Any time of year is the right time to start saving money. Get started with these simple personal finance tips.
Personal finance tips can range from common sense (avoid unnecessary spending) to vague, near impossibilities (have the equivalent of your salary in savings before age 30). Broad tips for how to save money can be helpful for some disciplined, goal-oriented, personal finance–savvy people, sure, but not everyone is like that—and some people really struggle to put ways to save money into action.
Still, that doesn’t mean all personal finance tips need to fall by the wayside. Instead of abandoning all money management tips, try focusing on smaller ones. Money-saving tips that can be started and finished in minutes are easier to accomplish than broad goals such as using the Debt Snowball to pay off debt, and the financial benefits begin adding up almost immediately. Buying a $3 coffee every day doesn’t seem like a big deal, but at the end of the year, that’s more than $1,000 on coffee. The best personal finance tips work the same way, but in reverse: Completing them will save a tiny bit of money at first, but after a year or longer, the savings will really stack up.
For small, actionable savings goals, Real Simple turned to Marcus by Goldman Sachs, a personal loan and online savings account service with financial workouts to help anyone get into monetary shape. Start with these tiny personal finance tips; once they’ve been checked off, check out Marcus’s Financial Fitness Workout Plans for the bigger lifts.
1. Stop paying for checking and savings accounts
Rates vary, but many banks charge $5 to $10 a month for their services. Many banks have ways to waive the charge by depositing a certain amount of money into the account each month, maintaining a minimum balance, or fulfilling another requirement. Make sure you’re fulfilling one of those requirements or start looking around for a no-fee account. (They’re out there.)
Once you’re fee-free, the financial gurus at Marcus suggest depositing the same amount you were spending on fees into savings every month.
2. Check the interest rate on your savings account
Even if you’re regularly putting money into a savings account and working for your savings, those savings may not be working for you. Check the interest rate on that savings account—some are less than 1 percent, meaning that money is barely growing at all. Some interest rates, like those at Marcus, are 2 percent or higher—with a rate like that, a $5,000 savings account will earn more than $100 in a year, without you doing a thing. Shop around for high interest rates to help boost your savings efforts.
3. Remove auto-saved credit card numbers
One-click online shopping is a slippery slope. Retailers—and even internet browsers—will offer to keep credit card info on-file, so next time you shop, you don’t even have to pull out your wallet. That’s convenient, but it can also lead to thoughtless spending. Marcus’s team suggests removing that information and hand-entering credit card information every time you make an online purchase for a chance to pause and consider if it’s a good use of money.
4. Go 1:1 on entertainment and spending
Commit to making a matching deposit into savings for every fun or non-essential purchase. A $60 sweater? Stick another $60 into savings. Your savings will grow, and you’ll consider your non-essential purchases more carefully.
5. Up your health savings account (HSA)
Funding an HSA is a smart way to save some money on taxes and reduce the amount of money you might have to spend out-of-pocket on medical expenses. Making the most of this account, which allows money to accrue year after year, unlike an FSA, can make a true medical emergency such as a broken leg or a night in the hospital feel financially manageable.
6. Ignore your raise
Making more money doesn’t mean you have to spend that money. Living below your means leaves leftover money to tuck into savings, investments, and more—Marcus’s team suggests letting the new money earn interest in a CD or a high-interest savings account.
7. Celebrate your wins, then save the rest
A tax season windfall, a bonus, or an unexpected monetary gift can feel like play money, but putting it to good use and do a lot to help further personal finance goals. Try putting only half toward immediate wants, the team at Marcus suggests, and save the rest for the future.