How much money do you have in savings? Most of us would sleep better knowing we had some surplus we could rely on in case of an emergency — like a sick pet or a flat tire.
Most experts recommend having the equivalent of your salary saved by age 30, and 10 times your final salary in savings in order to retire by age 67. But finding extra cash to stash can be a challenge. Here are 20 ways to save money that you probably haven’t tried.
1. Transportation: If you live in a city with public transportation, you can save about $300 per month by ditching your car. If that’s not an option, take a hard look at what your car costs each month, including car payments, maintenance, and insurance. If it’s more than 15-18 percent of your income, it’s time to find a less expensive option, or refinance your loan.
2. Housing: Mortgage and rent are the typical working American’s single greatest monthly expense. By downsizing to a smaller space or a less popular neighborhood, you can find a lot of savings. Other options include refinancing your mortgage, finding a roommate, or, increasingly more common, listing your home on a website like Airbnb for several weekends each year.
3. Give your opinion: To make some extra money, you can take surveys at home through websites like SwagBucks and MyPoints. Although they can be somewhat time-consuming, if you are a member of a lot of panels, you can make as much as $250 a month. (You can also join RAC’s Inner Circle and enjoy coupons, gift cards, and more for offering your opinion.)
4. Family night: The average American family spends $2,827 on entertainment each year. Although it’s important to regularly do things together, family night doesn’t have to be expensive. Challenge family members to think of no-cost entertainment like hiking or free concerts in the park.
5. Shop for a new bank: The average interest rate on a savings account is around 0.06 percent, which is pretty darn close to zero. By doing some research online, you can find options that earn as much as fifteen times the average rate.
6. Get another checking account: While you’re at it, set up a second checking account with its own debit card for nonessential expenses. Not only does this force you to stick to your budget, but it also helps you better understand where your money is going.
7. Get freebies: What’s better than discounted stuff? Free stuff, of course! The internet abounds with sites that will send you free samples; you just have to take some time to sift through them. Good ones to try include Mommy and Me News, 2000Freebies, and FreeFlys. You can also get freebies when you sign up for birthday clubs like Baskins Robbins (ice cream), Olan Mills (kids’ portrait packages), and Noodles & Company (an entrée) just to name a few.
8. Side hustles: Currently, 44 million Americans have a second job, and 25 percent of them bring home an additional $500 per year from that side hustle.
9. Used clothes: Most of us have closets full of clothes we no longer wear for whatever reason. Rather than giving them away, check out the plethora of online consignment stores, such as ThredUp or Poshmark. Some stores pay you upfront for your pre-worn outfits, while others share a percentage of the profits once your items sell.
10. (Almost) painless budgeting: Budgeting has to be a part of any money-saving strategy, but today it’s easier than ever to account for every penny with apps like Mint and PocketGuard that work for both iOS and Andriod phones. Or you can use this handy worksheet to track your income and expenses.
11. There’s a coupon for that: Like budgeting, couponing has also been helped by the advent of the smartphone. Gone are the clip-and-save days. With apps like Ibotta, RetailMeNot, SnipSnap, and more, saving is easy. Similarly, use a website like Ebates.com to shop online, and you’ll get a percentage back on the money you spend.
12. Get paid to save: You already know turning off the lights can save money on your electric bill, but did you know you can make money by conserving energy? OhmConnect is a service designed to offset the effects of dirty power plants by alerting you when you should save energy. Anyone across the United States can use OhmConnect to save energy during #OmHours and earn rewards. Qualified California residents can receive payments of more than $200 per year!
13. A money-saving assistant: The Trim app can help you determine which subscription services you are paying each month and cancel any you no longer want, as well as negotiate your cable and internet bills.
14. Shop for prescriptions: Prescription prices can vary from store to store, even within the same ZIP code, so it pays to shop around. Apps like GoodRxcan help you find the best prices in your area.
15. Be reminded: Whether you’re saving for an emergency fund, vacation, or retirement, carry a list of financial goals in your wallet so that you will see it every time you buy something.
16. Choose used or like new: When you can, choose used or like-new items to save cash. Whether you’re looking for appliances, electronics, or smartphones, RAC offers an assortment of refurbished products that are like new, but cost less.
17. Spend a buck: There are some things you shouldn’t buy at the dollar store (batteries and electronics, for example), but if you don’t mind using generic brands, the dollar store is a great place to get things like cleaning supplies, personal care products such as shampoo or deodorant, party supplies, and wrapping paper. Greeting cards can cost as much as $5 each at other stores, but the same sentiments can be found for only 50 cents at the dollar store!
18. Double the recipe: You already know that dining out can take a huge bite out of your budget. But when meetings, homework, sports, and other events make cooking a meal next to impossible, this tip should help: Every time you make a casserole or other easy-to-freeze meal, double the recipe and freeze half so that you aren’t tempted to head to the nearest restaurant on busy nights.
19. Dream together: Set a big financial goal and share it with your family and close friends. This way, they will be able to support you when you’re tempted to buy something unnecessary or have to say “no” to dining out. You can also make a family goal to save for something like a road trip or a special event.
20. Give your time: It can be tempting to splurge when buying gifts, but consider providing a helping hand instead. Give new parents an evening of babysitting, provide lawn care services for neighbors, walk dogs, shovel snow, or do errands. These gifts often are more meaningful than something you buy at the store.