The holiday season is approaching, so I know I’ll be spending more money. I have even begun planning a vacation, and I want to make sure I can afford it. Additionally, I am projecting that my side business will make less money in the future and not allow for the career transition from full-time cube dweller/half-time blogger to full-time blogger that I have been considering for the past year.
I’ve spent more money this year than ever before, as evidenced by the fancy new gadgets I now own, previously delayed for years until my finances supported such endeavors. I’m wary about the future, so it’s time to turn my eye back to savings. I’ll start with 10 easy ways to save more money without much effort. Some of these I do, some I don’t yet.
1. Automate your savings. Direct deposit is the first step. Your money goes right into the bank. Rather than having to make a decision about “how much to deposit,” you’re making a decision about “how much to withdraw.” Immediately, you’re likely to end up with less cash in hand and more in the bank. The second step is to automatically move money from your direct deposit account (usually checking) to savings that shouldn’t be touched. Try a few of these high-yield savings accounts out. They’ll be happy to set up automatic withdrawals.
2. Collect your excess coins. I enjoy looking through circulating coins, if by chance I discover a rare specimen such as a silver quarter. No, it doesn’t happen often; most of the good stuff has been removed from circulation by other collectors or knowledgeable bank tellers. But while I’m saving my daily change in a glass jar, I’m also saving myself from spending that money. Every so often, I roll the coins with free sleeves from the bank and take them in for deposit.
3. Use goal jars. You’ve seen those jars in country shops. They are short, wide-mouthed clay pottery or stoneware jars with cork tops. On the outside of the jars, they are labeled using varying levels of wit. In these jars, you can set aside money you’d like to budget for “retirement,” “kids’ education,” “dreams,” or the “Harley fund.”
4. Form a budget and stick to it … sometimes. A budget is probably the most depressing part of personal finance — and that’s why I avoid it. If my income dips so low that it approaches my ever-increasing expenses, I’m going to have to reconsider my approach. I see budgets as guidelines, and I believe they shouldn’t be inflexible. Sometimes, to enjoy life while we can we have to make sacrifices in one category to pay for another. Budgeting discourages that; budgeting discourages living. Nevertheless, start budgeting, and you’ll start saving. The idea here is to budget without much effort, so don’t go crazy.
5. Eliminate or reduce a hobby or subscription. Hobbies can be expensive. Just ask anyone with a Faberge egg compulsion. Going to several Major League Baseball games a year can be expensive as well. I see no need to eliminate these experiences completely, but cutting back will save some money and free your time for other, less expensive things. Also, canceling subscriptions, magazines, extra cable channels or your springwater delivery service can net you a few dollars each month without effort. Most people won’t miss these things once they are gone for a few months.
The first five tips focused on reducing spending, but there is another, equally important, method of saving more money. It may be more difficult for some, but by earning more money, you can save more money.
6. Sell stuff online.
If you were thinking of having a yard sale, think again. By selling your unwanted items online, you’ll reach a much wider audience, including more of those who appreciate what you have to offer. They will pay more for many things than would drivers by. Many people who troll garage sales now do so only to look for bargains in items that could be sold immediately online for money. You might as well be the one earning extra on the sale. Selling and shipping has never been easier; you can by and print postage from the comfort of your own home, and the post office will pick up your package for delivery from your location.
7. Start a new hobby. Wait, didn’t we just suggest eliminating hobbies? Well, there are hobbies that actually make money. These are the activities that generally turn into microbusinesses. Do you like playing with computer hardware? Become a low-cost alternative to the big box tech support. Create crafts that you can sell at art shows. If you like pets, become a pet-sitter or walker.
8. Ask for a raise. Sometimes it’s that simple. Of course, if you are successful with this request, any additional income you receive should be assigned directly from direct deposit to your savings account or investment like 401(k). Also, you should be prepared with work-related justification of why you deserve such a raise. Just wanting to save more money won’t cut it.
9. Get a second job in retail. Especially with the holidays approaching, retailers are looking to staff up with part-time help. You’d have to determine whether a $9 to $12 per hour job is a good use of your time, but if you wouldn’t be using that time to do anything else, it may be worthwhile.
10. Consult. Better than working in retail, market yourself as a consultant in whatever field you are an expert (steering clear of any non-compete agreements you might have signed with your current employer). If it makes sense to set your own consulting hours, you could earn 10 to 20 times as much as the retail job — and maybe more.
It seems the methods for earning money tend to take more effort than saving money. This is why most people will tell you that it’s not what you earn but what you spend. In fact, it’s both. Earning more will be more of an obstacle for most people while saving more is easily controllable. I say do both.
What savings strategy is working for you? Let us know in the comments below.
Updated August 17, 2016 and originally published November 16, 2007.