As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and more!

Saving

Suddenly have a slew of extra spending money? Before you head out on a spontaneous shopping spree, consider these 20 things you can do with it instead.

20 things to do with $1000

It’s not often you come across an extra $1,000. But it could happen. What if you’re part of a settlement process and get an unexpected check? Or maybe you receive a small inheritance from a long-lost relative. Or possibly, you get an unexpected bump in your year-end bonus.

Whatever the case, it’s always a good idea to at least think about the possibilities of what you’ll do if you get an extra $1,000. Or even if you save up money and have an extra $1,000 just sitting in your savings account.

No idea what you’d do with that kind of “spare” money? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Pay off high-interest debt

If you’ve got a credit card balance sitting around costing you absurd amounts of interest, get it paid off as quickly as you can. Even if your balance is well over $1,000, putting that first $1,000 in gets you started on the journey towards debt freedom. Once you knock out some of the balance, you can keep paying your old monthly payment so that you’ll chip away at that debt little by little.

2. Put it towards your emergency plan

Already have your debts paid off? Or don’t have an emergency fund that can cover at least three to six months’ expenses? The next best place for that money is in your emergency plan. Read more about how to set up a fully-fledged emergency plan (that’s more than just a savings account) here.

3. Save for a specific goal

Do you have something in mind that you’re saving for? Consider adding your $1,000 to the goal, whether it’s buying a new car or putting a down payment on your next home. Even if that money is only a small percentage of your goal, it moves you forward, which is always a good thing.

4. Invest for retirement

If you aren’t already maxing out a 401(k) and an IRA, add the $1,000 to your retirement investments. Over the course of the next 20 or 30 years, that original $1,000 could grow to be worth quite a lot, especially when invested in low-cost mutual funds or the like.

5. Put it in your kid’s 529 account

What if you’re already maxing out your retirement accounts or saving as much as you feel like you should? In this case, consider adding that $1,000 to a 529 college savings account for your kid. These accounts act like an IRA for education spending, so they’re a valuable way to save up now for those hefty college expenses you’ll see in the future.

6. Buy a life insurance policy

If you don’t already have a term life insurance policy, you probably need one. Even single people with no kids sometimes need life insurance coverage. If you do need a policy but have been putting off getting one because you can’t afford the premium, now is the time. Secure a low-premium term life insurance policy, and pay your first year’s premiums with this extra cash. That buys you time to fit the premium into your normal budget within a year.

7. Pay a lawyer to draw up your will

Don’t have a will yet? Many people put off having these documents drawn up because they’re expensive. If that’s you, investing your $1,000 in a meeting with a lawyer to have a will, living will, power of attorney, and other documents drawn up is worth your while. You’ll get peace of mind and ensure your loved ones are cared for if something should happen to you.

8. Upgrade your office space

Struggling with back pain because your office chair is terrible? Or considering upgrading your work-from-home desk to a healthier sit-stand model? Investing in your health by upgrading the space where you spend most of your waking hours is a great option. Upgrades like these can help you work more productively and ergonomically, so you’re both happier and healthier.

9. Take a class to further your career

Have you been thinking about changing careers or developing skills to take your current career further? Using $1,000 to invest in classes to boost or change your career can be a great option. Plus, if it leads you to a higher-paying job, you could get a great return on investment from that money.

10. Take a class just for fun

Acquiring new skills doesn’t just have to be about furthering your career. You can also take classes just to increase your health and happiness in your personal life, too. Learning for the sake of learning is great for personal development and brain health. So if you’ve always wanted to learn to weld or sculpt or play an instrument, use this windfall to invest in the materials and classes you need to get it done.

11. Start a side business

If you’d like to earn extra money on the side, consider investing this cash into a side business. Many side gigs would only require you to spend a small part of this $1,000. But if you need to set up a nice-looking website, you could invest some of the money in some professional help for design and website management.

