7 ways to fool yourself into saving more money

Fast and Easy Ways to Save Money

Saving money isn't always easy — as evidenced by the one in three American families who reported having no savings at all to Pew Charitable Trusts earlier this year. (More proof of how difficult socking away hard-earned dollars can be: one in 10 of those families had incomes of more than $100,000 a year.)

But whether you're planning for retirement, saving for a down payment on a home or simply trying to ensure you have enough money in your bank account to cover emergency car repairs, it pays, quite literally, to think long-term.

To ensure you're putting away at least some money every month, many financial experts suggest setting up direct deposit into a (preferably high-yield) savings account. You can alternately have the money put into an investment account that you never touch.

"If you don't actually see that money come into your checking account, you will be much less tempted to spend it," Christina White, a certified financial planner (CFP) at EBW, LLC in Vienna, Va., said in an email.

But if these automatic withdrawals aren't cutting it, here are few ways to fool yourself into saving a bigger portion of your check.

1. 'Raise' Your Rent

"The best way to fool yourself into saving more is to transfer funds, a set amount on a set date, the same day you pay your mortgage or rent to an account that is not your checking account (an IRA or online savings)," Jorie Johnson, a CFP based in Brielle, N.J., said in an email. "Almost as if your mortgage or rent payment went up."

2. Automatically Escalate Your 401K Contributions

Many employers now allow you to set up automatic increases to your 401K contributions quarterly, semi-annually or annually at the rate the participant indicates, Daniel Lash, a CFP at VLP Financial Advisors in Vienna, Va., said.

"To save more for retirement I recommend that you contribute 1% more a year to your plan," he wrote in an email. "A participant rarely notices a 1% increase but if they do this over time they will significantly increase their savings for retirement."

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7 ways to fool yourself into saving more money

Dog-sitting, babysitting, or house-sitting

These jobs are always in high demand, and the best part: you can name your price and create your own schedule! Post an ad on craigslist, or use your friends' and family's connections to get your name out there. 

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Rent out your space 

List your apartment on Airbnb or another rental site, and make some easy cash by staying at a friends and renting out your place for the weekend.

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Share your space

Just as you can rent out your full apartment or house, you can also post a free room (or even just your couch!) on sites like Craigslist or Airbnb. This way you can split your living expenses -- and maybe even make a new friend!

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Sell your body parts

Now here's a weird one: Donate your hair, breast milk, or even plasma for a profit. According to Grifols, if you're healthy and weigh above 110 pounds, you can earn up to $200 a month donating your plasma to life-saving medicine. 

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Sign up to participate in medical tests and clinical trials. 

Universities constantly need volunteers to test new medicines and treatments -- and because the pool of willing participants is limited, there is typically a large compensation for being a guinea pig. 

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Participate in a focus group

Companies and organizations will pay you to join a focus group. These can be conducted in person, online, or via phone. You will most likely be reimbursed in cash or gift cards -- plus, you often get to test out fun new products! 

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Take online surveys

Similar to focus groups, you can get paid to give your time and insights on an online questionairre. Plus, you can do this from the comfort of your couch. 

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Bank on your sperm

Although we don't necessarily recommend this option, there is a very high demand for healthy sperm donors. Keep in mind some of the obvious drawbacks, but sperm donation is non-invasive and highly compensated. 

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Crowdfund your dreams

Crowdfunding allows you to raise monetary contributions from a large group of people who want to support your venture. Post your project or idea on a crowdfund site, like GoFundMe.com, and see the cash pile up.

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Become a tutor

If you're qualified, post an ad online or on a community board to tutor children on their school courses or for the upcoming SATs.

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Get a part-time job

Capitalize your free time (on the weekends or after work hours) by working a part-time job. A bartender, waiter, or Uber driver are all great options for an additional source of income -- and great tips! 

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Resell tickets

Take this suggestion at your own risk: If you're staying within legal limits, buy tickets low and sell high as an effective way to source additional money. (Just make sure to check your state and local laws first!)

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You can sell anything on the internet these days... including your companionship! Get paid to go on a platonic outing for a few hours and enjoy your afternoon with a new friend. 

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Rent out your parking spot

Make sure to check with your landlord first, but if you have the option to park your own car further away, lend or share your parking space or driveway for the hour, day, or even month! 

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Keep a coin jar 

This one takes patience before a big pay out, but keep a spare jar or drawer for loose change that you usually toss anyway. It will keep it all in one place -- and those quarters do add up! 

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Make something to sell 

If you have a knack for arts & crafts, create jewelry or other handmade gifts to sell on sites filled with other thrifty vendors like Etsy

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Sell items online

This effective strategy requires low effort with a high return. Post photos of your used or non-used items on sites like eBay or Craigslist, and let the bidding begin! 

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Have a yard sale

Sell clutter you've been meaning to get rid of right in your front yard. This simple tactic is convenient, and guarantees a wad of cash right to your pocket.  

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Return past purchases

This tip may seem obvious, but is often overlooked: Take your recently-purchased items that are laying around back to the store for either store credit or a full refund. 

