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  • Gilbert Nozoliny

Saving money doesn’t have to be so hard. It just takes practice.

Updated: Apr 6, 2019

Start small and save often. If you can’t set aside $1,000 this month, try saving $20 per week.

Once you get into the habit of consistently putting money away, it’s possible to save enough cash for emergencies, retirement and other goals you’re hoping to reach. You can do it. All you need is a positive attitude and a winning strategy that’ll help you take your savings to the next level.

Don’t just plan to save money because you want to travel to

a different continent or afford a nice home. Find ways to spend less and save more every day, month and year. Here are some ideas in case you’re drawing a blank.

Start saving now

Though the economy is doing well, most Americans haven’t gotten a raise in a while. No wonder many of us are having a hard time saving money.

Clearly define your goals

Some people aren’t motivated to save money. Others want to start saving, but don’t know where to begin. That’s why setting specific, realistic goals is important. Once you know why you’re setting aside part of your paycheck, deciding to save rather than spend your extra money should be easier.

Make sure you have enough money set aside to meet your immediate and future needs. Here are some saving goals everyone should have.

Short-term savings tips

Save for emergencies. Having at least three to six months worth of emergency savings is critical. Prepare for the unexpected by socking money away in a high-yield savings account.

Save up for a major purchase. Planning to replace your refrigerator or get a new car? Save as much as you can and use the right rewards credit card when you’re ready to make the big purchase.

Save for a vacation. Everyone deserves a break. Make sure you have enough money to enjoy your time away by cutting back on unnecessary expenses and putting the money for your trip in a separate account. If you can’t afford to go too far, a "staycation" is always an option.

Long-term savings tips

Save for a house. Ready to live the American dream? Start socking money away for your down payment, your monthly mortgage payments, property taxes and insurance premiums. If you’re still renting, consider finding a roommate in order to save money. Taking on a second job is another way to earn extra cash.

Save for your child’s education. It’s never too early to start thinking about your son or daughter’s college career. Parents should consider saving money in a tax-advantaged account like a 529 plan.

Save money for the future. Will you have enough money to survive your 60s, 70s and beyond? Create a budget for your future self and devise a plan for saving enough money to cover bills and medical and travel expenses.

Set daily, monthly and yearly goals

Having a list of goals you can generally work towards is a good start. But it’s best to turn saving money into something you do regularly.

Don’t just plan to save money because you want to travel to a different continent or afford a nice home. Find ways to spend less and save more every day, month and year. Here are some ideas in case you’re drawing a blank.

Daily savings tips

Save while you shop: If you’re constantly overspending when you’re shopping for groceries and clothing, the money you’re wasting will start to add up. Comparison shop to make sure you’re getting the best deal on everything you buy. Consider using apps like ShopSavvy.

Save on gas: Stop paying the price when you pay at the pump. An app like GasBuddy can come in handy when you’re trying to save money while you’re filling up your car.

Save on other daily expenses: Tips and tricks — like canceling subscriptions you’re not using and bringing your lunch to work — can go a long way toward helping you save more money every day.

Monthly savings tips

Save on electricity: If your utility bills are too high, it’s time to make a change. Find a way to reduce the size of your monthly electric bill. Switch to a provider that charges a lower rate and make changes that’ll save you money on heating and cooling.

Lower your debt payments: Spending too much money on credit card or student loan interest? Improving your credit score will help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Consider low-rate balance transfer offers and find out whether you could save on student loans by refinancing or applying for an income-based repayment plan.

Save on insurance: Shop around to see if you can get cheaper insurance from another provider. And do the math to find out whether you can afford to pay a higher deductible (and therefore reduce your monthly premiums).

Yearly savings tips

Save on taxes: Find out if you’re paying the IRS more money than you should. Make an appointment with a professional.

Max out your retirement accounts: If you can, plan every year to save as much for retirement as possible within the annual limits.

Boost your income: Anyone at any income level can save money. But there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make more money with the intention of saving more. During your annual performance review, see if you can secure a raise. Or look for passive streams of income.

Automate your savings

One of the easiest ways to meet your short- and long-term goals is to make saving money something that happens automatically.

Set up direct deposit so that a portion of every paycheck automatically goes into a savings account for your emergency savings, McBride says. If you haven’t signed up for your 401(k) or another employer-sponsored retirement plan, change that so that you’re making contributions and saving for retirement every time you get paid.