12. Get a tune-up on your car or a major appliance

Preventative care for your car and major appliances is a great way to spend extra money. Spending a little now can keep you from having to spend a whole lot of money down the road. So consider taking your car for an official tune-up. Or if you’ve been putting off having regular service on your furnace, fridge, or washer and dryer set, that would also be a good way to spend this money.

13. Upgrade a major appliance

Do you have an appliance that’s always causing headaches in your home? Or maybe one that’s making your life more difficult instead of easier? You might consider using this money to upgrade it. Perhaps a nicer dishwasher that would actually clean your dishes would save you loads of time you otherwise spend scraping and hand-cleaning. Or maybe a larger washing machine would save you two or three loads a week with your growing family.

14. Put it into protecting your home

Preventative maintenance for your appliances is great, but don’t forget your home itself, either. You can protect your home by getting your gutters cleaned, jacking up the basement in your older home, or upgrading your sump pump. And if you’re all good on the maintenance side, you could put some money into upgrading a room with a coat of paint and new fixtures.

15. Take a vacation

Taking a vacation doesn’t have to be a waste of money. In some cases, a good, affordable vacation lets you come back to your everyday life more refreshed and energized. And that can have a huge ROI for both your personal and professional life. If you have some paid time off banked, make it a game to get your whole vacation done for a $1,000. It can be a fun exercise that also leads to great memories.

16. Buy a museum or zoo membership for your family

If your family is constantly looking for fun things to do on weekends and school breaks, consider spending part of your windfall on a membership. Most museums, zoos, and other local attractions offer family memberships. If you go just two times in a year, you’ll save money with a membership. And having one means you can check out the latest attractions at your local museum every weekend, without spending a dime of extra money.

17. Look into other experiences

The jury is in on what makes people happier: experiences over more stuff. So if you’re struggling to find a way to spend that $1,000, don’t buy more stuff. Instead, look into buying experiences. That could be a class or vacation that we’ve talked about above. Or you might take your spouse, a friend, or each of your children on a special night out to build some memories. Those are truly the gifts that keep on giving.

18. Buy some health and fitness equipment

Considering investing in your health? That’s a great option. One way to do it is to buy some high-quality fitness equipment for your home. Just be sure you have room to store and use it, and that you know what you’re doing before you dive in.

19. Pay for a year’s worth of gym memberships or classes

Don’t have room at home? Or prefer to work out with others for accountability? In this case, consider splurging on a year’s worth of gym membership fees or exercise classes. Pre-paying may make you more likely to actually go and participate. And you won’t regret putting some money into improving your health and well-being.

20. Donate it

Giving to a charity is always a worthy option with extra money. Pick a charity locally or internationally whose mission you can really get behind. Then spend your money with that charity. With a larger donation, you can probably even earmark the money for a specific project you really want to invest in.

Any of these options are a great choice so don’t stress too much about your spending decision. Choose the one you’re drawn to the most. Saving is always a wise choice but as long as you’re not wasting $1,000 on stuff you don’t need you’ll consider this expenditure a good buy.

{ 19 comments }

A simply way to save more is to automate your savings. In this step-by-step guide, we show you how to put saving money on auto-pilot.

automate your savings

Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the power of habits. Books like The Power of Habit and Making Habits, Breaking Habits have given me insight into how habits work. They’ve pointed out that the vast majority of actions we take on a daily basis are habitual.

When was the last time you consciously thought about driving to work? Brushing your teeth? Eating lunch? Walking up or down stairs? Kissing your kids goodbye before school?

These actions are all habits. And that’s a good thing. Without habits, we’d have to expend way too much mental energy thinking about the things we have to do every day. Habits free us up to put our time and energy into more important pursuits, like succeeding at work or finding new solutions to old problems.

All this talk about habits has made me realize the importance of habit in finances, as well. You probably already have lots of good, and probably some bad, financial habits. You may follow a particular routine for paying your bills and tracking your budget. Or maybe you have a habit of clipping coupons before you grocery shop, or shopping around for the cheapest airfare before you travel.

