We all know that we should be spending less and saving more, but the reality is that most Americans are not prepared for the future. A staggering 50 percent of adults report they would not be able to cover an unexpected expense of $500 or more. While making sure we are prepared for an emergency, we also want to be able to save for long-term goals such as a vacation, a new home, or retirement. How can you build up your savings without making major lifestyle changes?
Analyze Your Spending Routines
Often times when we are trying to save money, we feel like we have to make drastic cuts. But if you look over your daily and monthly expenses with new eyes, save money without feeling deprived. Review your cable, Internet, and phone services agreements. You may be paying for features you don’t use, such as extra channels or unlimited data. Call your provider and ask them to help you find a lower cost alternative that fits your needs.
Rethink Your Entertainment Expenses
Nights out can be another blow to your budget. One easy way to save money is to commit to eating out less often. Recreating a delicious meal at home can cost much less, with the added benefit of probably being better for you. Pack up leftovers for lunch the next day and you will save even more. Open your home and invite friends over for a potluck meal rather than meeting at a restaurant. You could even organize a “swap night” with friends where you swap gently used items – books, kids toys, clothing – where you socialize, get rid of unwanted items, and walk away with some “new to you” treasures without spending a dime!
Look for Free or Low Cost Fun
You may be surprised by everything your community has to offer. Check out local parks, libraries, and museums for unique programs. Your local library probably has much more to offer than books on loan. Most libraries also stock movies and music, some even check out puzzles and board games! Libraries and community centers frequently host classes or social events for a small fee. Check museums for special deals for local residents. They may set aside a day or time where residents are admitted for a reduced cost.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Technology can be a double-edged sword when it comes to saving money. The ease of online shopping and the barrage of daily emails advertising special deals make it more difficult to resist temptation. But you can also make your technology work for you. Coupon apps like Retail Me Not or Snip Snap keep discounts literally at your fingertips. Finance apps such as Acorns or Mint can help you keep track of all your financial activity. These apps provide charts and graphs to help you see your spending patterns and can help you develop and stick to a budget.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
Just like a good card strategy, your savings plan should be based on logic and information. Make sure you check in on your finances often to ensure you are following up on your plan. Visualizing your long-term goals will help keep you on track. You may find it helpful to use an actual picture or vision board. Help make saving a priority by having separate accounts for retirement or education that are not easy to access.
Building up your savings can be easy, with a bit of planning and ingenuity. Small sacrifices now will lead to big dividends in the future!