23 Money-Saving Tips From Experts, Because A Credit Card Detox May Be Necessary
Money is a feminist issue — and yet, women are still reluctant to talk about it. According to a recent Bustle survey of more than 1,000 Millennial women, more than 50 percent of people said they never discuss personal finances with friends, even though 28 percent reported feeling stressed out about money every single day. Bustle's Get Money series gets real about what Millennial women are doing with their money, and why — because managing your finances should feel empowering, not intimidating.
I don't know about you, but I think the more tips for saving money from experts, the better. After all, they have extra money-centric knowledge that you or I probably have not thought about. And if some of the below tips are familiar, they'll serve as great reminders. For instance, you may hear the term "automation" over and over again when it comes to saving money, and that's because it's easy — and it works. Here's why.
"Making it automatic is the single most effective way to hit your savings goal," Jennifer Barrett, Chief Education Officer at Acorns and Editor-in-Chief of Grow, tells Bustle. "I used to have all the best intentions, but something always seemed to come up and I'd either forget to transfer money or find something else to do with it. Now, I have money automatically transferred not just to a 401(k) and IRA, but to a regular investment account for mid-term goals and to a savings account for unexpected expenses and short-term goals. Since the money is now transferred automatically after each pay day, I barely have time to miss it. And I plan my spending as if I never had it."
1. Use The SFTS (Save First! Then Spend) Method
Like Barrett says above, automating is key to saving more money. However, Lou Cannataro, Partner, Cannataro Park Avenue Financial, has an addition to that theory. "'SFTS' — 'Save first! Then Spend'… what is left over," he tells Bustle. He also is a fan of automation, and creating many different savings categories. "You must set up automatic withdrawals to the various buckets (401(k), Roth IRAs, etc.) which are most beneficial to fund your savings based on your own individual situation," he says. "You have to think about what you can afford to put away, then act, but make the action happen every month without you having to click a button or 'decide' if it should/can happen. This is how you create wealth."
2. Save 25 Percent Of What You Earn
I know there are various theories on how much of your paycheck you should save, but fellow Millennial Arian Vojdani, Investment Strategist at MV Financial, a wealth management firm, believes in 25 percent. "Generally, I try to save a fourth of every dollar I earn, and I think this is a good guideline for other Millennials as well," he tells Bustle. "It will help set them on the path of financial freedom and success later in life."
3. Save Less Money At Once
However, some money experts advise to save less money at once, but to save more often. "Reduce your savings amount and increase the frequency," Heather Roche, Vice President of Deposits at Discover, tells Bustle. "Try breaking down your timeline into weekly, monthly, and quarterly savings targets. Keep the amounts small, but stick to a consistent schedule — with this method, you'll see your savings increase steadily."
4. Ramp Up Your Savings Slowly
You may feel overwhelmed by trying to save 25 percent of each paycheck, or by trying to save less more often. Well, this tip may make you feel better. Arielle O'Shea, Investing and Retirement Specialist for NerdWallet suggests saving slowly, so to speak. "To save more, ramp up your savings slowly, in line with a raise or increase in income," she tells Bustle. "Figure out how much you need to save monthly with a retirement savings calculator, and then work your way up. That way, you don't feel like you're losing money to savings, because you're saving money you never had. If you get a raise, increase your 401(k) or IRA contribution by that amount, or half that amount."
5. Pay Yourself First, And Treat Spending Like An Essential Expense
You may hear the term "pay yourself first" a LOT when it comes to saving. Here's the DL. "Think of saving as essential spending, not a luxury, like 'paying yourself' before you can pay any other bills," Benjamin Glaser, Features Editor with DealNews, tells Bustle. "This takes self-discipline, because there is no collection agency that will come knocking if you don't deposit into your savings. But in the long-term, this money could be just as important as your mortgage, car payments, and groceries."
Shannon McNay, Financial Expert at Student Loan Hero, agrees about paying yourself first and explains why it's so essential. "I do it as soon as I get paid and treat it just like a bill," she says. "Because no matter what my monthly budget is, extra money in my checking account is always tempting. But taking money out of my savings account feels too much like a barrier, thus ensuring that I don't touch it once it's moved there. And I recently heard an even better twist on this — to put your checking and savings accounts in two different banks so you can't easily transfer the money back to your checking." BTW, I do the latter and LOVE it, so I highly recommend it.
6. Ask HR To Split Up Your Paycheck For You
I had no idea about this tip until Brianna McGurran, Student Loans and Personal Finance expert at NerdWallet and fellow female Millennial, shared it. And it is genius. "I've seen people have lots of success splitting their paycheck into separate accounts," she tells Bustle. "I didn't even know this was possible at my first few jobs, but it's probably the most efficient way out there to save. To set it up, all it takes is a few minutes with HR or on your online payroll portal, and you're in business."