But one of the most important financial habits is that of saving. Without saving money, you simply can’t get ahead financially. Luckily, creating new savings habits is actually much easier than creating new diet or exercise habits. That’s because it’s really simple to automate your savings. Automating your savings becomes a habit as soon as you set up the automation and leave it alone. And you’ll reap the benefits for as long as you leave the automation in place.

So how can you automate your savings? Here are five ways to build this financial habit.

1. Use separate accounts

If you don’t already have at least one separate savings account from your checking account, what are you waiting for? There are too many low-fee and no-fee options available today to keep all of your money in one place. And, in fact, I’d recommend setting up at least four separate savings accounts. Here’s what you should have:

  1. A retirement account. Of course, you should be saving for retirement. This is best done through a 401(k) if your employer offers one. If they don’t, or if you’re self-employed, set up an IRA without delay. Then, start saving for retirement in this tax-advantaged account.
  2. A short-term savings account. This account should be for expenses that you know are coming within the next year or possibly two years. It depends on your definition of short term, really. That’s a personal preference. But either way, you should have an account like this to save for specific upcoming expenses. This account can be attached to your checking account, and you may find that it’s fairly fluid.
  3. A long-term savings account. You’ll also likely have longer-term savings goals you want to meet. There might include taking a fabulous vacation to Europe, paying cash for a new car, or putting a down payment on a home. This account should be separated from your checking account, and you should look to get a better yield on this type of savings.
  4. Emergency savings. We’ve talked elsewhere about having a comprehensive emergency plan, rather than just an emergency fund. But an emergency fund is part of that plan. This should definitely be separated from your checking account. You might even consider a CD ladder strategy for this type of savings.

Separating out your finances to this degree might seem ridiculous. But it will help you keep track of how well you’re saving. And it’s essential to automating different types of saving.

2. Set up your direct deposit

The first thing you should do is follow the old adage to pay yourself first. Luckily, this is easy for most people who have direct deposit through their workplaces. Most employers will split your paycheck at least two ways, if not more, on payday. You’re not at a high risk of spending money that never sees the inside of your checking account. So if you can take this option, do.

Just be sure that you carefully calculate your savings with this option. Look at your retirement funding first, and put at least enough into your retirement account to get any matching funds that are available from your employer. Typically, retirement funds won’t count towards your employer’s limits on the number of accounts you can use for direct deposit.

Next, if your emergency fund isn’t up to snuff, send part of your paycheck there. Once that’s funded, you can redirect your emergency savings to your long-term savings. Speaking of which, make long-term savings your next direct deposit goal. If you can, add short-term savings, as well. But if this is too many accounts, just split your paycheck three ways.

Typically, you can set up these direct deposits based on the percentage of your paycheck or a set dollar amount. A percentage-based amount can be a bit safer if your paycheck is at all variable. But if you’re a salaried employee, directing a set amount of cash to each account can make sense.

3. Set up automatic transfers

What if you can’t split up your paycheck in as many sections as you’d like? In this case, you can set up automatic transfers. Your bank will automatically route money from checking to savings on a particular day of the month, if you choose. This is a good way to continue paying yourself first, even if you run out of paycheck-splitting options through your workplace.

4. Set up other savings rules

You can set up other savings rules to help you continue to automate your savings, as well. For instance, you might transfer $10 into your savings account every time you go grocery shopping. Or you could make it a habit to transfer money to savings each time you go out to eat, buy your favorite expensive coffee drink, or spend money on new clothes. With these types of habits, you’re basically “taxing” your own behavior so that you save automatically based on things you do every day anyway.

You can also use an app to further automate your savings based on rules like these. For instance, the app/banking solution Qapital lets you set up specific savings rules. then it transfers money according to these rules. Or you could use Digit, an app that analyzes your cash flow and saves money for you automatically.

5. Keep track of your progress

Finally, it’s essential that you keep track of your progress and constantly re-evaluate why you’re saving and how you’re working towards your rules. Keep tabs on your savings account balances, and keep thinking about how those play into your goals. Then, change your automated savings as you need to. This might mean changing your direct deposit amounts, boosting your automatic bank transfers, or changing your behavior-based savings rules.

