You don't have to cut out things you love to save!

By Lindsay Tigar
October 08, 2019

You’re wrapping up this month’s budget and you’re bummed. Though you set what you thought was a reasonable savings goals, you missed it—and then some. (You probably weren't alone in doing so, considering Pinterest searches for "budgeting finances" are up 3,298%.) Before you start to cut out everything you love—lookin’ at you, Starbucks—it’s important to pause. Financial experts agree that people are more successful in their financial aspirations when they weave them into their lifestyle. This means you probably shouldn’t skip your morning cup of hot coffee if it brings you joy. Instead, find other areas where you can squirrel away more hard-earned cash without feeling deprived. If you’re not sure where to start, don’t stress. Here, money-savvy experts share their best strategies to leave you with more savings each month, without feeling the penny-pinch.

1. Streamline Your Errands

Think back on the past week and make a list of all of the trips you took in your car. On Monday, you stopped by the grocery store and the pharmacy. On Tuesday, another trip to pick up the produce you forgot—and another drive-through at the bank. Although some weeks are less predictable than others, financial expert and the CEO of EnrichHER Roshawnna Novellus recommends streamlining your errands to one day a week to save money on gas. “The cost of driving to each of these locations separately adds up,” she warns. “Make your list early in the week so you don't forget everything, then choose a dedicated day toward the end of the week to run all of your errands.” 

2. Face Your Fear of the Dark—and Quiet

If you’re at home right now, take a moment and look around you. How many lights are on? How many kitchen appliances are plugged in but not being used? What about electronics? Many people have their homes hooked up 24/7, even if no one is using them. COO of Sunrise Banks Melodie Carlson says simply shutting off the television and switching off lights can make a difference in your monthly energy bill. You can also take an environmental-first approach without spending a dime. “Place towels or felt at the bottom of doors where cold air might get in and put plastic over windows. A few easy insulation tricks can reduce your heat bill and keep you warmer during the winter months,” she shares.

3. Un-Store Your Credit Card Information

Sure, it’s a minor pain to enter your credit card information every single time you check out online, but shopping and trends expert for RetailMeNot Sara Skirboll says it helps decrease immediate-gratification purchases. “Having your credit card stored makes shopping too easy, and the money you spend on impulse purchases will quickly add up,” she says. “By deleting your stored credit card information, you have the opportunity to stop and think through the purchase to ultimately save money.” 

4. Make Your Meals Based on Deals

Most households have to balance various palettes, dietary restrictions, picky eaters, budget, and seasonality when prepping meals. One way to challenge your tastebuds and spend less on groceries is to structure your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners around sale items. Most stores will print or email their weekly specials list, and Novellus urges shoppers to, well, actually read it. This way you can base your decisions on discounted produce and meat. Don’t forget about the middle of the store: “Stock up on non-perishable items, especially if they're buy one, get one. Having things like peanut butter or olive oil in your pantry pays for itself when you're in a pinch,” she says.

5. Sign Up for a Budget Tracker and Savings Detector

Some folks love history and enjoy writing in gratitude journals. Others geek out over science facts, and other run numbers…for fun. If you can’t be bothered with simple math, online budgeting trackers like Mint or Every Dollar not only are free but incredibly helpful, according to the managing partner at Spectrum Management Group, Leslie Thompson. “These services allow you to review and monitor your progress so that you can adjust your spending to stay on budget,” she explains. Think of one as an accountability buddy in your back pocket, who will group categories of expenses—dining out, entertainment, and others—and identify areas where you can save. 

For a totally hands-free approach, consider using coupon-finding sites like Coupons.com and RetailMeNot, which instantly access thousands of nearby deals and cash-back offers at various online and brick-and-mortar stores. This way you don’t have to research, the engine does it for you. 

6. Go Line-by-Line Through Auto Payments

When was the last time you checked how many auto payments funnel through your monthly credit card payments? In the digital age when "signing up" is often one click on a mouse or a double-tap on a screen, you may be enrolled in so many of these services or memberships that you can’t keep track. That’s why financial expert and author Brian Livingston suggests going line-by-line and being honest about what you need and what you can skip. “Examine every statement with one question: Do I really need to pay for this every month? If the answer is ‘no’ or ‘I'm not sure,’ contact the service and cancel the recurring payments,” he says.

