It's a new year. And that means it's a fresh start - a chance to abandon old habits and adopt positive new ones. One habit that can take you a long way in 2020 and beyond is consistently saving money when you can. There are many money saving tips out there: But which ones can best teach you how to save money?
A good way to learn how to save money is to listen to the pros. So we reached out to several experts for key money-saving tips.
Money Saving Tips: Getting Started
One surefire way to salt away extra funds is to practice "micro-saving." This involves regularly saving tiny amounts of money over time and automatically putting those small amounts into a savings fund. Micro-saving can be managed manually or with apps (more on this later).
Here's a micro-saving example you can follow. Every time you shop at a store or restaurant, round up the bill you pay. Say your tab is $17.52 out the door. That's 48 cents short of $18. After you've paid your bill, count on putting aside 48 cents in your savings account (apps can help with this task, too).
"Often, we set unrealistic goals and get discouraged when we fall short and lack progress. But setting and meeting many goals that are reasonable turns this into an encouragement loop and helps us get to the next goal," says Andrew Aran, managing partner with Regency Wealth Management.
How to Save Money When You're Broke
Saving money isn't so easy when you've got a lot of bills or debt. Or perhaps you don't make as much as you'd like it your job.
But every little bit helps. And if you look closely at your habits, you'll likely find areas where you can make cuts that will make a difference.
"You need to assess where your money is leaking. Buying too many lattes or fast food or movies? Nonessentials add up quickly. If you want to make progress, you have to make temporary sacrifices," says Aran.
Getting an extra part-time job is another great way to make savings progress.
"There are only three things you can do when you want to change your financial situation: Make more, spend less, or a combination of the two," says Saundra Davis, financial behavior specialist and SaverLife financial coach.
Don't "Stupid Size" It
Assume you're hungry for a burger. You head to your favorite fast-food restaurant. Only instead of getting fries with that main course, you refrain. Later, you put the bills and coins you would have spent on those fries into a piggy bank or savings jar.
Make enough of these kinds of small sacrifices over time, and you'll not only trim your waistline but save a decent amount accumulated for a rainy day or emergency purchase.
"As fun as it might be to eat out during the week, this expense adds up quickly," notes Cameron Aydlett, vice president and senior financial advisor for Triad Financial Advisors. "Make enough dinner to have leftovers for lunch the next day. If you want to treat yourself to eating out, ask your friends and family for gift cards you can use on dining in lieu of traditional gifts. You can then make a trip to a restaurant a special occasion that's already paid for."
The Lazy Way to Save Money
Remembering to save and being disciplined to stick to this habit isn't easy. And it's tough to get motivated when you are fussing with spare change, piggy banks, and coin jars.
Plus, eventually, you'll have to deposit those bills and coins into your savings account at the bank. That runs the risk of mismanaging or losing some of the money or - worse - having it stolen.
If only there was an easier way to automate this process, you think. Life would be so much simpler if even the small amounts you save were automatically and regularly transferred into a savings or investment account. Fortunately, this is possible with the help of apps and websites.
Best Apps to Save Money
Online options that can automate your savings chores include Acorns, Digit, Chime, Stash, and Qapital. Each app has unique features and benefits. But most aid you by doing one of two things automatically.
These apps can manage and transfer funds from your checking account to a savings account. Or, the app can aid you in automatically investing funds - as little as a few dollars at set times - into exchange-traded funds (ETFs), bonds, or stocks.
The apps can do this instantly (if you approve of what the app recommends) or at intervals and in amounts that you okay ahead of time. Plus, the app should offer snapshots of different accounts you link to it as well as money management tools.
Cost of Micro Saving Apps
Few things in life are free, and that's true of many of these apps and services. Be aware that some assess a small monthly fee. Also, when you deposit the funds into a savings account, chances are that account will yield lower interest rates than you may find somewhere else.
But assuming the fees are relatively low, a digital resource like an app can be the ideal solution for how to save money simply. This way, you don't have to go digging for loose change or crack open a piggy bank.
Another Money Saving Strategy: The Sinking Fund
We've all had it: that sinking feeling that we'll be short when it's time to pay for something we've been looking forward to. But you can avoid this experience by creating a sinking fund. And it's simpler than you think.
What Is a Sinking Fund?
A sinking fund is a pool of money you carefully set aside over time that you can use to cover one or more big planned expenses or purchases down the road.
Think of a sinking fund as a smart long-term saving strategy to pay for a wish list item. It can also come in handy when something needs to be replaced that you've been anticipating would happen.
Hold on, you're thinking: Aren't we really talking about an emergency fund or rainy day fund here? Not quite, say the experts.
Sinking Fund: Expect the Expected
An emergency or rainy day fund is ideal for sudden and unexpected expenses. For example, your car breaks down. Your furnace is on the fritz. Or you suddenly need surgery that your health insurance won't cover 100%.
A sinking fund, by contrast, comes in handy for expected purchases, typically those that are costly. Exhibit A: Your son's graduation party six months from now. You've promised your family a trip to the Grand Canyon as a Christmas present this year. Or you've been warned that your older roof will need to be replaced within a year.
Why a Sinking Fund Is a Better Way to Save
"A sinking fund helps you save up for an upcoming expense in small regular amounts," says Anna Belov, author of "Just Over Broke?" (2019). "For example, you could create a vacation sinking fund and auto-deposit $50 bi-weekly into it from your paycheck."
By the end of the year, you'd have 26 x $50 = $1,300.
"You could even have several separate sinking funds. For example, a sinking fund for gifts, one for dental expenses, and one for your pet's annual vet check-up," Belov recommends.
By salting away money over time and in advance for an intended purchase, you'll worry less about where the money is going to come from. Feeling less stressed equates to a feeling of more control.
How to Set Up a Sinking Fund
"There are many ways to go about establishing a sinking fund," says Aydlett. "You can use a jar to save your change each week or an envelope in your desk to stash a few dollars. Once you have enough to open a savings account at a bank or credit union, you should evaluate which institution is best for you."
As your fund grows, "you can speak with experts at the bank or credit union about other investment opportunities for that money. This can include a money market account or a short-term bond fund," Aydlett adds.
Remember: "You always want to have access to most of your money in case you need it immediately," suggests Aydlett.
How to Manage a Sinking Fund
Staying on top of your sinking fund effectively is important. Doing so will ensure that you stay on target to pay for future expected transactions.
Let's assume you have three sinking funds: One for gifts, one for dental expenses, and one for your pet's annual vet check-up, as suggested earlier. To achieve these goals, you'll have to project when you'll need the cash, how much each purchase will set you back, and how much you need to save for each objective on a monthly basis.
To help, Davis recommends the following money saving tips:
- Determine how and where you want to save.
- Review your current budget to determine how much is available to save.
- Allocate the available savings to your specific sinking fund goals.
- Transfer money on a regular scheduled to build the savings toward the target.
Making 2020 the year you finally save money will have lasting implications - through 2021 and beyond.