When it comes to resolutions, a key theme for many people is restriction. Eat less, lose weight. Spend less, save money. But what if there was a way to add to your life, and reach your goal in the process?
Turns out, at least in the case of saving money, adding more to your life may help you spend less. Whether it’s budgeting apps, creative ways to bargain, or other ways to save both big and small, these strategies may help you reach whatever savings goal you’ve set for 2019.
If you haven’t already, now’s the time to automate your banking. Consider having a portion of your paycheck allocated directly to a savings account so you don’t need to manually move money each month. Automating payments also ensures that you won’t forget any bill when it comes due. Have multiple accounts? It may be time to streamline finances, so you’re not paying fees for similar accounts.
The one exception to automation? Resist the urge to have any website save your payment info. That way, you’ll avoid the temptation of one-click shopping. In the minutes it takes to hunt down your credit card and type in your info, the urge to buy may have passed.
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Learn about “hot” and “cold” financial decision states
As financial psychology has become an emerging field — the why-we-spend behind the how-we-spend — some financial psychologists suggest people clue into emotion prior to making any financial decision. Broadly speaking, a hot state is when you’re motivated by emotion — for example, you see a large credit card balance on your statement or you’re feeling stressed at work and open a browser to do some online shopping. A “cold” state is when your emotions are relatively neutral. One easy way to minimize making decisions when you’re in a hot state is to block out times every week to take care of financial matters. For example, if you decide to look over your finances every Saturday morning, you might avoid the rush of emotions you feel when you happen to scroll through your balances on a stressful Tuesday at the office.
Buy life insurance to benefit of the people you care about
Sure, most of the items on this list are about cutting costs. But if you haven’t bought life insurance yet, now can be the best time to do so. That’s because rates tend to be lower when you’re young and healthy. So if you know you need coverage, now is the time to get it. How much life insurance should you get? That depends on your circumstances, but an online life insurance calculator can help determine the best plan for you that will cover what you need — without breaking the bank.
Review financial fees
A monthly fee here. An annual fee there. How much are you paying in fees each year? You may be surprised at the answer. Taking the time to look at your outgoing payments and fees from any banking or investment accounts can help you see where your money is going, and whether the accounts that have high fees still fit your needs. You don’t necessarily need to change banks to lower a fee — even bringing it up with a banker may be enough to waive a fee, or a banker may suggest ways you can cut fees or a lower-fee account that might be more appropriate.
If you have an investment portfolio, a review can help you decide whether your fees are in line with the level of service your broker or robo-advisor is providing you
Barter and swap
Dance classes, sports, and pre-k tuition can all add up. But there may be a workaround in the form of bartering. For example, Jess, a mom of three, offered to take control of a dance studio’s Instagram feed in return for a tuition reduction. If you have any skills, talents, or time to volunteer, it’s worth asking about potential ways to barter for a lower bill.
Try an online savings strategy
Money-saving and budgeting apps can be easy and fun tools to add to your money-saving arsenal. The best financial app is the one you’ll actually use. Check out this list of money apps to try. Some, like You Need a Budget, have a loyal following and social media offshoot groups that can offer you support and even more strategies when it comes to savings.
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Pay cash for services
Sometimes, cash is king, especially when it comes to buying goods or services from a local retailer. Shari, a mom of one in Jersey City, found that a pricy dining room table set went down by $500 when she offered the retailer — who was going out of business — cash instead of credit for the purchase. One downside to consider with cash purchases is that you give up the protections that come with some credit card transactions.
Get familiar with coupons
Are coupons worth it? Those who use them say they are, and say that browser extensions and apps have made the process easier than ever. Jenny, a mom of two, swears by the extension Honey, which browses for online sales. Other extensions to consider: Invisible Hand, which covers flights and car rentals as well as products, Ebates, which offers cash back for purchases made online, and Coupons at Checkout, which automatically plugs in any applicable promo codes to your cart prior to purchase.
It goes without saying that you’ll almost certainly save money if you eat at home more than you eat out. But groceries add up, too, especially if they go unused. Having a meal strategy can save you money over time. While meal prep kits can be pricey, they can also help families avoid food waste. Looking to sales, having pantry staples, and becoming familiar with a few rotating recipes that are family-friendly hits can minimize the time and money you spend in the drive-thru line.
Expect the unexpected
If you haven’t yet created an emergency fund, consider adding “create one” to your 2019 financial goals list. When considering the unexpected, it may make sense to look into insurance products, including disability insurance and umbrella insurance, that could protect your family if something were to happen. At the same time, now can be a good time to look at your current insurance policies and make sure they adequately cover your family. (This is also a good time to double-check that your life insurance policy covers your current needs, too.)
Peace of mind might be closer than you think.Learn more
Enlist the pros
Even if it’s not in your budget to retain a financial planner on an ongoing basis, a consultation may be worth some of your hard earned dollars if you have questions or need advice on how to reach financial goals, invest, or eliminate debt. Some brokerages and robo-advisors include an option to talk to a financial planner or can refer you to one.
When you research financial planners, be clear on their fee structure (some are fee-only, while others are commission-based) and whether or not they are a fiduciary (a fiduciary means they will give you advice with your best interest at heart, a non-fiduciary advisor is obligated to give suitable advice, but the advice they give you may also benefit their bottom line as well).
Make your savings goals work for you
Savings doesn’t need to be about deprivation. It’s really about consciously putting your money to work toward your priorities. By trying new strategies, challenging yourself, and looking ahead to big things in your financial future, you can make savings goals attainable, and maybe even fun. Choose the strategies that work for you, leave the rest, and don’t deprive yourself of a treat if you really, really want one.
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Anna Davies is a writer, editor and content strategist living in Jersey City, NJ. She has written for New York, Glamour, Elle, Men’s Health and others and has written 13 young adult novels under various names. Her favorite things to spend money on are discount theater tickets, oversize sweaters, and cold brew lattes.