When you decide you’re ready to save more money, it’s natural to focus on certain items: refinancing your house, selling a car, or cutting back on going to restaurants. Those are often great ways to get ahead on your savings quite quickly. However, if you want to start slowly, building your savings without feeling the pain, that’s an option, too.
Here are seven ways to increase your savings without giving it a second thought:
1. Program your thermostat. You’ve probably heard this suggestion before, but have you actually done it? Set your thermostat so it automatically turns your heat or air conditioner down during the day when you’re away and up when you arrive home in the evening. Experiment to figure out how warm you can stand to keep your home without turning on the air conditioning and how low you can let the temperature go before you truly need to crank up the furnace. Your power bill will immediately reflect your savings.
2. Make it automatic. Even if you can only set aside $25 toward savings a month, set it up as an automatic transfer that will whisk the money from your checking account and into a savings account. It’s the “out-of-sight,-out-of-mind” concept. After a few months, you’ll forget the money was even available to spend.
3. Pay in cash. Go old school and withdraw enough cash every payday to cover all of your basic expenses (other than things like your mortgage, which you might pay automatically or online). I recently interviewed financial guru and radio talk show host Clark Howard, who told me that this one strategy helped a couple he counseled pay off a mountain of debt almost a year earlier than they had planned. Why? Using cash makes you more aware of how you’re spending your money. Howard says you’ll spend less without having to make a conscious effort. What you don’t spend can then pile up in your savings account.
4. Join your grocery store’s loyalty club. Even if you don’t bother clipping coupons, you’ll be eligible for all of your market’s automatic savings deals by enrolling in this type of program. Some stores even offer personalized savings for items you’ve bought in the past, as well as discounts at gas stations using your loyalty card number.
5. Shop your insurance rates. Every few years, shop around to see if you’re still getting the best auto, homeowner’s, or renter’s insurance rates. A savings on these ongoing payments is an automatic monthly boost to your wallet.
6. Let your work retirement plan increase automatically. Many workplace retirement plans now have a nifty feature that automatically increases your employee contributions to your 401(k) or 403(b) plan by 1 percent every year. If your company offers it, sign up. You’ll barely feel the pinch each year, and after several years you’ll have significantly increased your retirement contributions. Also, if your company provides a match on your contributions, always put in at least that amount. Those matches are basically free savings.
7. Put yourself on hold. Create a waiting period for major purchases, such as two weeks for anything more than $100 or 30 days for anything more than $300. Chances are that by the time your waiting period is over, you’ll have changed your mind if the purchase was just an impulse item. Or, you may have figured out a cheaper way to fill your need. Money you don’t spend on unnecessary items means extra savings for you.