You’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll make progress with your savings goals once you start automating your savings.

{ 8 comments }

It’s important to save for a rainy day. In this guide, we give you ideas on where to put an emergency fund and how much you should save.

where to put an emergency fund

The world of personal finance is rife with oversimplified platitudes and one-size-fits-all advice. No where is this more evidenced than in the often-repeated advice about emergency funds.

Typical advice says that you should save three to six months’ worth of expenses in a high-yield savings account. Some financial gurus opt for eight months’ worth of expenses saved up, while others say four is enough.

Still others advocate for starting with a couple thousand dollars and beefing up the fund after you’ve paid off all debts.

How much you should have in an emergency fund and where you should keep it is more personal than this. In some situations, a smaller emergency fund may work just fine. And for some people, a low-interest home equity line of credit can be a reasonable emergency fund. In other situations, having this much cash on hand is a good plan.

But high-yield savings accounts are really providing barely enough to keep up with inflation. Stashing a ton of cash in a savings account may not be the best option. In this case, you might consider having a broader, more diverse emergency plan. This can help you make it through true emergencies without losing out on the interest your money could be earning.

If you’ve never thought through what you’d do in a financial emergency, consider creating an emergency plan that includes the following components:

1. “Mattress cash” stash

Clearly, I don’t actually mean hiding cash in your mattress, necessarily. But it’s not a bad idea to stash a small amount of cash around your home. If your ATM network is down for some reason and you need cash, you can get what’s in your home. I’m not talking about keeping a ton of cash in your home. This should be maybe two or three hundred dollars.

After all, in the case of a truly catastrophic world event, that cash won’t have much value, anyway. So we’re not really planning for that type of situation. This is more the type of situation where you’ve lost your wallet and had to cancel your debit and credit cards. You’re waiting on replacements, but you need to put gas in the car and groceries in the pantry right now. In this situation, you could make a couple hundred dollars work for a week or two.

2. Liquid account

Unless there’s a worldwide banking catastrophe, you should be able to access the next portion of your emergency fund within one day. You might consider putting this portion of your emergency fund into a money market or high-yield savings account. The idea is to earn as much interest as possible without losing FDIC insurance and easy access to your cash.

How much should you put into this fund? It really depends. The idea is that this should be enough to get you through from a job loss to the first paycheck at a new job. Many experts recommend having one to three months’ worth of expenses in this type of account, if not more.

The key here, of  course, is that you’re saving expenses, not your actual income. If you make $4,000 per month but only have to spend $2,000 per month to meet your basic needs, you should use $2,000 as your monthly goal. So for three months’ worth of expenses, you’d only need $6,000 in savings.

Your thoughts for this portion of your emergency plan may differ, depending on your current situation. In a two-income family, for instance, you may not need as many months’ worth of savings. After all, the chances of both working adults losing their jobs at the same time are probably fairly slim. On the other hand, if your particular career suffers from an unstable job market, consider saving even more in this part of your plan.

3. Certificate of Deposit ladder

You can earn a bit more interest on your emergency savings if you use a short-term Certificate of Deposit ladder. With a CD ladder, you progressively invest in more certificates of deposit, which each have their own maturity date. As each CD matures, you can either pull out the money, penalty-free, to cover your expenses. Or you can reinvest it if you’re not in the middle of an emergency.

Combined with liquid savings, a CD ladder can be a good way to get through an emergency without losing out on slightly higher APRs. For instance, say you save three months’ worth of expenses in your liquid account. Then you create a CD ladder of three-month CDs. You’re then guaranteed to be able to tap at least one CD by the time you run out of liquid emergency fund savings. And if you need to keep pulling from the CD ladder, you can.

This way, you can take advantage of potentially higher CD rates, while avoiding penalties for withdrawing from your CDs early.