If you’re up for some negotiating, Livingston encourages shoppers to put on their deal-making hat and ask for a discount. Cellular-service providers and cable providers are prime candidates. If you already subscribe to Netflix, Hulu and HBO Go, do you really need traditional TV, too? “Lately cable companies have become more willing to slice and dice their offerings rather than insisting that every channel must be purchased,” he explains. “Try reducing your cable service to the lowest basic tier of channels, and see whether you can survive on that much-cheaper service for a month. Then add channels back, if you must, but be aware of the cost per year you're agreeing to.”

Related: I'm a Millennial and This Is Why I Still Balance My Checkbook Each Month

7. Get Honest About Your Fitness Routine 

On the list of "adulting" chores, prioritizing your health and finances are pretty high on the list. Even so, if you’re paying for a gym membership but um, not using it, not only are you jeopardizing your waistline but your savings account too. Novellus says many gyms won’t allow you to cancel on a whim, but most do provide the option to freeze your membership, which cuts back $30 to $200 a month. If you do this, take the time to figure out what really gets you moving and excited about fitness. Is it running outside in crisp air? Going to a free yoga class in your neighborhood? Apps or online workout videos that are definitely less expensive? Just like meeting a financial milestone, finding exercises you enjoy will set you up for success.

8. Strategize Your Credit Cards

Though it’s important to never leave a balance on a credit card if you can help it, choosing the right plastics can encourage your saving goals. As Thompson explains, these rewards help you to earn benefits while you spend, which in return, means more money in your account. “Many cards offer some form of cash back, either in the form of actual cash or cash used in the form of plane tickets, hotel rooms, or merchandise,” she explains. “Others reward you more for certain purchases, such as grocery purchases or restaurants, versus everyday items.” Be honest about what you spend the most cash on. Travel? Gas? Groceries? Find the card that rewards those purchases.

Related: This Is the Best Day to Buy Gas in Every State

9. Host More Events at Home  

Having a vibrant, fulfilling social life is important for overall happiness and vitality. However, happy hours, dinners, and events add up quickly. But bonding with your pals doesn’t have to happen at a restaurant or bar. Considering what you pay in rent or mortgage, bring the party to your home! Nina O’Neal, partner and investment advisor at Archer Investment Management, says hosting friends for a book swap and potluck cuts back on book and food costs and is fun! “Get a group together once a month to swap favorite reads. Even more fun is rotating homes for the swap to share why the book was a great read. Return the borrowed books when done or at the next get together,” she suggests.

Even if you don't know a gaggle of book worms, vice president of wealth planning at Carson Group says an at-home dinner club with friends is also a helpful way to try new foods, stay on budget, and spend quality time together. “Each month you rotate houses and who is responsible for bringing what. The host is responsible for picking and making the main course. Everyone else brings the rest,” she recommends.

10. Visit the Library

If you’re an avid reader or someone who goes out to the movies often, you could be spending tons of money on entertainment. A library card can kill two cash-sucking expenses in one: You can borrow books (fancy that!) and rent movies for free. As Novellus says, libraries are often a resource of community information, too. They’ll post flyers and calendars about free days at museums, concerts, events, and festivals to fill your weekend with inexpensive adventures.

Related: The Best Books to Read This Year

11. Don’t Think About Savings

That sounds easy, right? Well, sort of. Experts in the financial industry call this "paying yourself first," and it’s the act of having money automatically transferred to your savings account every month or paycheck. Many employers offer this option to employees, so ask your human resources department if its a company perk. “Not only will you have the consistency of saving but you will also reap the benefit of dollar-cost-averaging your investments and eliminating the decision of when to invest,” Thompson explains. “It is also satisfying to see your investments grow as you automate your savings and gives peace of mind that you have a plan in place to meet your long-term savings goals.” 

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