C.R.E.A.M. | 5 Helpful Tips For Saving Money
Developing healthy saving habits can be challenging at first but once you get started, it is easy to keep going. The idea of saving money is scary for most and I never understood why. I believe that most people think of what they want or need now and don’t think too much about the future which causes them to not put much emphasis on the idea of saving money. For me it is a little different. Ever since I was young, my parents taught me about the importance of saving money and still do it to this day. I remember being about 11 or 12 years old keeping a spreadsheet in excel of my savings. A bit nerdy for a 6/7th grader but it worked for me. I used to get an allowance everyday and whatever I didn’t spend, I used to put in my little bank, record onto my spreadsheet and make sure that my sum formula added up correctly. I used to set goals for my savings, the goal was always to come up with half so that I could get those sneakers that I had my eye on. Once I had my half I would ask my parents for whatever I wanted knowing that they would say “if you can come up with half then you can get them” and when they said it, I had my money ready and got what I wanted. Back then, I didn’t grasp the full understanding of saving money but I understood enough to know that saving my money allowed me to have what I wanted.
I’ve carried these same practices into my adulthood and am doing good (just good) with it. I know that I have some areas to improve on but I do want to share what has worked for me. See below for 5 helpful tips for saving money:
Create A Budget
Creating a budget can be very challenging for some but for me it is not difficult. Every year, I fill out my personal budget template that I created many years ago and update every year. On that spreadsheet, I record my monthly income and list out ALL of my expenses for the month taking into account my savings goals. On the top is a wide scope of my budget and the bottom shows detailed breakdowns bi-weekly so that I know how much extra cash I have after all of my money is properly allocated each pay period. I am pretty disciplined with my allocation of funds because I keep my “Play” money separate from my “Bill” and “Put Away”money through the use of different bank accounts. This was very important for me because I have my bills on automatic payments (FYI: most companies offer a savings for setting up monthly payments as auto-payment). I wanted to ensure that the money that I have access to is in fact money that I can use for whatever I want. I highly recommend doing this, it is very clear, concise and avoids the possibility of overdraft fees.
If spreadsheets are not your thing, perhaps you can try Mint which is a money management/budgeting app that is used for personal finances. You set the budgets for each expense category and the app does the rest. You get notifications when you are getting close to or exceed your set budget for the specific category. You can also track bills, investments and even your credit score. If you’re the type of person who needs close monitoring of your finances then you should definitely get started using this app.
I love a good challenge and often times look for new ways to do so. A few years ago I wanted to get serious about my savings so I went on Pinterest to find some creative ways to do so. There were so many to choose from and I’ve tried about 3 since then. Three challenges that I tried from my Pinterest search were:
52 Week Challenge : I saved the dollar amount associated with the week number of the year. At the end of 2016, I ended up with $1,378 from this challenge alone.
$5 Challenge : I saved every $5 bill that I receive throughout the year. The amount varies year over year. At the end of the year, you’ll be surprised at how much you will save all by making the conscious decision to save those $5 bills. 2019 will be my 3rd year trying this.
Daily Money Challenge: I saved $1 Sunday, $2 Monday, $3 Tuesday, $4 Wednesday, $5 Thursday, $6 Friday and $7 Saturday which totals up to $28 per week. By the end of the year you end up saving $1, 456. Like the $5 Challenge, I will be carrying this challenge over to 2019.
These challenges have come in handy over the years. The money that I saved helped me put additional money toward my student loans, make big purchases and even paid for a trip or 2. Check out my Plan To Save or Fail To Save post from 2017 to get detailed information on these saving challenges.
In addition to doing these challenges, I also set up different dollar amounts to go to my different savings accounts. If the challenges aren’t for you, maybe this is. When someone tell me that they have a difficult time saving, I always make the suggestion to have a certain dollar amount taken out automatically. Automatic transfers from your checking to savings account on the day you get paid is a great place to start in my opinion. If your checking account is your primary account that is used for spending money, this helps you not see the money that you want to save so if it isn’t there then you cannot spend it. You can literally sit back and watch your bank account increase. The thing with doing this is to make sure that the dollar amount that you decide on works within your budget. You do not want to be too aggressive with the dollar amount because you have this goal in mind. Although they say that you should save 20% of your income (who are “they” right?), I believe that you should save whatever you can. The goal is to refrain from withdrawing money from your savings so I would say do what works for you in this case. If $1 is all that you can do every pay period then go for it. It will take you longer to get to your goal but at least you are making an effort to save.