4. Investments

As you’re planning how to save for retirement, consider potential emergencies, too. In an emergency, you can withdraw your contributions (not your earnings) from a Roth IRA. Depending on your broker, these withdrawals could be free from penalties, taxes, and fees. Once the emergency has calmed down, you can contribute the withdrawals back into your Roth IRA.

You can also consider tapping into your taxable investments, if need be. This isn’t always the best option, especially if your investments are down. But if a true emergency, it can be a way to cover your expenses and potentially get some tax benefits while doing it. Remember, too, that if you sell when your investments are worth more than when they were purchases, you’ll face some tax implications. Just account for that when determining whether and how much to withdraw from your investments.

The best-case scenario is, of course, to have enough in liquid and intermediate savings not to have to tap your investments in an emergency. But understanding how this could potentially work is a good idea when you’re planning how and how much to invest.

One more item of note along these lines: do not rely on a 401(k) loan during an emergency. If you should lose your job, the loan would come due immediately. That just makes an already tenuous situation even more risky.

5. Credit

Using credit in an emergency can be a slippery slope. But it can be used wisely as part of a broader emergency plan.

For instance, if you’re currently paying hefty interest on credit cards, you should put your extra cash into paying them down rather than saving for an emergency. But you’ll want to be sure you don’t go back into high-interest debt if an emergency does arise. In this case, saving a couple thousand dollars to start can be helpful. This can help you get through unexpected car repairs or other smaller emergencies.

Then consider keeping open a home equity line of credit to use for larger emergencies. With today’s lower interest rates, you could finance a longer-term emergency without paying interest through the nose.

Another option is to keep your eyes open for credit cards with an introductory 0% APR on purchases. These cards are widely available to those with good credit. And you can often get one at the drop of a hat. This could get you access to a line of credit in an emergency. Hopefully the introductory offer would give you enough time to get through the emergency and then repay the balance before the introductory period ended. Luckily, credit card issuers are now offering these introductory periods for anywhere from 12 to 18 months, and sometimes more.

6. A bare bones budget

On an everyday, non-emergency basis, you probably have lots of little–or even large–expenses that you could cut out in a true emergency. It’s a good idea to know ahead of time what this would look like. Take a look at your spending for the past three months, and determine which expenses you could have cut with ease and which you could have cut with a bit of work or sacrifice.

This might include things like your cable subscription, other entertainment-related expenses, any dining out expenses, extravagant grocery-related expenses, and more. See just how much you could have cut out of your budget, and put that on paper. That’s your bare bones budget. If you had absolutely no money coming in, that’s how much you’d need to survive.

The exercise of writing down your bare bones budget is helpful for a couple of reasons:

  1. It helps you determine your emergency savings goals. Remember, saving for an emergency is about saving for essential expenses, not your normal, I-have-a-good-income spending. Writing down your bare minimum budget lets you see what you actually need to save for emergencies.
  2. It’ll give you a reference point in an emergency. When an emergency hits, you’ll be too busy looking for your next job or putting out the proverbial financial fires to think too much about basics like budgeting. So having this bare bones budget written down ahead of time can be helpful. You can use this document to know which services to cancel right away and how to budget until the emergency is over.
  3. You’ll see how much extra you’re really spending. Finally, writing down your bare bones budget is great even if you aren’t in the middle of an emergency. It’ll help you see just how much of your daily spending is truly necessary versus extra. While you don’t need to live on this strict budget all the time, it’s a good way to gauge if your spending is reasonable or getting out of control.

7. Stock up on essentials

I’m not advocating becoming a doomsday prepper, but having a stocked pantry and medicine cabinet can make emergencies easier to get through. And it’s not that hard to plan ahead. Just add a few extra cans of beans or other non-perishables to your cart each time you go to the grocery store. Shop in bulk for paper goods like toilet paper and paper towel. And keep your medicine cabinet well-stocked with first aid supplies, over-the-counter medicines, and such. And if you’re on any prescriptions, be sure to keep them up-to-date and refilled as often as possible.

