This post is part of the TaxACT How I Save blog tour, which teaches you ways to keep more money in your pocket. Last year, TaxACT saved America over $240 million on tax preparation. How much can you save? To learn more about tips and strategies on saving, click here.
I grew up as a saver. I’m not sure if it’s coded in my DNA (my parents are both savers) – but from a young age I started hoarded money away in a candy tin hidden in the back of my closet. Later I upgraded to a checking account and way later a savings account.
My early years were spent earning money through odd jobs like building a pet-sitting empire and recording voices for video games in Japan. It wasn’t until I repatriated to the United States and went to college that I got something resembling a “real” job.
My Strange way of automating savings
In college I spent three years working as a resident assistant. Lots of residence life programs pay their employees in free room and board, but ours gave you the choice of applying income towards tuition or into your bank account. With my college degree already covered between scholarships and the generosity of my parents, I opted for the bank account.
The job paid in six $1,000 stipends over the school year, three per semester. By my sophomore year in college I knew I wanted to move to New York City after college and decided I need to have a sizable nest egg saved up by graduation. This goal motivated me to tuck away 50 percent of my paycheck each time I got paid.
My method, however, was a bit strange. I would actually have my Dad transfer $500 per paycheck into his bank account. We kept a running tally of how much he was holding for me, but this way I had a checks and balance in place. Before I could splurge, I needed to ask my Dad to transfer back some money. He never refused to send me my own money, but it did give me pause before I could make a rash decision.
Today, nearly four years out of college, I continue to automatically tuck away a portion of each paycheck (unfortunately I can’t afford 50 percent anymore). Except now it goes into my savings account and not to the Bank of Dad.
In order to stay within a budget and save money each month, I created a few routine habits.
Practical Ways I Pinch Pennies
Cooking in bulk
I don’t love cooking. If my wallet and waistline could afford for me to eat out at every meal I would. Unfortunately, neither of those things will accommodate my desire. Instead, I save time and money by cooking in bulk on the weekends. Sometimes it’s a crockpot meal, other times it’s a bit more time intensive, but most weekends I take a few hours to make two meals. I freeze some for future weeks and the rest are consumed as lunches and dinners during the week.
No, it doesn’t bug me to have a rather monotonous meal plan. I also do easy dishes like scrambled eggs loaded with veggies on nights I don’t feel like eating one of my bulk meals.
Avoiding the common New Yorker trap of only having restaurant menus in my kitchen saves me a couple hundred bucks a month.
Ebates, Mr. Rebates and RetailMeNot
My feelings towards shopping are about as warm and fuzzy as my feelings towards cooking. It’s something I have to do when an item of clothing or a pair of shoes wear out, or I need more bath products or when birthdays and Christmas rolls around.
On the occasions I do shop, I do two simple things.
- Check cash back portals like Ebates and Rebates* to see if I can get money back for a purchase I need to make.
- See if there are coupon codes or other discounts on sites like RetailMeNot.
The extra three minutes of time it takes to check out these sites can save (or earn) a couple of bucks or sometimes even closer to $10 or $15, especially if I can stack cash back.
Recently, I bought a pair of TOMS shoes online. They were already on sale and Ebates was offering 10% cash back plus free shipping by clicking through their portal. I got the shoes for $60, free shipping and earned $6 cash back (so I paid $54).
Now, here is where this can really save you money. When cash back portals pay out, put the money in savings! And if you save money from a RetailMeNot coupon, PUT THE MONEY IN SAVINGS! Otherwise, you’re not really saving it, are you?
Like most other bloggers, I do freelance writing on the side to earn extra income. Every penny I earn from freelancing goes directly into my savings account. Part of the reason is due to taxes. I don’t want to be caught with my pants around my ankles when Uncle Sam comes calling. The other reasons are because it pads my emergency fund and gives me extra money to invest.
Your Savings Doesn’t Exist
Ultimately, the best piece of advice I could share is to create a mentality that your savings isn’t there. I know sometimes Peach or my friends get annoyed when I say, “sorry, I don’t have enough money to do [insert activity] this week.” Yes, technically I do. I could pull money out of savings. But instead, I focus on what’s left in my budget/checking account. If an activity would overextend me I pretend my savings doesn’t exist. It’s there for emergencies. It’s there for buying a car. It’s there for a down payment on a house. It’s there for retirement. It’s not there because I want to see Cabaret this weekend and then go to Le Cirque.
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*Ebates and Mr. Rebates links are referral codes. If you sign up, I will receive a kick back (which I’ll of course save).
30 responses to “Practical Tips How I Save (and You Should Too)”
I think “they don’t exist” is the most important part for me; too tempting to live a little otherwise — it’s why a lot of my savings strategy right now is “put it in an account you can’t withdraw from” (IRA, 403(b)) and the rest is “put it in a separate savings account at another bank so it feels less accessible.”
A chunk of mine is accessible in a savings account at my regular bank (I like have some liquid in case of emergency) but the rest is tied up in index funds, 401(k), mutual funds, and IRAs. I agree that I prefer it to really be untouchable or at least a hassle to touch.
