Seven Easy Ways to Save Money in the New Year
While each year seems to come and go in the blink of an eye, 2020 has prompted more people to reflect and make essential changes in their everyday lives—including in the financial sector. Because of limited resources, stay-at-home restrictions, and more all caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this time is highlighting the importance of saving money more than ever. Even though cutting down on spending can seem like a daunting task at times, it is actually quite simple to start forming long-term habits that will boost your financial literacy. And unlike saving just for a "rainy-day fund," making a point to start saving in the new year will help you garner the funds for things you desire most—from your child's college education to buying a new house.
Ahead, we asked for insight from financial professionals who will explain how you can save efficiently in the new year.
Start a morning money routine.
"The first thing that I recommend that my clients do when they want to start saving money is to start a morning money routine," says Alaina J. Fingal, certified financial coach, accountant, author, and founder of The Organized Money. "The only way to start saving is to be aware of what you are currently spending." To make this a reality, she suggests making a regimen that is easy to maintain. This could include waking up, drinking a cup of coffee, and taking a look at your bank transactions from the day prior (and checking for potential fraud and upcoming bills) to start getting a feel of your spending habits. Fingal says that once you know how you spend, you'll be in the best shape to make any adjustments you want throughout the year.
Track your spending habits.
You can even jot down your habits to observe them in depth. "When I first started budgeting, I would keep track of all of my spending in a small notebook," says Fingal. "After a while, I started noticing how much money I was spending on takeout and started to slowly decrease that number every month until I was meal planning completely." Like Fingal says, you will still need to monitor your habits throughout the year, and this should also include any big buys. This means taking a few minutes to analyze any purchases you anticipate or debts you need to pay off in order to have a reasonable budget.
Think about attainable goals.
Colleen McCreary, chief people officer at Credit Karma, adds that after figuring out your spending habits and how much you can set aside for savings, you should also keep any particular goals in mind—and they don't need to be big ones. "Many of us start the year making New Year's resolutions that usually fall by the wayside a few weeks later, which can be because we set too lofty of a goal," says McCreary. "One workaround is to set micro goals for yourself. If your goal is to pay off your debt, you can set other goals to help you get there—like, make a plan for how you'll reach your goal, or pay off a certain percentage of that goal." You can always check in with a financial educator who can advise you on healthy money habits, too.
Cut down in overlooked areas.
If you are looking to get more specific on ways increase your saving, there are a few areas in life that you may be overlooking on spending. A key one to note? Subscriptions. "It's easy for this area to get away from us, because the amounts are so small," Fingal says. "$16.99 doesn't seem like a big deal ($200 for the year) but if we do this with four or five subscriptions, it can add up to an extra $1,000 less in savings." Eating out or ordering in often can add up to just as many expenses. While Fingal says most people order food socially or for convenience, takeout meals can usually cost about $50. So, if you cut out this habit, you can easily save over $1,000 each year if you cook your own meals more often than not. Likewise, online shopping can add up as we get more accustomed to saving our credit card information and having easy access to a variety of stores. When limiting your spending in these areas of your life to start saving, just make sure to ease into the process. "If you try and cut all of these areas at the same time, you may start to feel deprived and stop budgeting," Fingal says. "Take your time and decrease over time to make sure you enjoy budgeting and stick with it."
Plan in advance.
In order to maintain your saving, planning ahead will pay dividends. Fingal shares that if you start planning your meals, schedule, events, and travel—you will be able to be prepared for any expenses coming your way. "For example, I usually start planning for Christmas in July," she says. "This gives me six months to save for gifts, travel, meals, decorations, parties, and anything else that comes up during the holiday season. Now, instead of overspending $1,000 and starting the year in debt, we are prepared, spend our saved amount, and start the new year stress-free."
Open a savings account.
"If you are struggling to save, it may be helpful to change how you save," says McCreary. You can do this by making a dedicated savings account. "Instead of putting money into one big 'savings' account, you'll be contributing to your 'emergency fund savings,' or your 'treat yourself fund.'" In other words, you'll have accounts at your fingertips that you can watch grow over time and that you won't dip into for any odds and ends. Along the same vein, you can open a high-yield savings account that has a higher interest rate than a traditional savings or checking account.
Use cash or a debit card.
Having cash or a prepaid debit card on hand can also help you lessen any overspending habits since you can only pay with the money you have in the moment. If you do make any bigger purchases, though, McCreary adds that you should put the same amount you spent on the item in your savings. This way, you'll end up being more mindful about what you are buying in the long run.