Once you are informed on the right savings strategy for your goals, take action.

Don’t have a retirement plan at work? Open a traditional or Roth IRA. Look for a firm that lets you make automatic contributions, like TD Ameritrade or Fidelity.

If you’re looking for other ways to automate your savings, try using an app like Acorns or Digit that save money for you so that you don’t have to think about it. Or use a cash-back credit card that lets you save money every time you spend.

Put your savings in the right place

Make sure you’re putting your savings in the right account. If your savings account pays less than 1 percent, you’re missing out on the opportunity to earn more interest and reach your savings goals faster.

The best savings accounts pay more than 2 percent APY. Many of the top savings accounts require a low minimum deposit and don’t charge any monthly maintenance fees.

Consider opening a CD if you’re putting money away for a short-term goal and you don’t mind tying up your funds for a year. And take advantage of the power of compound interest. Look for an account that indicates that interest compounds daily rather than monthly. That way, you’re earning the highest amount of interest.

Consider a savings account with a bonus

Some banks will pay you just for opening a savings account. You’ll have to follow the rules and meet certain requirements — like having a specific number of debit card transactions or making a direct deposit. But with some of the best bank account bonuses, it’s possible to walk away with hundreds of dollars in free cash.

But don’t be fooled. Just because a bank is offering to give you $300 doesn’t mean you’re getting a good deal. Often, the banks offering bonuses pay savers a low rate. If you’re planning to open a savings account, proceed with caution.

“You’re kind of getting that bonus, but you’re sacrificing the long term return,” says Deacon Hayes, personal finance expert and founder of Well Kept Wallet. “So you just want to weigh those options.”

Turn saving money into a lifestyle

The key to saving money is having the right mindset. Unfortunately, the messages we receive often drive us to spend more and live beyond our means. “We’ve been brainwashed to think like spenders and not really value that old-fashioned habit of saving and thrift,” says George Barany, national director of America Saves, a campaign under the Consumer Federation of America.

Thinking like a saver is all about making smart purchases and being more conscious of how you’re using your money, Barany says. People who think like savers, he says, take the following steps:

Make lists.

Avoid impulse buying.

Avoid charging too many items to credit cards.

Avoid payday lending traps.

Budget and track your spending

It’s critical to know where your money is going after each pay day, particularly if you’re trying to develop better financial habits.

“I don’t know anybody who really likes to track their expenses, but it is such an important undertaking to help you understand what you could potentially save or what changes you need to make in your spending,” Barany says.

Keeping track of what’s going in and out of your bank account is easier than ever, thanks to the countless number of financial apps that have been created. Develop a spending plan and come up with a method that will help you keep tabs on how you’re using your hard-earned money. A simple change, like making your own coffee instead of buying it, could lead to other cost-cutting measures, like bringing your lunch to work or taking public transportation instead of driving.

“One step potentially could influence other actions,” Barany says.

Putting other tips and tricks into practice can also work wonders if you’re trying to save money. Consider applying the 30-day rule. Instead of buying something on the spot — like a flat-screen TV or a new wallet — go home and write down what the item is, how much it costs and where you would buy it. Keep the piece of paper with those details somewhere visible and after 30 days, decide whether you still want to buy that item.

Unsubscribe from marketing emails

If you’re trying to save money, another easy step you can take is going through your inbox and unsubscribing from emails that may tempt you to overspend. Until you gain more self-control, reminders about the next 50 percent off sale or a new buy one, get one free deal won’t be helpful.

There’s nothing wrong with using coupons and taking advantage of special discounts. But constant reminders about promotional events may not leave you with much money in your account. Do yourself a favor and do the kind of spring cleaning that will help you rein in your spending and concentrate on saving.

Consider joining a rewards program

Participating in a rewards program could be another strategy you implement to increase the amount of money you’re saving. For example, if you have a cash-back credit card that allows you to earn rewards every time you swipe or dip your card, you could rack up quite a bit of credits over time that can save you money and reduce the amount you owe.

Of course, you’ll have to be careful. Programs are typically structured so that you earn money by spending rather than saving.

Sell unused items

If you’re strapped for cash and you need a way to quickly boost your savings, take a look around your own home. There’s a good chance that there’s something hanging in a closet or sitting in a drawer that you can potentially sell.

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