Even if you find yourself already doing the little things to save and automate decisions that make financial choices easy and convenient, you may be able to do more. Below are tips to further auto-pilot saving money without having to spend a lot of time researching investments or talking with financial planners.
Save the Extras
While you might not be the one in 300 million people who will win a big lottery jackpot, you may come into a little extra cash from time to time. So, what about the occasional extras like a tax rebate or gifts from family and friends? Approach and budget as if you never received the money. Use your auto-pilot instincts and automatically redirect “bonus cash” into an account or savings fund you’re unlikely to touch. A little extra can go a long way if you apply this practice over time, and better prepare you for those major emergencies that are bound to come up.
Make Savings Your Job
If you are an auto-pilot saver, you have most likely set up automatic monthly deposits for a long-term retirement account, putting you several steps ahead of most of your peers. Did you know that around 40 percent of workers have no retirement savings, creating a dangerous scenario as healthcare costs are rising fast? Experts recommend putting away 15-20 percent of your income for the future.
If you haven’t already, work with your company to establish automatic 401(k) deductions and look into your company’s match program. Many companies will match the percentage you put away into a retirement fund, essentially giving you free money.
Plan Meals in Advance
Beyond healthier eating and enjoying the comforts of home, advanced meal planning can be a recipe for financial success. Think through your meals each week and identify opportunities to prepare dishes that can be reused or eaten as leftovers across several days. You also can hold yourself accountable by developing and staying with prepared grocery shopping lists. In time, you will become a savvier shopper and discover new ways to pinch pennies, such as buying whole fruits and vegetables instead of the more expensive pre-cut options.
Designate “No Spend Days”
Cook at home on the weekends and host potlucks with your closest friends. You also can arrange cost-free activities, such as at-home movie or game nights, walking in the park or visiting free festivals and events in your city. “No spend days” also can deliver benefits beyond basic savings, such as a healthier and less stressful lifestyle. For example, set up your coffee maker the night before so it is ready without the morning hassle, instead of rushing to leave and stopping by the coffee shop to get your caffeine fix.
Capitalize on Auto-Pay
The benefits of automatic bill pay go beyond convenience, such as avoiding the stresses of forgetting to pay your bills on time and racking up late fees. Explore options to place as many of your bills, such as utilities and rent, on auto-pay as possible. Why not make it easy on yourself?
Keep the Change
While you may focus more of your attention on automating big-dollar savings through technology, those pennies and dimes you find on the street or in the couch carry value as well. Drop whatever loose change you have in your wallet or find around the house in a jar. Eventually, when you cash in your change, you may find a pleasant surprise waiting.
Consider switching to generic brands, if you find yourself spending more money than needed on leading brands at the grocery store or pharmacy. Do some research into product ingredients and materials and see what you would actually get for your money spent. You may find that pharmacy or store-brand cough syrup can not only treat your illness as well as the company with the fancier commercials but boost your financial health in the process.
Track Your Money
Budgeting can feel time-consuming. Consider utilizing free budgeting tools to track everything from monthly spending to retirement accounts. Keeping a closer eye on spending while not having to take the time to set up a budget excel sheet is an important benefit. Set your apps to notify you if your monthly budget is low or a bill has been paid. This way, you can track and manage your money without the setup and maintenance time.
Cancel the Gym Membership
It’s time to get real or get moving. Consider the time you really spend at the gym and evaluate the benefit of having a yearly gym membership.
According to a 2018 story in The Hustle, more than 50% of all gym members never actually go to the gym. Physical fitness is important, but if you’re not taking advantage of the gym, look for cheaper alternatives to stay physically and financially fit. Free options like walking on a nearby trail or following an exercise video on YouTube can literally get you on the right track.
Utilize Savings Apps
If you still find yourself dipping into your savings account, consider using apps to automate monthly income and expense management. Some apps allow you to divide your accounts and payments into different “buckets,” such as a checking account to pay fixed expenses (rent, utilities, cellphone/internet), another to pay for variable expenses (groceries, eating out, entertainment), and a savings account that can serve as an emergency fund (car accident or medical).