These essentials may not get you through a several month long period of unemployment. But if you can get through the first month or two without having to buy more than milk and eggs from the grocery store, your emergency savings will go a long way. This is just a simple step to take over time so that you can cut expenses at the drop of a hat.

When you think about your emergency plan as more of a comprehensive plan, you’ll feel more prepared for potential emergencies. You’ll also know how to save for emergencies without your savings being eaten away by today’s still-low interest rates. Do you have a broader emergency plan? What does it look like?

{ 13 comments }

50 Ways to build an emergency fund. Tips, tricks and strategies on saving more for emergencies and where to keep your rainy day money.

emergency fund

There’s a reason Dave Ramsey’s famous Baby Step #1 is to build an emergency fund. It helps people get on track for becoming financially independent.

I don’t agree with everything Ramsey says. But having at least a small emergency fund to begin with can be helpful. A basic emergency fund is a place where you keep cash for true emergencies, such as job loss or a broken-down car that would prevent you from going to work.

Ultimately, you’ll want enough cash in your emergency fund to cover all of your necessary expenses for a 3 to 6 month period. But any amount of money saved is a start.

Beyond the basics, I suggest at least five separate components to a complete emergency plan. Getting to that point presents challenges for many people. When you’re starting out, it can be difficult to assemble even the basics for eventual financial freedom.

Banking Deal: Earn 1.85% APY on an FDIC-insured money market account at CIT Bank.

But even if you’re hard-pressed for cash, you can still start an emergency fund. Here are fifty different ways to start saving today:

