Like most of us in January, you’re cringing in anticipation of the credit card bills from the buying frenzy of Black Friday. Let’s set you up for success for this time next year. These tips will help you sock away a big nut by year end without ever missing it. Sound impossible? It’s not. Saving money is possible when one of these two things happen: you make more money or you spend less. Unless you are lucky enough to have a promotion with your name on it in the very near future, we’ll focus on the latter to reach this goal. Use these tips to take on an active role in how you spend (and save) your money every month.
#1. First, open a savings account that is linked to your checking account. We want you to have a dedicated account for this mission so that it’s easy to track your progress, ie. see the cash IN the bank. Master mobile banking and how to transfer funds between your checking account and your shiny new savings account. Throughout this list, our goal is to transfer funds into your new savings account. Once there, you need to forget about it. It’s like it doesn’t exist. Ok?
Pro-Saver Tip: Set up a weekly or monthly transfer from your checking to your savings account as an auto draft. When you do this, some banks will waive your checking account fees when they see your saving ways. Look at that, you’ve already saved and you haven’t even got started, yet.
#2. Second, let’s get ruthless...with your expenses. Before you tap out of this article, hear me out. My goal is not to eliminate fun stuff...just rethink how to do things more cost-effectively. Do you even know what you’re spending each month and on what? Let's take a peek. Make a list of your average monthly expenses. Things like rent/mortgage, car payment, loans, utilities, cell phone, internet access, etc. Remember to include the treat yo-self items like your daily coffee run, the mani/pedi/waxing appointments, your smoothie fix, gas money and the snack run while the gas is pumping. Now, get ruthless. Next month, cut out HALF of the treat yo-self items. Yep. Half. You have a coffee pot at home, your pedi can last a couple weeks longer and avoid stepping foot into any convenience store. If coffee is $5/day for 20 days/month, you just saved $50 when you make coffee at home every other day. Blend that with the savings by cutting down to just one smoothie per week and you’re saving another $20. Here’s the important part: Transfer that $70 that you didn’t spend, in your savings account. SAVINGS account...not your checking.
#3. See that big fat paycheck? Every time you earn income from a paycheck, bonus, birthday or income of any kind, transfer minimum of 5% (but shoot for 10%) of it to your savings account. If you’re following along, you may have intentionally forgotten that you even have a savings account. You do. So move 5-10% of what you take home each month to this account every time you earn income. Here’s the important part: if saving this 5-10% means foregoing paying a monthly bill where interest or fees apply, then use the funds to pay those bills. Racking up 14.99% interest on an unpaid credit card balance to sock away 5-10% in a saving account that earns 1% annually, is going to ruin what we hope to achieve here.
Pro-Saver Tip: Setting up a new credit card just to earn the cash back rewards can prove to be “savings suicide” if you cannot pay your credit card balance in full each month. If you are vigilant about paying off your entire balance monthly, then choosing a credit card that offers a cash back rewards program is a no-brainer. Just be sure that the annual fee for the program won’t exceed what you would ultimately earn as a reward. For example, if the offer is 2% cash back, you spend $6000 per year, you’ll earn $120 cash back that year. Since the average cost for most programs ranges between $50-$100, you’d net $20 in the positive. Challenge yourself to let the rewards cash accrue all year before cashing out at year end. BOOM! Look at that, another $20+ toward your goal and you didn’t even feel it!
We aren’t talking about your grandma’s coupons either. There are easy apps such as RetailMeNot, SnipSnap, and GroceryiQ that offer free coupons to use on all sorts of products without ever searching for scissors. Are you an avid Target shopper? (Like, who isn’t?) Download the Target app and you can scan products in store to see if there are any discounts available. These discounts save you on purchases you would have made anyhow. When making your grocery list, check for coupons or change brand preferences based on what’s on sale that day. Making these small, smart choices when purchasing groceries, clothes, etc. can help keep you on your savings track!
Pro-Saver Tip: If you use an app to complete your purchase for the items you need without having to step foot in the store, think of all the impulse purchases you didn’t make. This also works when you utilize a retailer’s pick-up option. Shop online for only the items you need, checkout and pick-up curbside. While they are deliciously festive, you really can survive without that bag of chocolate kisses that stare at you longingly next to the checkout.
#6. Presence over presents Just because you’re saving your money doesn’t mean you need to be the grinch of gifting. You can’t not (gotta love a double negative) give something to your spouse, mom, sister, friend, etc. on their birthday, right?! Giving someone your time and attention is something far more valuable than something delivered to their front porch by a guy in brown shorts. With as busy as you are, they will appreciate that you made time for them. Make a family recipe together with your mom or take your bestie out for coffee and sit “for a spell.” It doesn’t take extravagant gifts to bring the biggest smiles to the faces of loved ones. Save money, and spend time making them feel loved and valued.
Pro-Saver Tip: Estimate the amount you would’ve spent on a gift and transfer that amount into your secret savings account. Then, remember to “forget about it.”
#7. Try a Girls Night In. It’s not where you are, but who you are with! While it’s fun to go out to the hottest new restaurant, for the next girls night, take turns hosting it at someone’s house. Invite your guests to join you (and maybe bring their favorite wine) while you host some small bites and a private venue on your patio or (let’s be real here) your kitchen island. Why are kitchens magnets for guests? I find the conversations and engagement is so much greater when I’m not tied down to a seat allllll the way on the other end of the world’s longest table. The memories are rich but you don’t need to be to cover the tab at the end of this night! Remember to include “Alexa” on your nights in since she knows all the right music to play, just for the asking.
#8. Care to be aware. It’s so great that so many companies and financial institutions offer paperless statements. [Yay for saving tree!]. However, if you are not vigilante about checking the activity online or e-statements on a regular basis, you could be losing, a lot...by incurring monthly fees for a subscription that you’re not even using. It’s no secret that companies offer incentives for a “Free Trial” while you test out an app or program. Be wary of those offers that require your credit card to get started on said free trial. In my own experience, I have signed up to try out a new service, dabbled but may have lost interest (& often my username/password). When it’s all but left my mind, I see some new $14.95 on my credit card statement before it triggers my memory that I forgot to cancel before my free trial expired. Since I struggle with the scarcity of time to micro-manage my statements as a working mom + three kids, my fail-safe is to not sign-up for any subscription service that requires my payment info when registering for a free trial. If it’s absolutely unavoidable (and I absolutely must have the “free trial”), I note the cancellation date prior to my first payment/log in credentials in my planner (a-hem, like my Reminder Binder®) or add it to my iCalendar. At that time, I can assess whether the app has provided value and if the new monthly nut is worth it.
Applying these tips to your upcoming year should net a valuable nut for you to spend during the holidays and avoid the dreaded January credit card bills. Remember: Be Ruthless. Be Creative. Be Aware. Be Intentional with your money. To help you get started, download our free worksheet (yes, it really IS free) to track your Monthly Bill Tracker Digital Download. Click here or on the image below to get yours now. Click here to see more blogs filled with helpful tips.
Fun Fact about the Author: Using tips like these is what helped me build (and later sell) my first company without ever taking out a loan. I managed the little money (about $1200) I had to start my business by being well-informed, creative and intentional with how I spent it. I took pride in being self-sufficient and downright thrifty! Notably, thrifty is not to be confused with being “cheap,” because when I craved me-time filled with a frothy latte or a night out with friends, I justified the splurge because it revitalized my mojo. There’s a BIG return on that!
*Results will vary based on individual earning situations and habits.