Saving money doesn’t have to be boring, it just requires a little thought and creativity. Here are four ways to save that will spark your curiosity and get your creative wheels turning.
Goodbye summer, hello fall! After a boisterous and event-filled summer, many people may be feeling a bit overspent. But it doesn’t stop here. The holidays are around the corner, and the holiday season can wreak havoc on nearly any budget. But instead of feeling totally strapped this year, you can take proactive steps to save now and for your holiday spending.
Saving money can seem like a total bore and may feel like a chore to do. Let’s face it: Oftentimes it’s more fun to spend money than save it. (There, I said it!) Saving often feels like putting away money for the unknown. Who is motivated to save by the what-ifs and uncertainties of life? Not many of us.
But in reality, there are many days until the holidays start and there are unknown surprises that come up that totally mess up a budget. Aside from that, you probably have many life goals that will require a decent chunk of change. Whether it’s saving for a house, school, kids, moving, a dream trip, or the upcoming holidays, life goals cost money.
So, how can you save money without putting yourself to sleep or making a myriad of excuses? Use these four simple hacks to make saving money fun and hassle-free.
I’m such a huge fan of automating savings because I’ve seen tangible results myself, and was able to save $14,000 for graduate school without really thinking about it.
Standard advice is to save 10 percent of your income, but if I can push you a little further, here’s a tip: Save more. I think saving 20 to 50 percent of your income is great, if you can afford it. Conversely, if 10 percent feels like an intimidating amount — and I know there have been times in my life where that’s been the case — then commit to saving 1 percent of your income. So if your income were $2,000 per month, you’d save $20.
The key is to set up an automatic contribution between your checking and savings accounts. Ideally, you’d make your contributions once a month, but you can tailor your contributions to your needs. I have often set my savings contributions to coincide with my paychecks.
I’ve found that automating simply works because it takes away the whole process of thinking about it, making a decision, and most importantly, making excuses. The important part was coming up with a number I was comfortable with and timing it for when I had enough funds in my account. What worked best for me was saving 25 percent of my income, the day after payday. That way I knew I had the money in my account, and before I got too comfortable seeing it, it was in my savings account. Saving money is as much of a practice as anything else you want to master. But taking out the hard work and mental decision-making can make saving money, for the holidays (or anything else), painless.
Some people are hesitant to automate savings because they are paranoid about overdraft fees. I totally get it. To limit that possibility, I make sure to have a buffer in my checking account and I made a daily practice of checking my online accounts. I took it one step further and put any bills that are automatically deducted in my calendar, so I know when they hit. By creating daily habits and putting things in the calendar, I took an active role in my finances and was aware of everything that was coming in and out of my account. I feel like this practice has given me a keen understanding of where I’m at financially, so I’m no longer guessing how much money is in my account, or wondering when the bills hit.
I have found that automating my savings and creating a daily practice of checking my accounts make saving money easy. As time goes by, I’m surprised at how much I have saved — and I hardly even notice the money is gone!
2. Use Targeted Savings Accounts
Can I tell you a secret? I’m absolutely obsessed with targeted savings accounts. In my younger years, I had gotten the hang of the whole savings thing through automation. But having one lump sum of money made everything very unclear for me. On a whim, I’d transfer over money to pay for something, and my overall savings strategy wasn’t very effective. I knew what my goals were, but they were all muddled into the same account.
Then I found out about targeted savings accounts. Targeted savings accounts are separate savings accounts that cater to each one of your goals. So instead of having your money in one lump sum, you can have a separate saving account for each of your goals. Look into saving account options at your bank, or consider opening up another account at a different bank, so it’s harder to access.
Now, the fun part! Name your savings accounts. Consider the Get out of Dodge fund, a When Shit Hits the Fan fund, a My Dream Escape fund, a Our First House fund, the Holiday Travel Fund, a Gifts fund, and more. The beauty of the targeted savings accounts is that you can make your savings goals crystal clear. You can save for everything — from day-to-day items to the stuff of dreams. I have savings accounts for my emergency fund, taxes, traveling, contact lenses, holiday spending, and more.
Naming your savings accounts gives them a purpose, so there is no confusion about what your money is actually is for.
3. Keep the Change
In a world where credit cards are taking over, spare change can often seem disposable. But that money adds up! Saving all your spare change in a jar is a fun and easy way to save money and can help you fund your holiday expenses. You can even name your jar if you want. How about “spare change for stocking stuffers,” or “nickels for knickknacks,” maybe?
To get started, every time you have leftover change, put it in the jar. Once the jar is full, you can use that money for a little extra fun or the stuff that inevitably comes up during the holidays. Think about all the little expenses that add up during the holiday season: white elephant gifts, party favors, potlucks, presents, cards, etc. By keeping the change, you can help save for all those holiday expenses and stress a little bit less.
Keeping the change is a zero-hassle way of saving that can be surprising in its impact.
4. Make it Into a Game
Another great way to save money in time for the holidays is by making it a game. I set up monthly challenges for myself to push my savings rate even further. Here are some examples:
● Challenge yourself to shave $50 off your food budget.
● Create a Bad Habits fund. Any time you participate in a bad habit (smoke, bite your nails, curse), put $20 into savings.
● Cut out one expense for a month (movies, drinking, coffee, etc.).
The goal of these challenges is to pocket the money you save to jumpstart your savings. All the things I can live without each month and the amount of savings it created surprised me.
I’ve found saving money doesn’t have to be boring, it just requires a little thought and creativity. You can use these simple hacks to transform your money saving habits and reach all of your holiday savings goals. If you get started now, you could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars before Black Friday hits this year. Instead of going into debt during the holidays, you can be a savings powerhouse and rock your holiday spending.
I have found that by setting up a savings plan through automation, targeted savings accounts, keeping the change, and making saving money into a game have helped me reach my money goals. And when I reach my money goals, I can afford my life goals, including all the holiday fun, which makes it even better. Saving money with a purpose becomes a lot more enjoyable and can help you get through the holidays or save for a big life goal.
My favorite part of these plans is you can mostly set them up and forget about it. However, I do recommend changing up your savings strategy (either increasing or decreasing your savings), depending on big life transitions such as moving, starting a new job, etc. Just remember, nothing is set in stone and you can change your strategy to fit your life.
What simple saving hacks do you use, Grownups?
Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer and passionate debt fighter
who writes at DearDebt.com.
She is currently climbing out of $81,000 in student loan debt
and is often dreaming of her next adventure.