If you need help deciding on a dollar amount to save, you can try apps that will do it for you like Digit. About 3 years ago I used the Digit app to help me save money. It took me a while to get used to it because it literally withdrew an amount that I was “supposed” to be saving based on an algorithm that is generated using my account balance. There were some pros and cons with using the app, the pro being that I was able to save money a lot quicker because the amounts would vary. One week it’ll be $50 then the next $100 and somechange which brings me to the cons. I would say the con for me was that I didn’t have control of how much was being saved so I would check my account balance before wanting to go out to see that the money that I wanted to use for hanging out has been transferred to digit leaving me with less than I had anticipated. This was becoming a frequent thing and started to become annoying so I put strict settings on my account to put some type of control on it. I don’t quite remember all of the inner workings of the app because I only used it for about a year but you can find out the full details of the app here. You’re probably wondering why I stopped using the app, right? I decided to stop using the app because initially Digit was a free service and then changed to a paid service. It is now $2.99 per month which I was not willing to pay for an automatic savings program. This is when I started looking into free savings alternatives like the challenges mentioned. I do think that I will eventually sign back up just because it did help put away a lot more money faster and I still have a couple of money savings goals that I would like to achieve.
Selling useless clothes and shoes has been my thing for at least 4 years now. I started selling on eBay here and there, later I discovered Poshmark and it was over from then on. I’ve made some extra money by selling on these platforms. I typically use my earnings from sells as disposable income and either save the money to purchase new items or transfer earnings to my savings account. You’ll be surprised at how much you can earn just by decluttering your space. Not only does your trash become someone else’s treasure but you get to help the earth with maintaing sustainability and you get to earn at the same time. Everyone wins!
Cashback bonuses are the best thing ever! You earn money while spending money with little to no effort. There are so many ways to take advantage of cashback bonuses. You can use apps like Ibotta and Ebates (I am sure that there are more) and your credit cards if they are offered. I am an avid online shopper so Ebates is my primary way of earning cashback bonuses. Never heard of Ebates , you are truly missing out. Ebates is a cashback service that partners with many different retailers to offer you a percentage of cashback on your purchases. There is a way to earn cashback on in store purchases as well but I haven’t quite mastered that part yet. However, for online purchases it is really easy. All you have to do is download the plugin on your web browser and every time that you go to a participating retailer’s website, the cashback percentage that you will earn on your purchase will pop up and you will click activate. When you proceed to checkout and process your order, your cashback rate is automatically calculated and you will receive an email detailing your cashback earned for the purchase. Each quarter, you will receive what they call a Big Fat Check with the total amount of money earned from purchases during the quarter. You can receive the money via physical check or PayPal.
The other way that I take advantage of my cashback offers is by using my credit card. Many credit card companies started to offer cashback bonuses when utilizing the card to remain competitive and it is beneficial in many ways. Earn enough points to put money towards your credit card payment, gift cards, as extra cash and even for booking trips. That is right, you read the previous sentence correctly, the perks are real. Earn the points and cash out with physical cash. The easiest way to get the most points is to pay your reoccurring bills with the credit card to earn the points and then pay the balance IN FULL at the end of each month. Watch you points increase and then at the end of the year cash out however you’d like. I promise you that you will ask yourself, “Why haven’t I started sooner?”.
All in all, saving money takes a lot of discipline. You have to want to do it in order to be successful at it. If you make it challenging and fun, it’ll be a piece of cake. I enjoy saving money because it allows me the flexibility to get what I want as well as gives me something to look forward to. The key is to not stress about it and remember that EVERY dollar counts! The year just started so put one or more of these tips to use to reach those money goals by the end of the year!
Did you find any of this useful? If you did, will you be implementing any of these tips to your savings plan?