  1. Open a high-yield online savings account with as little as one dollar. This gives you somewhere to put your emergency funds, which is essential. And you might as well protect against inflation while you’re at it.
  2. Sign up for direct deposit. When you do, have part of your paycheck–as little as a few bucks–deposited right into your new online savings account. If you don’t know where to begin, 5% of your paycheck is a great start. You won’t spend it if it doesn’t hit your checking account in the first place!
  3. Empty your pocket change into a jar every night. Then, put the change into your savings account every couple of months. Don’t spend much in cash? Try an app like Acorns that automatically rounds up your transactions to save your virtual change for you.
  4. Add to your jar every time you swear. Trying to break a bad habit? Tax yourself every time you do it. You’ll break your habit more quickly and save money while you’re at it.
  5. Have a garage sale. Selling off things you no longer want or need can get you started on the road to saving. Plus, it’s nice to de-clutter the house once in a while!
  6. Sell on Craigslist or Facebook groups. Bigger-ticket items may net a better price sold individually on Craigslist or your local Facebook garage sale group.
  7. Whenever you purchase groceries with a coupon, deposit your savings into the bank. This works especially well if you aren’t already in the habit of using coupons. Whenever you cut a few bucks off of your typical grocery bill, save the extra. You’ll never even miss it.
  8. Downgrade your cell phone or cable serviceThe best ways to save are options that let you keep saving money, month after month. Just be sure you put the money saved into your emergency fund every month!
  9. Bring your own lunch to the office. Say you typically spend $10 for lunch at work, but you can make a salad at home for $2.50. Every day you bring your lunch to work, put $7.50 into your emergency fund.
  10. Ask for a raise. Pull together your work performance stats for the past year or two. Then, get together with your supervisor, and lobby for a raise.
  11. Save your raise. If you do get a raise, don’t let lifestyle inflation eat it all up. Instead, have it automatically deposited to your savings account rather than your checking account.
  12. Drink soda rather than alcohol when you’re dining out. Buying even one drink at dinner can set you back $5 or more. Every time you downgrade your drink, throw the money you’ve saved into your emergency fund.
  13. Switch to store-brand food items. Get a feel for how much this cuts from your weekly grocery budget. Then save the extra cash.
  14. Switch to generic medication. Many times, doctors don’t mention generics, but you can switch to them if you ask. Again, keep track of how much you’ve saved, and add it to your bank account.
  15. Cut back or eliminate your addiction to smoking. Smoking has up-front costs, of course. But you’ll also save money on healthcare over time if you quit.
  16. Be aware of your ECRD FactorWhat are you spending money on that you could eliminate or cut back on? Find those areas, and then leverage them to save more money.
  17. Start a side gigWhatever your side gig, put any profit from it directly into your savings account.
  18. Use a cash back rewards credit card. Instead of putting the rewards towards extra spending, put them into your savings account.
  19. Save gas by not driving faster than 65 miles per hour. You can also save gas and be easier on your car by not braking too hard and by following other safe driving practices.
  20. Stop using credit cards if you pay interest. If you have trouble not carrying a balance, just stop using your credit cards.
  21. Cancel your Netflix subscription. Actually, look at all of the subscriptions you’re charged for monthly or annually–Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Spotify, etc. If you don’t use them enough to justify the costs, just cancel them.
  22. Do your own yard work. If you’re currently paying someone to do your yard work, start doing it yourself. You’ll get a workout and save some money.
  23. Visit the library rather than your local bookstore. Bookstores are great. But you can save so much money on reading material by renting it from the local library!
  24. Stock up on non-perishable groceries when they are on sale. Having a well-stocked pantry is essential to keeping your grocery spending lean. Get familiar with your local stores’ sales cycles, and stock up when you can.
  25. Cancel magazine subscriptions. If you have some must-read magazines, subscribing is better than paying more at the newsstand. But if you’re not reading those magazines cover to cover every month, cancel them.
  26. Reuse or repair things instead of replacing them. Then, take the money that you saved by not purchasing new, and put it into your savings account.
  27. Delay vacations until your emergency fund is complete. This is a tough one. But you should have at least some part of your emergency fund saved before leaving on vacation.
  28. Sign up for online bill payment if your bank offers the service for free. This will keep you from missing bills and paying late fees.
  29. Shop around to ensure all your your financial accounts do not charge you extraneous fees. In this day and age, you shouldn’t pay for the privilege of using a checking or savings account!
  30. Always know how much you have in the bank so your accounts will never be overdrawn. Money management and budgeting apps are a great option for helping your manage this.
  31. Use public transportation rather than driving when possible. Alternatively, consider biking to work.
  32. Work a few extra hours at your day job. If you’re paid hourly, you can earn extra to put into savings. If you’re salaried, impressing the bosses could net you a raise sooner rather than later.
  33. Call your insurance provider and ask for an updated quote. In face, you should shop around for insurance once a year. You never know when you’ll get a better offer!
  34. Crawl the web for abandoned and unclaimed property owed to youYou never know what you’ll find. Put any unclaimed cash straight into savings.
  35. If you travel, join AAA; the discounts will often pay for the membership fee.
  36. Cancel your gym membership. You can get a great workout at home with some free weights. And you can always get your cardio in by walking or running outdoors.
  37. Consider refinancing your mortgageIf you haven’t taken advantage of low interest rates, now is the time. You could save hundreds per month, depending on your circumstances.
  38. Cook and brew coffee at home. Cutting out a latte a day may not make you a millionaire. But cooking and brewing your coffee at home can save you a few bucks a day.
  39. Find opportunities for one-time income. Don’t have time for an ongoing side gig? Consider doing one-time income-earning opportunities like babysitting or house sitting.
  40. Check out your memberships. Are you a member of a professional club you don’t get much use out of? A local country club? Consider cutting out memberships that don’t really benefit you.
  41. Save your tax refund. In fact, you can have your tax refund direct deposited to your savings account.
  42. Adjust your withholding. Don’t want to wait until tax time to beef up your emergency fund? If you always get a refund, you could be having too much withheld from your paycheck. Talk to your HR department about adjusting your withholding. Then, put that extra cash from your paycheck right to your emergency fund.
  43. Stop eating out. Commit to only eating out for truly special occasions, such as birthdays. You’ll be surprised how much this could save over the course of a year.
  44. Consider a no-spend month. This Pinteresty trend is actually a great way to save money. You basically eliminate all but your essential spending for a full month. It can be an eye opening way to cut unnecessary spending long-term, too.
  45. Keep track of all of your spending. Sometimes you spend money without actually realizing it. Keeping track of all your spending, either with an app or by writing it all down, can help you pinpoint where you’re over-spending.
  46. Negotiate on everything. Whether it’s a retail store or your cable company, pretty much everything is negotiable.
  47. Share your home. Getting a roommate can really boost your savings. Or you can use Airbnb or VRBO to rent part or all of your house part-time.
  48. Save on energy. Take steps to make your home more energy efficient, and it’ll save you money month after month.
  49. Shop secondhand. Sometimes, you just have to buy stuff, whether it’s new cups to replace the ones your kids broke or a new pair of jeans. But these things don’t have to be brand new. Try shopping at online secondhand stores or your local Goodwill to save some serious cash.
  50. Continue making “car payments” to your savings. Once you make your last car payment, start transferring the same amount to a designated savings account. For example, if you’ve been paying $300 a month for the past five years for your car, rather than increasing your spending once you’ve paid off the balance of the loan, start depositing a monthly $300 into a high-yield savings account.

