How to save more money without getting off the couch
No, don't get up.
From your couch, you can replenish your household supply of paper towels, watch all of Narcos, research the problem with microbeads, and order sunglasses for a weekend down South this February.
You can also save some money.
Below, find nine ways to set yourself up to save more money without visiting the bank, grocery store, or even the mailbox.
Download a budgeting and spending app.
Most of them are free!
A budgeting and spending app links to your cards and bank accounts to automatically import and categorize your income and expenses.
The app can help you save money in two ways:
- It can help you stick to your budget (assuming you have one) by tracking your expenses in each category and alerting you when you exceed your planned spending.
- It can make you more cognizant of how much you're spending, which can influence how much you spend going forward. If you know that second cocktail or new phone case will show up tomorrow, and you know you're $10 away from reaching the limit of your "fun" spending, will you still buy it?
Open sub-savings accounts.
If you're saving money (hooray!) there's probably a reason: an emergency fund, a trip abroad, a wedding, a house ...
Take advantage of your excitement over your savings goals by setting up sub-savings accounts for each individual goal, instead of storing all of your money in just one. Separating them out both keeps you from dipping into your funds for one goal to finance another, and allows you to name them fun, motivating things like "Two weeks in Provence."
You shouldn't be paying any kind of fee on your savings account, so opening more than one is a matter of a few clicks. Consider using online banks such as Ally, which are able to offer high-yield savings accounts because they don't pay to operate brick-and-mortar locations
Set up auto-deposit to your savings account.
Now that you have your sub-savings accounts — or even if you don't — consider setting up auto-transfers from your checking to your savings accounts every month, so your funds are allocated to your goals just like they would be to any other bills.
This is known as "paying yourself first," and is an expert-recommended strategy to build wealth. It's generally as simple as visiting your bank's website and choosing the amount you want to deposit. Out of sight, out of mind ... until it comes time to head to Provence.
Read more on how to automate your finances.
Increase your retirement contributions.
If you're contributing to a retirement account like an IRA or 401(k), well done! The earlier you start, the better, thanks to the power of compound interest.
Now, you can take it up a notch.
Check online to see if your plan offers auto-increase. If it does, choose a percentage you want to increase your contributions and how frequently you want it to happen. If you don't have this option, or are contributing towards different retirement plans without auto-increase, make a reminder note in your calendar every six months or year to increase your savings rate.
Sign up for emails from your favorite retailers.
Online shopping is the ultimate budget saboteur — you can spend enough to negate the rest of these money-saving measures in a matter of minutes.
If you're going to buy something online (a specific something, like a new umbrella to replace your broken one, not "whatever looks fun"), and can restrain yourself for another three minutes, sign up for emails from your favorite retailers. First of all, retailers often offer one-time discounts for signing up, and second, you'll be notified of any sales and discounts at your go-to stores.
This isn't carte blanche to shop your heart out. It only works if you take the second step along with it: Keep those emails out of your everyday inbox. You can do this by setting up another email address purely for shopping, or setting up an automatic filter to shunt the messages into an archived folder.
When it comes time to buy something, like a gift or an item you've researched and decided to buy, raid your shopping folder or alternate address for any sales or discount codes. If you're in a dry spell, check back until one appears — retailers aren't known for being stingy with their emails.
Google for coupon codes.
While you're at it, take a minute to plug your retailer of choice into Google, plus "coupon codes." Why not?
You can make a habit of this, or you can register with a site that will keep track of sales for you. There are a bunch out there.
PricePinx, for instance, installs a bookmark in your browser that allows you to highlight the price of your desired item, then tracks it and alerts you if the price drops. Price Drop Alert sends similar notifications, and Honey looks up coupon codes so you don't have to.
Cancel a subscription you don't use (or don't love).
Are you actually watching your Hulu Plus? Are you reading Runner's World when it arrives every month? Are you eating all the snacks from your NatureBox before you get the next?
In most cases, cancelling a subscription you don't actively use takes only a few clicks through the website or a phone call, and saves you a few bucks each month. The exception might be your gym — since gyms often require you to cancel in person, you'd have to get off the couch. Sorry.
Create a meal plan and shopping list for the week.
If you've ever read or heard any advice from families who drastically reduce their grocery bills, you've probably seen a pattern: They plan out meals in advance.
(Is this news to you? Take a look at the top tips from a woman who paid off over $40,000 of debt in about three years, and a man who feeds his family of eight for $1 a meal.)
Meal planning isn't a complicated concept: You look at what's on sale at your local grocery store — now conveniently available online or arriving in your mailbox! — and decide what you'll prepare for the week based on what's on sale.
As Danielle Wagasky, who supported her family comfortably on $14,000 a year, points out, shopping less often instead of popping into the store every other day, and taking full advantage of offered deals and discounts, can save you considerable cash.
It goes without saying that cooking at home instead of eating out will save you money right off the bat. Once you have your meal plan, write out your shopping list for your next trip — and maybe even set a reminder on your phone to use it.
Sign up for airline and travel rewards programs.
Planes and trains offer free memberships that earn you points as you spend, which you can eventually redeem for discounted or free fares. You can sign up online.
For instance, airlines like American, Southwest, Virgin, United, Delta — and train operator Amtrak — will let you register for free. Every time you book travel with that company, you enter your frequent flyer (or frequent train-er) number to accumulate points.
If you ever travel anywhere by a method other than your own car, or plan to ever do so, you might as well. You're going to have to pay for it anyway, right?
Note that we are not recommending opening branded or travel credit cards. That's a whole separate discussion.
Related: 20 unusual ways to get money quick.
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