According to a GOBankingRates survey, as of 2018, 58% of Americans had less than $1,000 in savings. That leaves them with no significant emergency fund unless they learn how to save money fast. Things don’t look much better for retirement, as 42% of Americans have less than $10,000 put away for that, according to a separate GOBankingRates survey — and they risk retiring broke unless they put away a lot of money before their working years end.
If you need additional savings but have no idea how to save up money fast, start with these simple changes. Some are easier than others, but all of these strategies will help you build an emergency fund within a month or less and meet your long-term savings goal.
This guide will cover the following:
If you find yourself in a situation where you have an immediate need for cash, these tips can help you save up money fast.
Change the Way You Shop for Groceries
Most people know they should stick to a list in the grocery store, but you can save money by going a step further. “If you have a free or low-fee pickup option at your local grocery store, consider taking advantage of it. You will save money by avoiding impulse buys and can follow your list exactly. You can also compare prices online and choose the best deal, which also saves you money,” said Logan Allec, a CPA and owner of the personal finance site Money Done Right.
Plan and Prep Your Meals
Planning and preparing meals ahead of time saves the money you would have spent on restaurant meals, and it’s healthier, too. Use a worksheet like this one from ChooseMyPlate.gov to plan your meals, then shop for just what you need and prepare in advance by making meals that can easily be heated and served. You’ll save even more money if you add a plan to use your leftovers as well.
Sell Your Unwanted Stuff
Selling unneeded items gives you more space and a fatter bank account. Although you can have an old-fashioned garage sale, using an online platform is a convenient alternative. “Online marketplaces make it extremely easy to sell used items,” said Steffa Mantilla, a finance blogger at Plantsonify. “To get them sold fast, make sure you first search for the same item and see what the ranges of prices are. You’ll be disappointed if you think you can get near what you paid originally for the item, even if it’s unused. Cut your price after a few days if you’re really anxious to sell it.”
Rent Out Your Home
You don’t have to move out to make money from your house. Websites like Airbnb make it simple to cash in by renting out a spare room. According to the company, 2 million people stay in accommodations booked through Airbnb on any given night. Airbnb offers a tool that estimates how much you could earn by listing your unused space.
Don’t be afraid to cut costs through bargaining. “I have been able to waive fees, get better interest rates, save money on our wedding, our vehicles and even on our home. This equates to thousands of dollars in savings,” said Monica Lam of Lucky Mojito. “Some people don’t negotiate because they are embarrassed, think it makes them look cheap, or they don’t know how. You know who negotiates: entrepreneurs, the rich and people who like to save money.”
Touch Your Money
Credit cards are a painless way to spend because you don’t see your money physically flowing away from you. “The fastest way to save money is to swap cards for cash. Once you can visualize how you are spending money, it’s only a matter of time before you realize you are buying more than what you need,” personal finance blogger Saranya Ramanathan of One Fine Wallet said.
If you save money every week, you’ll find that it adds up quickly. Whether it’s for an emergency fund or a long-term plan, you’ll soon see your savings grow if you use these tips.
Automate Your Savings Habit
A savings app makes it simple to set aside money from each paycheck. Set a savings goal, then calculate what it takes to get there and set up a direct deposit through your employer or an app that sends money directly into a savings account. “My husband and I aren’t big fans of budgeting in the traditional sense because it can feel restrictive,” Lam said. “Even when we were working our way out of debt and living paycheck to paycheck, we were still able to save a good chunk of change because we automatically direct deposited some money into a savings account each week. As we paid off our debt, we gradually increased the amount we saved each week.”
Don’t Spend Money for a Week
Take a week off from spending. “This means, outside of your mandatory bills like utilities, rent, insurance, etc., you spend zero dollars,” said McKinzie Bean, creator of Moms Make Cents. “For one week, skip grabbing Starbucks, use up the food in your pantry, and skip frivolous spending like the salon, buying new clothes or binging on items at Target. You’ll be surprised how much you can save in one week’s time.”
Get a Side Hustle
You’ll make a lot of money using your spare time to do ride shares, deliver food or moonlight at whatever gig appeals to you. Working in the gig economy is a popular way to supplement savings, with 87% of gig economy workers reporting that they make an effort to stash part of their earnings away, according to a 2018 survey by investment company Betterment.