7. Don’t Just Have A Savings Account — Have A High-Yield Savings Account
It's very easy to open a savings account, but you should always see how much interest you'll accrue before choosing one. McGurran states why this is key. "Say you decide to save $300 a month for a down payment, or for emergencies (ideally, you're already saving 10 percent to 15 percent of your income for retirement)," she says. "Open a high-yield online savings account if you don't already have one, and ask HR to add it as a destination for direct deposit, in addition to your current checking account. My company lets you send either a flat amount or a percentage of your earnings to this account per paycheck; in this case, I'd ask to deposit $150 per paycheck into my savings account. And voilà; on your next pay day, you'll have $150 in savings, no recurring transfer from checking needed."
8. Make A Budget
Naturally, when it comes to money, aside from the word "saving," you probably hear the word "budget" just as much. And, rightfully so. "Have a budget," Glaser says. "We at DealNews are consistently astonished at how many people neglect this simple and important step. (Polls suggest only about one in three Americans keep a budget.) Once you know exactly how much income and how many expenses you have, there will be no more guesswork about what you can and can't afford. You may also discover areas where you are overspending that are relatively easy and painless to correct."
9. Use Budgeting Apps
If the thought of having a budget intimidates you, or if you've tried and failed at keeping to one, why not let an app do the work for you? Personally, I'm a big fan of budgeting apps. Plus, once you link to your accounts, they do all the work for you. It doesn't get much easier than that! "Track and overestimate your spending, and make sure you know where your money is going," Kimmie Greene, consumer finance expert at Intuit's Mint, tells Bustle. "With budgeting apps like Mint, you can track where you're spending and get the full picture of your finances. Plus, when making purchases, train yourself to think that you are spending more than you actually are, to provide some cushion when setting your budget. For example, if you're spending $2.50 on a cup of coffee, think of it like you're spending $3. That way, you can put any extra money into savings or toward debt repayments."
10. Use A Savings Calculator
Not only can you use budgeting apps, but also savings calculators. "Use existing tools and resources to help you save and manage your budget," Roche says. "A savings calculator — like Discover's online savings calculator — can be a great way to determine how much money you need to save, or even how to adjust your spending, in order to reach your financial goals."
11. Have An Emergency Savings Account
You may hear of people who have emergency savings accounts, and you may think it's impossible to start one of your own. But think again. Even something is better than nothing. "Make sure you have an emergency savings account with cash available for three-six months' worth of living expenses," Katharine Perry, Associate Financial Consultant at Fort Pitt Capital Group and a fellow Millennial, tells Bustle. "It'll take some time to build that up, but if you have an emergency, having this cash handy will be helpful rather than having to pay for something on credit or borrowing from an investment account."
12. Get A Handle On Your Credit Card Spending
I know — credit cards are so convenient, how can you not use them? Plus, they help you build good credit (assuming you don't abuse them). However, many people do abuse them, and then owning a credit card or two turns into several, and several overdue statements later. "My best tip is to get a handle on your credit card spending early," Alyssa Furtado, Co-Founder and CEO of RateHub.ca, a financial comparison site that connects its users to the best credit cards, mortgage rates, and bank accounts, tells Bustle. "We did a major money survey last year, and we found that those with the highest credit card debt include women; women are more likely to have a store credit card (those are not the best credit cards for low interest rates, rewards, or points); and that men are 28 percent more likely than women to be confident in their retirement savings. Staying out of debt and maintaining good credit are two habits I think women need to develop to have financial independence and financial strength."
You may be thinking that the whole point of having a credit card is so you can purchase things you can't otherwise afford. But wrong, Vojdani says. "Only use your credit card for expenses you can afford to pay off right away," he says. "Credit card debt is easily avoidable and not a burden that you should have to bear, if you spend responsibly."
13. Follow The 50-30-20 Rule
Oftentimes when it comes to saving, people say to follow the 50-30-20 rule and Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, is one of those people. “Follow the 50-30-20 rule,” she tells Bustle. “Fifty percent of your take-home pay should go to your needs: rent, food, insurance, and other basics. Thirty percent goes to fun. And 20 percent goes to your future.”
14. Try A Credit Card Detox
As I mentioned above, credit cards can become addictive — and fast. After college, I actually cut up all my credit cards after using them a bit too much. So I love this next tip and suggest you try it, too. "For frequent credit card users, starting good savings habits can be challenging," Greene says. "By ditching your credit card for a month, you may start to rethink your finances and overall financial priorities. Once you remove the temptation of buying things on credit, you may also realize the real difference between needs versus wants, putting a stop to your impulse buys or retail therapy habit."
15. Choose Membership Services Wisely
You probably know how easy it is to sign up for a membership service, because you have watch that episode or series ASAP. But after the series or episode, then what? Lots of added monthly charges and wasted money, that's what, when you see all the things that are blowing your budget. "Choose wisely," Amanda Young, Senior Manager of Email & Direct Mail Marketing at Quicken Inc., tells Bustle. "With all the subscription boxes and membership services available today, it’s very easy for these seemingly small expenses to add up quickly. Be judicious, and it will save money in the long run."
BTW: ICYMI, there are apps out there, like Truebill, which tracks all those subscriptions for you. They cancel them, then get you refunds; plus, refunds if you should overdraft on your bank account. Of course, it's good for you to go over your bank and credit card statements each month to assess what all your charges are, but it's good to know apps like Truebill exist, just in case you need some extra help.
