Things to consider when saving money fast

Now that you have ideas for how to save money fast, here are a few key things to keep in mind.

Make every dollar work for you

Zero-based budgeting is when you make your money work for you. With this budgeting method, you assign every dollar a job before it leaves your checking account. You don’t budget to have money left over, just in case. Leftover money is typically seen as bonus money and can disappear in a snap.

Give yourself a deadline

I mentioned earlier that you have to know your why when you start this crazy money-saving journey. I also want to press that you need a timeline. As I mentioned above, I needed to come up with at least $1,000 to be dropped from my classes. I had a month to get my finances together, which lit a fire under my butt. I could have sulked, but every minute I wasted doing that was one minute I didn’t have.

Be nice to yourself

Don’t forget to please be nice to yourself. Your own worst critic, and most meaningful, is yourself. Unexpected financial challenges happen to the best of us, so don’t think any less of who you are as a person and what you’re able to handle. You can manage this circumstance, and you got us in your corner.


2. Pay Your Bills Automatically

While you’re setting up automatic savings transfers, schedule automatic payments for your bills. This can help you avoid any late fees, which can you a lot of money on late fees and protect your credit rating. Late payments can ding your credit score in a major way, which could result in higher interest rates when you borrow. Paying your bills on time and keeping your score in good shape can yield additional savings if you’re eligible for the best rates on loans or credit cards.

Food Savings Tips

33. Brown bag your lunch. The reason you hear this tip so much is that it works! If buying lunch at work costs $5, but making lunch at home costs only $2.50, then in a year, you could afford to create a $500 emergency fund and still have money left over.

34. Commit to eating out one fewer time each month. Save money without sacrificing your lifestyle. Take small steps to reduce your dining budget. Start off with reducing the amount you eat out by just once per month.

35. Plan your meals in advance and stick to a list while grocery shopping. People who do food shopping with a list, and buy little else, spend much less money than those who decide what to buy when they get to the food market. The annual savings could easily be hundreds of dollars.

36. ‘I’ll take a water, thank you.’ It’s standard in the restaurant industry to mark up the cost of alcohol by three to five times. An easy way to cut down on your restaurant spending without changing your habits too drastically is to skip the beverages, alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

37. Save time and money by doubling the recipe. Next time you make a family favorite, double the recipe and freeze the leftovers for another day. That way you can get two meals out of one and use the ingredients more efficiently with less waste.

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4. Switch banks

Banks make a lot of money from account fees. In fact, big banks with at least $1 billion in assets made $11.7 billion in 2019 in overdraft and nonsufficient funds fees alone, according to an analysis of FDIC data by the Center for Responsible Lending.

It’s easy to avoid paying monthly fees, particularly at online banks. Nearly half (48 percent) of checking accounts that don’t earn interest are free, according to Bankrate’s 2021 checking account and ATM fee study. Some banks will even give you a generous bonus just for opening an account.

For your savings account, look for one that pays a competitive yield. Compare savings accounts to find one that fits your needs.

10. Find Affordable or Free Entertainment

This is one area of your budget that is within your full control since you have the power where you want to spend when it comes to entertainment.

If you’re looking to save on entertainment but don’t want to feel deprived, here are just a few options that won’t punch a hole through your wallet:

  • Hosting dinner parties instead of restaurants
  • Watching matinee movies
  • Going for a hike
  • Explore free museums
  • Family fun nights

You can also do a bit of research around your area to find the best places for entertainment for less.

2. Change the Way You Use Electricity

Check if your electric company offers free tools for assessing how much energy your home uses. You may also ask about ways on how you can lower your bill or consumption. 

For instance, if you’re not on a time-of-use plan and it is an available option in your area, you may benefit from switching to one.

If you do, one way to lower your bill is changing when you use energy-intensive appliances such as dishwashers, dryers, and washers.

3. Streamline insurance costs

Look into getting multiple policies (i.e., renters, homeowners, car) with the same insurance company. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), many insurers often offer discounts for “bundling” your insurance policies with them. These other tips can also help save money on insurance:

  • Pay premiums once a year: Premiums are the fees for having insurance. Customers who make monthly or quarterly installments may pay service charges.2 Paying on a yearly basis can save on those extra charges.

