Every year, we promise to become smarter spenders and better savers for the months to come. Most of us do a good job in budgeting and holding back on leisure expenses in January. After that, many fall off the bandwagon.
A frugal lifestyle is challenging for some of us. These are usually the people who think controlling their expenses deprives them of the things they’ve always enjoyed, even need. They don’t realize this mindset goads them to be lax at managing their money and give in to the urge to spend instead.
Saving without sacrificing modern comforts is possible. You may have to just to minor lifestyle changes, but you won’t be giving up much.
Below are examples of how you can save money in 2018 and onwards.
Auto-Debit Your Savings and Bills
I often hear people saying “Oh no! I forgot to pay my bills!”. Situations like this send tingles from the roots of your hair to the tips of your toes. They’re stressful, inconvenient, and expensive; most service providers charge extra fees for late payments.
You can easily avoid these problems by automating your payments. Coordinate with your service providers to set up automatic debit payments from your bank account. You won’t ever have to worry about incurring extra fees due to late payments, and you may even earn discounts and cash back rewards.
Do the same for your savings fund. Set up a monthly automatic transfer from your checking or direct deposit account (where your employer credits your salary) to your savings account. The deductions may bother you at the beginning; but, once you become accustomed to it, you’ll slowly adjust your monthly spending to accommodate these auto-debits.
Monitor the money in your account, though, and don’t let it go below the daily maintaining balance. Otherwise, your bank will charge you a fee.
Use Savings Apps (source: Today.com)
Savings apps offer a more dynamic way of auto-debiting your savings and tracking your expenses. Both are helpful in ensuring you don’t overspend and forget to set aside a percentage of your monthly salary into your savings, retirement, or emergency fund.
Money Tracking Apps
The first step to mastering personal financial management is to understand your spending habits. Money tracking apps help you do this. They allow you to create categories like food, transportation, bills, savings, and leisure. Each time you pay out of pocket, input the expense in your mobile app. At the end of the week or month, you’ll have a clearer idea of how you spend your money.
Money tracking apps allow you to see the big picture as well as the specifics of your daily expenses; and when you know where your money goes, it becomes easier to trim your expenses and set budgets for your needs.
I personally use Toshl Finance, a simple app that lets me create categories and a monthly budget. It shows my total expenses per month and per category, and I get to see in which areas I am overspending or underspending. Some apps let you color-code your expenses and create graphs, but I’m good with Toshl’s simple and organized layout.
Auto-Debit and Investment
Other apps take budget monitoring to the next level by integrating auto-debit and investment functionality. Apps like Digit, Chime, Mint by Intuit, and Clarity Money link to your bank account and transfer certain amounts (some are specified while others calculate sums based on your spending history) into a separate savings account.
If you want to invest but don’t have enough to put open an account in hedge fund and investment companies, apps like Acorns, Betterment, and Stash can help. They link to your bank account and put money in investment funds that either you choose or the system analyzes as the most promising.
Stash, for one, lets you invest with as little as $5.
Install Branded Apps
Retailers, food chains, and online stores have branded apps that allow users to shop through their mobile phones with ease. What most people don’t realize is they also offer opportunities to save.
Companies send out promotion alerts, advertisements, and exclusive discounts to app users. Financial experts say — and I agree — that buying for the sake of enjoying a discount is not money saved but money spent. It’s different, though, when the discounted service or product is a daily need.
Look at Grab and Uber. Many depend on them for their daily commute. By installing their apps and booking rides on their own phones, customers earn loyalty points and receive discount codes.
If You Have Home Internet Connection, Cut Your Cable
The Internet grants you access to all kinds of media content, including television programs and movies on-demand. So, if you’re paying for a premium Internet connection at home, and if most of the television shows you enjoy are available for streaming, a cable service would be redundant.
It’s more practical to subscription-based television and movie rental services like Netflix ($10.99 per month), Hulu ($5.99-7.99 per month), and Amazon Prime ($49-99 annually and $12.99 monthly). You’ll have unlimited access to television and movie libraries and some of the latest releases on the small and big screens. As these services also offer family plans, you can save further if you share monthly subscription costs with a group of friends.
Here’s another interesting fact: A recent study revealed that binge-watching on streaming services also leads to energy conservation and cost savings.
Book Travel Arrangements Online
A modern lifestyle is usually coupled with traveling to famous tourist spots or lesser-known, far-flung areas. Many go to travel companies and ticketing outlets and take advantage of their all-in-one booking services. They give discounted prices for guided trips and take care of all arrangements, from transportation to food. The only disadvantage is you have little control over your itinerary, accommodations, and food choices.
If the freedom to customize your travel arrangement matters to you, it’s better to take care of the arrangements on your own. Book your airfare tickets and lodgings online and you’ll save money, too.
Take advantage of time-limited airfare sales and discounted hotel rates from travel websites like Trivago, HotelsCombined.com, Booking.com, Expedia, and Priceline. It helps to install the apps for your preferred airlines and travel booking sites, too, as they sometimes offer exclusive deals or early bird promo privileges to app users.
Use Your Credit Card. Wisely
Yes, I’m veering away from the usual savings mantra of, “Get rid of your credit card.” Allow me to explain.
A credit card can be a savings tool, but only if you use it wisely. Credit card companies often partner with sellers and offer 0 percent interest rates for big purchases. Loyalty points can give you miles credits, free hotel stays, or even free flights.
Most credit card companies also offer cash back rewards which could net you a big sum at the end of the year. Suppose you use your credit card to pay for your monthly needs, like groceries, gas purchases, and utilities. Your credit card spending could easily reach $3,000 a month. If your card has a 1 percent cash back on eligible purchases, you’ll get $360 at the end of the year.
Commit to a Saving Challenge
Saving challenges are popular for a good reason. They work as long as you follow the rules, and the rewards are often enormous.
The 52-week savings challenge is the pillar of short-term challenges. The rule is simple: Add equal increments to your savings for each succeeding week of the year. You may start with any amount you like, but starting at $1 and adding $1 increments each week is a good warm-up. This means adding $2 to your savings bank by the end of week 2; $3 for week three; $4 for week four, and so forth. At the end of the year, you’ll have approximately $1,378 in your piggy bank.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of the challenge, you can increase the weekly increments or start with a bigger amount instead of $1.
Another example is the five-dollar savings plan where you save all $5 bills that come your way. It’s an effective way to control your spending, too. If you have three $5 bills and five $1 bills, you’ll limit your spending to those five bucks.
Saving money is like a hobby. It comes naturally to some while others have to practice harder to become better at it. Whether you belong to the former group or the latter, what matters most is you do your best to succeed.
Subscribe to Revenue Loop to get more saving advice and financial tips.