree hardware storage cases, just $1, and keep the kid's daily outfits neatly organized with colorful storage bins.”
15. Reduce Retirement Investment Fees
"If you’re interested in saving some serious money over the long term, take a look at the fees you’re paying on the investments in your 401k and other retirement accounts," said Brownell of The Balance. "The savings from switching to lower-fee mutual funds or ETFs could add up to tens of thousands of dollars by the time you retire."
But you don't have to wait until retirement to feel the savings. "If you’ve got $20,000 in your 401k, then switching from a fund with a 2 percent expense ratio to one at 0.5 percent will save you about $300 over the course of the year. And those savings will add up and compound over the years to a lot more," said Brownell. Using this example, you can save at least $100 before the end of the year.
16. Auto-Increase Your Retirement Contributions
Fifty-four percent of Love & Money survey respondents said the best advice they could give their younger selves is not to wait to start saving or investing. Often, the biggest obstacle to saving is the human factor, aka yourself. Fortunately, the finance world makes it easy to take yourself out of the equation.
"If you're serious about ensuring you reach your money-saving goals by year-end, consider ways of automating your savings, so that you can't sabotage your efforts," Janet Alvarez, executive editor at Wise Bread, a website that provides financial tips. "Some ideas to consider: Increase automatic contributions to your 401k or IRA plan."
Setting up contribution auto-increases with your employer means you're maximizing your savings without doing much work. Typical auto-increases raise your contribution 1 percent per year, but that makes a huge difference. If you make $50,000 a year while contributing 5 percent, you would put $2,500 towards savings. With a 1 percent auto-increase, your savings would rise to $3,000.
17. Take the $500 Saving Challenge
The Save $500 Challenge is a fun way to save, and it's based on incremental gains. Here's how it works: Over the course of a 31-day month, you stash away $1 on the first day, $2 on the second, $3 on the third and so forth.
On Day 31, you'll put aside $31. And at that point, you'll have saved $496, with hardly any effort. Do this for the next four months, and you'll save $1,984 by the end of the year.
18. Sign Up for Deal Alerts
"Don't get caught up in sales and deals," said Amy Chang of Slickdeals, which offers coupons, promo codes and more. "Before you drop the dough on items that are on sale or clearance, do a quick inventory of what you already have. Just because it's cheap, that doesn't mean you need it."
The savings from deal alerts can easily add up to hundreds of dollars. For example, a smart TV, was originally selling for $349.99 at Walmart, instead of the usual list price of $799.99. By setting an alert for this deal, you will save $450. Keep this in mind when planning holiday shopping.
19. Negotiate Cable and Internet Bills
Everything is negotiable — including your monthly bills. "Call phone, cable and internet providers to renegotiate your bill at least once a year," said Jenny Martin of the Southern Savers website, which features deals. "Check with other local providers and see who can give the lowest rates. Normally, your current provider will match the lowest rate to keep you (sometimes they even beat it)."
Come into the negotiation with a rival package, and you can frequently score a deal. In fact, Martin said you can save up to $50 a month in this manner, which would put $200 back in your wallet in just a few months.
20. Get Rid of Cable
“Cut the cord, and start to stream TV rather than paying for cable or dish,” said Martin. “With plans starting at $20, including taxes, you will beat the current price you are paying and still have most, if not all, your favorite channels.”
The average pay-TV bill is $103, found Leichtman Research Group, Inc. Substituting your pay-TV with streaming services that only cost you $20 per month would save you $320 by the end of 2017.
21. Buy in Bulk
You can easily save hundreds of dollars if you buy in bulk at certain retailers.
One of the best places to buy in bulk is at Costco. According to a study by Slickdeals, buying in bulk at Costco saved $650 per year compared to shopping at Publix. So over four months, your savings would come out to $217.
22. Go Generic
"Generally, generic grocery and everyday items cost less," said Kelly Anne Smith, writer and savings expert at personal finance website The Penny Hoarder. "That being said, if you’re willing to make the swap, you’ll save big."
When shopping for medications, for example, always check to see if there's a cheaper generic option available. According to the Food and Drug Administration, buying generic medications can save you 85 percent. So if you typically spend $100 on medications for your family each month, going generic could potentially save you $340 before 2018.
23. Use Mobile Apps to Automatically Save
Take advantage of modern technology and start saving on your phone without doing much at all.
“Automate investing through apps such as Acorns that automatically save your spare change from every purchase," said Alvarez of Wise Bread. "Or, use services such as Digit."
Digit is an app that tries to transfer money from your checking to savings account. "Each of these options commits you to saving and ensures your nest egg will be bigger by year-end," she said.
24. Use Amazon’s ‘Subscribe & Save’
"Subscribe & Save" is a feature from Amazon in which you set up regularly scheduled deliveries and earn savings. Amazon offers a wide range of products that can be delivered. However, the real kicker is that when you subscribe to five or more products at one address on your monthly delivery day, you unlock extra savings.
According to finance blog Distilled Dollar, combining this program with documented budgeting can easily yield savings of $1,000 over the year — or $333 in four months.
25. Ditch the Babysitter
Though your babysitter might be a neighbor and need the money, always remember to pay yourself first. And when it comes to paying a babysitter, it might seem like a one-off occasion — but not if you go out every weekend.
"Switch off with a few friends on a babysitting rotation to save paying for a sitter," said Martin. "You watch their kids and in return, a few nights later they watch yours. Everyone gets a date night without the added cost."
According to Martin, you can easily save $40 each time you substitute yourself or friend for a hired babysitter. If you go out four times a month, that's potentially $640 saved by the end of the year.