  • Increase deductibles: This is the out-of-pocket amount you pay before insurance begins paying for covered losses. Changing the homeowners insurance deductible from $500 to $1,000 can cut insurance premium costs by up to 25%,3 according to the III.

6. Sign up for rewards and loyalty programs

Sign up for discount cards at grocery stores and drug stores in your area.

Using these programs regularly can help you save money at checkout or possibly help you earn rewards toward future purchases.

Banking, Credit, and Debt Savings Tips

18. Pay off credit cards in full each month. The miles and cash-back are only valuable if you’re not falling into debt or paying interest. Learn more about debt and credit here.

19. Start with a goal of reducing your credit card debt by just $1,000. That $1,000 debt reduction will probably save you $150-200 a year in interest, and much more if you’re paying penalty rates of 20-30 percent.

20. Use only the ATMs of your bank or credit union. Using the ATM of another financial institution once a week might seem like no big deal, but if it’s costing you $3 for each withdrawal, that’s more than $150 over the course of a year.

21. Check your credit report for free once a year. Use your annual free credit report from the three credit reporting bureaus to look for inaccuracies or opportunities to raise your score. Credit scores are used by loan providers, landlords, and others to determine what they’ll sell you, and at what price. For example, a low credit score can increase the cost of a 60-month, $20,000 auto loan by more than $5,000. Learn more about your credit score here.

22. Pay your bills on auto-pay. This ensures they are paid on time, in full to avoid late charges. As a bonus, some loan providers offer a small interest rate deduction if you enroll in auto-pay.

23. Get free debt counseling. The most widely available help managing your debt is with a Consumer Credit Counseling Services (CCCS) counselor. CCCS’ network of non-profit counselors can work with you confidentially and judgement-free to help you develop a budget, figure out your options, and negotiate with creditors to repay your debts. Best of all, the 45-90 minute counseling sessions are free of charge and come with no obligations. Get started here.

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If most of your income and expenses are paid in cash, you may have to do things the old-fashioned way: with a notebook or spreadsheet. Try to sit down and write out what your actual bills are, and then write out what you want your budget to be on discretionary expenses such as entertainment.

Some people who use cash — or need help with discipline — prefer to use the envelope method. You grab an envelope for every category of expense in your budget and stuff it with cash equal to the amount you want to spend. If you plan to spend $40 on clothes this month, then a pair of $20 bills goes into the “clothes” envelope. Once the money’s gone, that’s it.

Save Money in Socializing, Entertainment And Travel

20. Have house parties

Instead of paying for overpriced drinks, set up a series of in-house get-togethers with your friends. Everyone takes a turn, so it’s not always your house that needs cleaning.

For sound insulation, hang heavy drapes on the walls and windows. For music, invest in a good second-hand set of speakers which you can connect to your computer. Let Spotify or Grooveshark playlists do the rest.

21. Open festivals, meetups and events

It never fails to surprise me how much underground stuff goes on around me for free or for very cheap. Find out who runs the blogs and websites that list all the less well-known cultural activities.

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22. Volunteer

If you can’t pay for a ticket, volunteer and get to be there anyway.

23. Housesit

There are multiple housesitting websites offering you the possibility to avoid paying hotels and skip the discomfort of crummy hostels.

Try a saving spree

You know what a spending spree is. But have you ever tried a saving spree? It’s when you make a deliberate effort to spend very little money over a defined period of time and save it instead. Saving sprees are easier than long-term budget-cutting because they are limited in duration. You know you can live without new clothes for a month, though maybe not for a year, so it’s easy enough to stick to the plan.

To move toward your goal during your saving spree, you need to find cheaper alternatives to your current spending patterns or simply refuse to buy things you don’t need right now. We’ll cover strategies to save up funds quickly for smaller-ticket items, as well as larger upcoming costs, like a new car or a house.

Tell your loved ones and friends about your saving spree so they’ll understand why you can’t fly home for Thanksgiving or join them for a Taylor Swift concert. The idea is to question every single expenditure before you make it, and only go through with the ones that are absolutely necessary.