Use Cash To Limit Yourself
Ramanathan has a trick to limit spending. “When I do my grocery shopping each week, I take no more than $100 in cash each time. This keeps me in check when I shop,” Ramanathan said.
Make Stores Give You Money
If you shop at places like Target, Walmart or Amazon, Ramanathan recommends the Paribus savings app from Capital One. Paribus watches for price changes for items you’ve purchased online, and it helps you get a refund when prices drop.
When you buy name brands, you’re paying in part for the name. That’s why generic or store brands generally tend to be cheaper, despite meeting the same regulations and requirements as their name-brand counterparts. A 2019 survey by the Private Label Manufacturers Association found that two-thirds of consumers said that store-brand products are as good as, or even better than, offerings from national brands.
Wait Before You Buy
Limit your online purchases to once a week to help you assess whether you truly need something. “Amazon has truly revolutionized the way we make purchases, but it has made it extremely easy to buy things we really do not need. If you find yourself making impulse purchases, try saving items for later rather than buying right away,” said Brian Walsh, manager of financial planning at SoFi. “We have seen SoFi members drastically reduce their spending by restricting their online purchases to once a week. This allowed them to think through their purchases and make more mindful decisions.”
The Upside to Downsizing: How To Save Money by Living Minimally
You can’t completely eliminate your monthly expenses, but you have a lot of options for saving some money each month. Implement as many of these tips as possible and you’ll soon meet your savings goal.
Slash Your Subscriptions
Pay attention to what you’re spending on all those subscriptions. “Unused memberships and subscriptions can cost you hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars a year,” Walsh said. “Automatic renewals might make your life easier, but eventually, people forget that they have that $30 per month gym membership or $15 per month streaming service that they never use.”
Make a Budget and Stick to It
Pay attention to where your money goes by creating and following a budget. Compare your income and bills and look for places to potentially cut back. Some monthly expenses are nonnegotiable, but items like clothes are more flexible, and some things, like fancy coffee shop lattes, can be cut out entirely to free up money for savings. You might be surprised at just how much money you can free up once you see your expenses in black and white.
Get Paid To Spend Money
You can’t avoid certain monthly expenses, so why not earn rewards when you spend money? Various credit card companies offer rewards such as travel benefits, gift cards, and even statement credits to your credit card. A 2018 J.D. Power study found that credit card companies are upping the rewards ante to attract new customers because 47% of cardholders who switched to a new card did so to reap better rewards. Take advantage of banks’ desire to earn your business with tempting offers that pay you for your charges.
Lower Your Credit Card Interest Rates
Reducing credit card interest rates might be as simple as asking your bank or doing a balance transfer to a lower-interest card. You can also pay off your credit card debt with lower-interest personal loans, said Jerry Brown, owner of the Peerless Money Mentor website. Brown had $10,000 worth of debt spread between multiple credit cards, all with interest rates hovering around 20.00%. “To pay off this debt faster and save a ton on interest, I ended up taking out two personal finance loans with a 5% APR. Using this strategy, I ended up paying my credit card debt off in three years, and I saved more than $100 a month in interest,” he said.
Refinance Your Auto Loan
Car loans with high interest rates can hurt you financially. “Most people have no idea that they have the ability to refinance their auto loan with the potential to save big,” said Nancy Fitzgerald, CEO of iLendingDirect. “If you bought your car at a dealership, chances are you got stuck with a very high interest rate, like a 22% APR, and you can refinance as low as 1.99%. Refinancing a vehicle can be done in as little as a week, lower your monthly payment, and save you thousands of dollars in interest over the life of your loan.”
Use Automatic Bill Pay
Everyone has bills for things like utilities, car insurance, life insurance and cellphones. “Enrolling in autopay can help you save some money for the month on all of your regular bills,” said Beverly Friedmann of ReviewingThis. “Companies love knowing they’ll be getting your payment without any hassles, so they’ll typically waive small fees if you enroll.”
Invest In Short-Term CDs
Use short-term certificates of deposit to earn interest. Savings accounts are a good option because many checking accounts don’t earn interest, but CD accounts typically offer higher interest rates. Many CD accounts have penalties for early withdrawal, which makes you more likely to leave your money alone. Credit unions generally offer higher CD interest rates than banks do, and the National Credit Union Administration provides interest rate comparison charts to help you find the best current rate.
Barb Nefer has written about financial topics for over a decade and given webinars on various money-related topics.
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