Recycle scrap metal and cans

Collect cans and scrap metal out your own garbage, basement, and street and bring to your local recycler to exchange your findings for money.  

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3. Spare Your Change

"Most of the banks have a roundup feature when using your debit card," Wade Chessman, president of Chessman Wealth Strategies, said in an email. If you opt in, purchases are generally rounded up to the nearest dollar and that "spare change" is put into an interest-bearing savings or, even, investment account. There are also a few standalone apps that perform a similar service.

4. Save Your Extra Paychecks

People who get paid bi-weekly (as opposed to set days of the month) have a built-in savings opportunity they may not be aware of: "Since there are 52 weeks in a year and only 12 months, two months of every year you get three paychecks," Kathryn Hauer, CFP and owner of Wilson David Investments Advisors in Aiken, S.C., wrote in an email. "If you set up your finances to count on two paychecks per month, those extra two paychecks each year can go right into savings."

5. Spring Clean & Reinvest Your Finances

Comb through your checking account and credit card transactions for automatic monthly withdrawals, like subscriptions or membership clubs, Laura Barry, a CFP and director at Bronfman E.L. Rothschild, said. "Slash what you can and add up the savings," she wrote in an email. "Create a new auto withdraw for the same amount right to your own savings/investment account each month." Then repeat the process with some of your bigger expenses, like property insurance.

6. Keep Two Checking Accounts

Designate one checking accounts for your monthly bill pay and the other for your discretionary spending, suggested Randy Bruns, Private Wealth Advisor with HighPoint Planning Partners. "In this strategy an individual estimates (conservatively) how much money will be left over each month after paying all the bills and socking away whatever amount is necessary towards future goals," he wrote in an email.

So if you make $3,000 a month after taxes, your expenses total $2,000 and you want to put $400 dollars into your emergency fund within that timeframe, you could have the remaining $600 automatically deposited into your spending account.

"This has proven to be a simple and easy way for our clients to monitor exactly how much cash is left to spend each month," Bruns said. "Otherwise it all gets mixed up with the bills and no money gets saved."

7. Use a Credit Card

Yes, you're reading that right. If you're not prone to overspending and you can guarantee you'll pay any balances off in full, a rewards credit card can serve actually serve as a useful saving tool. For example, "Use a cash-back credit card that gives you 1% or 2% back on all of your purchases," Melissa Sotudeh, a CFP and wealth advisor with Halpern Financial, Inc., wrote in an email. "This automatically gives you a small discount on everything you buy with the card, which can be allocated toward savings."

It's important to reiterate that this strategy only works if you use a credit card responsibly. High credit card balances can hurt your wallet (in interest) and also affect your credit score. You can see where yours currently stands by viewing your two free scores each month on Credit.com.

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7 ways to fool yourself into saving more money

Automate your finances. 

Set up your finances so that money is taken straight from your paycheck and deposited directly into your savings account or a retirement savings account. You can also set up your fixed bills like your Internet and cable to be automatically deducted from your checking account. Automate your finances to save time and prevent overspending. If you see extra money in your account, chances are you’ll find a way to spend it, leaving you little to invest in your future. Automation helps keep your priorities in line so that as money comes in, it is dispersed to your other accounts immediately.

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Cut back. 

At least twice a year, look at your expenses line by line and see if you’re getting the most bang for your buck. For example, do you read the magazines you subscribe to or maximize that gym membership? If the answer is “no,” consider canceling or negotiating a better rate. Take that money you save, and apply it toward bigger payoffs like debt reduction, retirement or an emergency fund.   

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Get rewards. 

Lots of people use debit cards to make it easy to buy and budget for groceries, gas and other routine purchases. Instead of doing that, look into a credit card with a great rewards program for those daily purchases, and set it up to automatically pay the statement balance from your checking account each month. Over the course of the year, you could potentially pocket a few extra hundred dollars just by using a card with a good rewards program instead of your ordinary debit card (just make sure you’re paying off your credit card every month, so you don’t pay extra in interest).

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Boost your income. 

If you love your job and want to grow your career, it's time to think about boosting your income as well. Make it a goal to negotiate a raise this year. Consider your strengths and look at the value you've provided to your company over the last six months to a year, and discuss it during a performance review. This can feel intimidating, but it never hurts to ask.

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Get a side gig. 

Take advantage of your skills, or turn a hobby into profit. Doing so can help you generate extra income – which you can put toward reaching your financial goals. Etsy, for example, is a great place to sell one-of-a-kind products.  If you have Web design, copy editing or other creative skills, consider offering your services on freelance websites such as Fiverr or Elance. These types of side gigs will allow you to earn extra income while also growing your skills.

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Track your progress. 

You can’t save money if you don't know where your money is going. Every month, track your net worth using a personal finance tool or app that will show you exactly where your money is going. This will make you think about your entire financial picture from income and expenses to investments and taxes. With this focus, you can ultimately make the greatest impact on your finances in 2015.

(Photo: Getty)


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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

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