16. Buy In Bulk
You may love Costco and Sam's Club because of all the perks, aka buying in bulk. Money-savers love purchasing items in big quantities, too. "Buy in bulk," Courtney Spritzer, Finance and Operations at Socialfly, tells Bustle. "Now that we have an office and a staff of 20+ employees, you can save a lot of money by buying supplies in bulk from sites like WB Mason or Jet.com."
17. Keep Staple Grocery Items On Hand
Aside from buying in bulk, having staple grocery items in stock is key, too. After all, you probably know how easy it is to just order food online or go out to eat, but spending money on food out adds up very fast. However, if you keep food staples on hand at home, you can save a lot of moola. Plus, while you're at it, you can stock up on other items so you don't have to end up running to the overpriced corner store if you suddenly run out of Kleenex. "Don't buy the same groceries every week," Lisa Lee Freeman, Savings Expert at Flipp, tells Bustle. "Only stock up on your staples — cereal, toilet paper, etc. — when they're on sale. To make sure you're getting the absolute best deals, keep a list of the prices of your top 10 grocery buys so you'll know a really good deal when you see one. The best way to stay on top of sales is to use an app like Flipp, which puts all of the weekly local ads at your fingertips and automatically rounds up circular deals on the items you need."
18. Analyze Your Purchases
Who doesn't love shopping, right?! But even a lot of small purchases add up and take away from your budget — aka money you could be saving for the future or using to invest. "Look at purchases you're making," Perry says. "Is it frivolous or something you want long-term? If you're going to buy something nice, make it an 'investment piece,' don't make it a trendy item."
19. Analyze Your Bank Statements
You may have a ballpark idea of how much money is in your checking and saving(s) accounts, but if you don't regularly check your statements, it could mean you're spending money without even realizing it. Roche suggests to regularly monitor your bank statements. "It's important to keep an eye on your bank activity, both online and through your monthly statements, to ensure you don't miss any fraudulent activity or purchases," she says. "Keeping close tabs on your bank statement can also allow you to eliminate unnecessary banking fees or monthly outdated purchases from reoccurring services you no longer use."
20. Get Rid Of Extraneous Fees
Chances are, you have extraneous fees that you're paying every month, and now's the perfect time to get rid of them. TBH, wouldn't you rather use that money on something you'll actually use? Or, you can add up all the extraneous fees and automatically have that money go into savings (since you didn't know you were spending the money anyway!). "Get rid of fees, such as bank ones," Glaser says. "The most common three — ATM, overdraft, and late payment — could be costing you $77 a month, if you incur these at least once a month and pay about the average. Other common, avoidable fees include 401(k) fees, investment fees, cash advance fees, payday loan fees, prepaid debit card fees, wireless carrier early termination fees, annual credit card fees, and credit card balance transfer fees."
21. Don't Live Outside Your Means
How often does a friend of yours spend money on something expensive, and it tempts you to do the same? However, you could, literally, pay the price later when it comes time to pay for something more essential, like rent or health insurance. "Try not to live outside your means," Perry says. "I know it's hard in this day and age when you want to keep up with everyone; however, you might be doing yourself a disservice by doing so. But that doesn't mean you have to deprive yourself of nice things. Weigh all your options before making big purchasing decisions. And, every paycheck, put some amount away for savings and retirement. It's better put just a little bit away over nothing at all."
I don't know about you, but DIY projects are not only fun, but also save you money. And it's all the rage these days, from DIY clothes to DIY weddings. It also applies to more day-to-day things, like making your own coffee and lunches for work. "Invest in money-saving devices to cut recurring costs," Young says. "The initial upfront expense may seem like a lot, but will pay for itself in no time. Purchase a Keurig and decrease your daily Starbucks visits, or buy an exercise bike and get rid of your unused gym membership."
Frankie Corrado, CFP and Financial Life Guide with Blue Blaze Financial Advisors, is also a fan of DIY. "When I go out to a restaurant and find a dish that I love, I make it a point to go home and learn how to make it myself," he tells Bustle. "That way, I get to build my culinary skills, eat delicious food, and save money. And the range is pretty wide. Super simple and delicious foods like avocado toast and chia seed pudding fetch high prices at restaurants, but are super easy to make and pretty cheap if you DIY. And once I learned how to properly grill salmon — forget about it!"
23. Focus On Savings, Not Spending
What if you heard that you should focus more on savings not spending? You may wonder what the deal is, and Greene explains. "Whether it's avocado toast or a travel adventure, experiences are rising to the top as an important priority for many," she says. "So, be sure you're saving for the future, as well as making room for short-term savings (and living) goals. Once you figure out your savings goals, then focus on your spending, trimming where necessary to avoid spending more than what is in the bank. Honestly, as long as you're meeting your savings goals and living within your means, we're not as concerned with how the rest is spent!"
OK, with all of the above savings tips, there's no reason why you and I cannot save more money. I think the one key is taking time to do the above, which is a worthwhile investment, financially speaking, that you will see as your savings account(s) increase more and more. The time is a small price to pay for the end result, right? Right.
Check out the “Get Money” stream in the Bustle App for more tips and tricks on how to save and spend your money.