Quick: what are your New Year’s resolutions? Perhaps it’s to lose weight and get in shape, or maybe it’s to make more of an effort to see family and friends. If you’re like most people, however, one of your biggest New Year’s resolutions is to save more money in 2017 — for fun, for education, for retirement, or for whatever.
It’s a good resolution to have, as saving money is something that Americans have gotten progressively worse at over the years. The numbers are anything but encouraging: according to a recent report issued by the Federal Reserve, an overwhelming majority of Americans have little or no money in a savings account. In fact, it’s so bad that 47% of people don’t have the funds on hand to cover an emergency expense of $400; they need to either borrow the money from someone or sell something valuable to come up with that kind of cash.
Adding to that, a survey by GoBankingRates.com in 2015 showed that half of Americans either don’t have a savings account at all or have a savings account with absolutely no money in it. That same report indicated that just 14% of Americans have more than $10,000 saved.
These are dismal numbers, for sure, and that’s why your New Year’s resolution to save more money is so important. But your money won’t save itself — it’s up to you to take charge and build up your emergency fund, your education fund, or your rainy day fund. Here are ten crucial money saving tips for 2017.
1. Commit to making a monthly budget.
When you see exactly how much money is coming in, how much money is going out, and where it’s going every month, you gain fundamental insight to get on track financially, cut back, and save money. The key is to be realistic in how much you actually spend. If you don’t know how to make a budget, there are lots of online resources to get you started, like this one from Mint (https://www.mint.com/budgeting-3/monthly-budget-template-track-your-spending-by-month). It will probably take you a few months to get the budgeting process down pat, but if you take it seriously and do it in earnest before the start of every month, you should get the hang of it quickly.
2. Trim the fat.
Once you’ve got your budget, take a good hard look at what you’re buying to determine what’s really necessary and what’s not. If you want to save money, cutting all excess, luxury, and frivolous purchases is essential. If you go out to dinner a few times a week, you’ll want to cut that down to one or none. Going out for lunch every day should be replaced with packing a lunch from home. Gym memberships that you never use should be cancelled, as should all of those cable channels that you pay for but never watch. Your daily latte from the coffee shop should also be on the chopping block. Simply put, anything you don’t really need should be eliminated from your monthly expenses to help you save money.
3. Plan your food menu.
It’s tempting to just go to the grocery store and buy what looks good, but that creates a lot of waste. When you plan your meals for the week, you buy what you’ll use and you use what you buy. To save even more, look through grocery store circulars before you shop to see what’s on sale for the week, then plan your meals around those items. Additionally, if you have a large family, buying the items you use frequently in bulk sizes can help you save quite a bit.
4. Find a side hustle.
Nothing helps you save money like having more income. Even if you’re busy, you probably have some time to make a little extra money on the side. Consider your marketable skills as money making tools, look into direct sales opportunities (there are lots these days), or even babysit a few hours a week or deliver pizzas one night a week. More money earned means more money to save.
5. If you have debt, renegotiate your interest rates.
To quote the titans of business since the dawn of capitalism, everything is negotiable. Call your credit card companies to see if they’ll lower your interest rate. If they won’t, move your debt to a lower interest lender, such as another credit card or a local bank or credit union.
6. Don’t blow your tax refund.
It may feel like a springtime windfall, but if you’re trying to save money, you’ll want to use your refund wisely. Yes, you can spend a little on some fun items, but you’ll want to keep that to 10%. Then, pay down your debt or put it in savings. Also, you’ll want to work with your employer (and your employer’s HR department, if where you work is large enough to have one) to adjust your tax withholding. Sure, a big refund in the spring feels like free money, but what you actually did was give the government an interest free loan. You’re not in the lending business!
7. Adjust your thermostat.
A warm house feels great in the winter, and a cool house feels great in the summer, but you pay for that in heating and cooling costs. By lowering your thermostat a few degrees in cold weather and raising it in hot weather, you can save substantially on your energy bills. Plus, it’s more environmentally friendly.
8. Sell what you don’t use.
When spring comes around, garage sales are eminently popular. Jump on the bandwagon and hold your own to make some cash. Spend a few days going through your house and setting aside everything you don’t need or use. Clean whatever needs cleaning, put a price tag on everything, advertise that you’ll be holding a sale, and take an everything-must-go attitude. It’s a good way to bring in a few hundred dollars in one day, all of which can go into savings.
9. Set up a savings account.
You can’t save properly if you don’t have a savings account! What you’re looking for is an account with a high interest rate that kicks in immediately without a minimum balance. Often, online accounts pay the most interest, but look into local options as well.
10. Make saving automatic.
Once you’ve got your savings account up and running, set up an automatic deduction from your checking account every month. Even if it’s a small amount, like $20 a month, it’s more than you’re saving now. In fact, it’s wise to start small, then increase your deduction gradually so you don’t overdraw your checking account. Then, at the end of the year, see how much you’ve saved, and reassess your deductions for the following year.