Saving three to six months’ worth of expenses can take a while. So set some milestones–like your first $500 or $1,000–worth celebrating. (Just don’t blow a bunch of money on a fancy dinner out while you’re at it!)

With a goal to be financially independent, the first step is securing a cash cushion, accessible in emergencies. During this funding phase, it may be beneficial to make sacrifices that in other situations you would not make. A slight decrease in quality of life in the short term will likely outweigh long-term financial devastation when a future emergency arises.

Original published on April 14, 2008, this article was updated by the Consumerism Commentary editorial team (five of us to be precise) on November 15, 2017.

{ 14 comments }

Best Online Savings Accounts of 2018

by Richard Barrington

The best high-yield online savings accounts offer strong interest rates and great customer service, making them a popular option for savers. In addition, studies show online savings accounts come with lower fees. Read More “High-yield” is, unfortunately, a bit of a misnomer these days. A decade ago, interest rates were 4 percent and 5 percent among select […]

280 comments Read the full article →

10 Easy Ways to Save Money

by Luke Landes
Saving strategies for the real world

This year, I’ve spent more money than ever. I’ve been able to swing these extra expenses — including lots of fun new gadgets I’d put off buying for years — without hurting my budget. But now, I’m ready to pull back and start ramping up my savings again. We all know that Americans are generally […]

22 comments Read the full article →

Trump’s Childcare Plan: How the DCSA Will Affect You

by Stephanie Colestock

Whether you’re taking care of multiple children, a disabled spouse, or elderly parents, you’ve likely experienced the high cost of dependent care firsthand. With expenses from babysitters to after school programs, it can be difficult to stay ahead of all your other financial obligations while spending on dependent care. To help make dependent care more […]

2 comments Read the full article →

Financial Upgrades You Need After Becoming Parents

by Robert DiGiacomo

New baby? No doubt this new arrival has turned every aspect of your life upside down in the best possible way. Now is the time to make sure your financial house is in order. Here’s a 10-step account and financial checklist to lay the groundwork for your little one’s successful future. New account checklist for […]

5 comments Read the full article →

New 529A Plans Help Disabled People Save Tax-Free

by Luke Landes

Now that the government backed down on its proposed changes to 529 plans for future education expenses, we can expect the same tax benefits present for education to be applied to families and individuals who face expenses caring for disabled people. Families will be able to deposit funds into special savings accounts, called 529As, and […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Prize-Linked Savings: Win Money For Opening a Savings Account

by Luke Landes

Since December, federal banks and credit unions have been allowed to offer savings accounts that include a raffle element, after some states have allowed accounts like these for some time. The goal of these lottery-like accounts is to encourage more people to save money, particularly those households with low and moderate incomes. This was the […]

0 comments Read the full article →
Page 1 of 1012345···Last »