For example, before you go to the grocery store, take stock of what you already have in your cupboards and your fridge. See how many meals you can make from what you have, and figure out what ingredients you need to create a few more.

Got beans and salsa? Supplement them with tortillas, eggs and cheese, and you’ve got breakfast burritos (they’re just as good for dinner). Got pasta and sauce? Buy some ground meat for meatballs, or throw in some veggies. Got tuna? Make a salad, sandwiches or casserole. Use up those old boxes of instant potatoes and easy mac and cheese. Clear out all the frozen mysteries hiding behind your ice cube trays, and heat them up for dinner.

If this doesn’t sound so appetizing, remind yourself of the goal of all this saving and that you can restock all your favorites when you’ve reached it. This can be a quick source of funds for smaller-ticket items given how much we spend on eating.

Take the same approach if you run out of a beauty product or household item during your saving spree. Use the hotel soaps and shampoo samples tucked away in your closet. Live without eyeliner for a few weeks. If you empty your last bottle of window cleaner or scouring powder, see if you can hand-mix a substitute using common ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda.

Some other ideas: Pack your lunch. Replace happy hour with a six-pack at home with a buddy. Have your best friend, or significant other, cut your hair.

Besides tackling all the little ways your cash tends to slip through your fingers, also take a look at your biggest expenditures. For most people, these are housing, transportation, utilities and food. Finding ways to lower these big monthly costs can get you to your savings goal even faster. If the amount you need to save is enormous, like for a down payment and closing costs for a home purchase, consider drastic measures, like moving in with relatives so you can put your rent payment into your savings.

Only slightly less disruptively, you could take in a roommate for a few months to halve your housing costs. Or rent your home on Airbnb for a couple of weekends while you crash on a friend’s couch. Can you carpool to work or telecommute a few days a week to save on gas and tolls? Cut cable? Cook at home instead of going through the drive-thru?

Take the money you’re saving and funnel it into an out-of-reach savings account. Keep it at a different bank from your regular checking, so you’ll have to go out of your way to withdraw the money. Currently, some online options are paying a small amount of interest, which will help you get to your goal that much quicker. You can earn about 1% per year as of late 2015, at a place like Ally Bank, CIT Bank or Synchrony Bank. Just make sure they are not charging any banking fees that will eat away at your principal.

Another savings option is a site like SmartyPig, which allows you to set up an account for a specific savings goal and make automatic and other deposits into it. Whether it’s a vacation or a car, you’ll see your savings grow for that goal. You can even earn a smidge of interest, and if you can spend the money at a particular retailer — for example, you have your eye on a couch at Macy’s — you can trade your savings for a gift card that offers a bonus amount. Your $1,500 in savings would translate to a $1,665 Macy’s gift card (other retailers currently offer smaller bonus percentages).

Bonus: Effective Money-Saving Tips for Everything

Here’s a summary of what you can generally do to save more money:

  • Share/pool resources. Organize a neighbourhood sharing scheme, common resources for your apartment block or with your friends. Not everybody needs an individual lawnmower.
  • Buy energy-saving everything. The easiest way to lower your bills – replace those lightbulbs!
  • Buy in bulk. Be sensible about it (i.e. make sure you have space!), and drastically reduce weekly expenditure.
  • DIY. Skill up using YouTube tutorials on plumbing and many other essential services so you never have to pay for simple problems again.
  • Research a lot before making a decision. Most money-wasting is the result of poor preparation and planning. Don’t shirk this part just because you don’t like it!
  • Use your network. Your network is full of resources that can ease the pain of budgeting. Ask for help.
  • Stop and think. Do I really need it?

Unfortunately, there are some things that require plain ol’ giving up for the time being. This can include high-cost sports such as skiing, the latest versions of some technologies, the finest brands of food/drinks, premier seats at the opera and most other indulgences.

What is important to remember during lean times is that when you look back on your life, it will be the experiences that stand out, not the extra comforts.

Living on a budget can teach you a lot about how much you can really get out of your paycheck. We only live one life, so make the most of every penny you earn!

Save More Money. Faster

Save for that concert. Plan your vacation early. Stack up a rainy-day fund in no time. Budgeting with EveryDollar helps you get there faster. Show Me How


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