I started saving by automatic transfer too with other accounts I had with the credit union. Many of these were club accounts which I couldn’t touch but I could see grow.
I just recently joined a CU, but the interest rate is still pretty lackluster. I’ve thought about moving a big chunk to a slightly higher interest rate like Ally or GE Capital.
I think that’s a great comment about saying that your savings doesn’t exist. I have clients who always feel tempted to touch their savings and part of the work we have to do together is the “make believe” strategy where they make believe they can’t see their growing savings account and start making plans to spend it.
Some of it must be an innate mindset. I’ve just always loved hoarding, Scrooge McDuck style!
I especially love the last one, “Your Savings Doesn’t Exist.” We have quite a bit saved up for different things, but in our heads, the only money we actually have to work with is in our checking account.
Exactly! I’ll feel “broke” when my checking account dips down, even though I’m certainly not. Plus, keeping just a little in checking can help avoid too much being taken in the case of fraud (recent experience myself!).
Pretending your savings doesn’t exsist is great advice. I’ve always tried to do this, but haven’t been very successful at it. I am finally getting better now that I keep most of my savings at a different bank so I don’t see it everytime I login to check my checking account (which I do everyday). Less temptation that way!
Yeah, that’s a great way to have less temptation!
Automated savings are great! I am loving knowing that every week, I pay myself! It’s not a huge amount yet, but with all the debt repayment, it’s nice to know I am always making room for that cushion to make life less scary in the debt world 🙂
PS I love cooking in bulk, it’s good for financial and physical wellness 🙂
Good for you saving while paying down debt! It’s often put on the back burner, but it’s really important. I always harp on the importance of saving even a little bit just to get in the mind set. It becomes much easier to then save when you make more.
Cooking and shopping in bulk does the trick for me. Also my side jobs earns an extra coins for my savings. Thanks for sharing.
I’m just glad I’m not a foodie who always needs something unique. I went with my tried and true eggs with veggies last night.
I definitely abide by the philosophy that my savings and investments don’t exist. You’re completely right–it really does work! I tell myself that my money would prefer to hang out with all the other money on the stock market and that it doesn’t want to be spent. Silly, I know! But it works.
Also, I love that you had that savings system set up with your dad in college–very smart. I was nowhere near that financially savvy as an undergrad!
I love that personification of money. I’ll probably steal that idea and start thinking that way too.
Completely agree with you on “pretending savings doesn’t exist.” Once money is put away I write it off completely. And I fully believe every one should have a side hustle of some sort to bring in more income. Nothing makes saving easier than making more money!
I love watching my savings rack up so quickly with that side hustle money. Makes me feel like a baller! 😉
We cook in bulk too. I make soups and we freeze them. My husband will absolutely kill leftovers too, so that helps.
Homemade soups are great this time a year. I’m just not a fan of the canned stuff. Leftovers are also my jam.
I absolutely love that last tip. Your savings don’t exist! It’s a great idea to just completely forget that you have money socked away and continue what you’re doing. Makes no sense to look at the savings then have desire to spend them.
Thanks! It’s been working really well so far.
Ebates and similar programs truly are effective ways to increase savings while doing nothing out of the ordinary. The problem I have with these services is how intrusive they are within my browser. I had to disable Ebates extension because it was constantly bombarding me with, “buy, buy, buy now! Great deals!” when I have no room in my budget for anything but paying living expenses and savings.
I myself a fan of your “secondary income”. It’s good that many people nowadays are becoming aware of its advantages and they get more skills to be more competent and qualified. I also do freelance writing and the income I get from it although it is not much but it covers my bills and some of it goes directly to my savings. That’s really great, I guess.
Great idea of thinking that your savings isnt there. Takes a whole lot of discipline to not get it when something really big comes up.
I am right there with you about cooking – not my favorite activity by far. Once I no longer have roommates and my freezer has space, I’m definitely doing the bulk Sunday cook days. It’ll make for less 7pm weekday drives to Steak n’ Shake, that’s for sure!
And I agree with your last point about mentally believing your savings doesn’t exist. I keep mine at a separate financial institution from my checking account – that way, any time I want to use it, I have to set up a transfer, which takes a day or two to complete. No impulse spending, and I basically reserve it for big purchases, like my house down payment or bathroom remodel!
Very creative ways to save money!
I like your idea of pretending that the savings account isn’t there. It can be very tempting to withdraw funds from there for things that you want, but not what you need. Also, cooking in bulk is a good idea to save time and money from quick fast food purchases. Thanks for the tips!
It seems like you sure know your stuff when it comes to dealing with a credit union. In fact, my wife has a credit union that she opened up before we got married. Now that we are together she still uses it and I even put in some money for her. You know, it sure is great to have read about what to expect from credit union.
I like cooking in bulk. We don’t do it very often, and generally cooking is one of my least favorite activities. But we have saved so much money that way, that it’s worth the time investment.