7 Foolproof Ways to Save More Money
With consumer confidence climbing to heights not seen since 2001, it may seem like those penny-pinchin’ days of the Great Recession are behind us. However, the impact of those hard times is far reaching, as evidenced by Americans’ plans for spending tax returns: according to the National Retail Federation, nearly half (48 percent) of the more than 7,000 consumers surveyed will sock away their refunds instead of splurging on a new TV or other trinket. Over one third (35.5 percent) will use the money to pay down debt.
Two cheers for smart money management, right? Don’t celebrate too soon; Americans are still lousy at saving. According to recent survey conducted by Bankrate, 20 percent of respondents admit they don’t save any money at all, due in part to having too many expenses. The second-most cited reason for not saving money: respondents just “haven’t gotten around to it.”
Saving money can be challenging and some strategies are more sustainable than others, but using laziness as an excuse is unacceptable! While designating a no-spend month is certainly one way to boost your savings, consider these seven foolproof ways to squirrel away more funds this spring.
1. Pay yourself first.
The trick to effectively saving money is to treat it like any other bill: a necessary payment that will get you into trouble if you don’t pay it. When you pay yourself first, you avoid wasting leftover funds on unnecessary purchases that could go toward your emergency fund or savings account. To simplify this, automate a transfer between checking and savings that corresponds with payday, or have your employer deduct a certain amount from your paycheck to be deposited into a separate savings account. Out of sight, out of mind!
2. Switch to online banking.
Making your money work for you is not a new concept, yet many Americans still put their savings in low-yield accounts with brick-and-mortar banks. Online banks like Ally and Barclays, for example, offer an annual percentage yield (APY) of 1 percent or more, compared to as little as 0.01 percent from traditional banks. Plus, online account providers like Chase and Capital One frequently offer incentives to customers who move their balances to an online account, with cash bonuses ranging from $50 to $500. Like any financial decision, it’s important to read the fine print associated with high-yield savings accounts before making the switch.
3. Schedule your splurges.
When you go “cold turkey” on a regular purchase you enjoy — such as specialty coffee — it can lead to binge-spending later on. Instead of taking this austere approach to saving money, limit your splurges to paydays and either Friday (to celebrate!) or Monday (to soothe!). That way, you’re not cutting yourself off entirely and spending less on splurges. Plus, when you space out your splurges, they become less routine and more of a treat.
4. Bring back the change jar.
Collecting spare change in a jar may seem like an old-school approach to saving money, but it’s an effective one. While Americans use less and less cash these days, change still collects nonetheless. Instead of having it clutter your car, wallet and couch cushions, collect it in a jar and deposit it in the bank to add to your savings goals. Too modern for the change jar? Try Digit, an app that reviews your spending and transfers unused funds every few days to an online, FDIC-insured bank account. You receive a text whenever funds are moved, and you can request funds back at anytime.
5. Use mobile coupons.
Finding, clipping, printing, storing and, ahem, remembering coupons can be a hassle, but couponing is a great way to save money on purchases you’re planning to make. Mobile coupons like those offered through CouponSherpa.com make the task much easier, giving you digital access to retail, restaurant and local coupons. Grocery stores including Kroger and Safeway offer digital coupons through store apps, enabling users to browse through deals and redeem them by swiping loyalty cards. With coupon apps, you get the savings without the clutter and won’t ever leave home without a discount again!
6. Adopt 24-hour rule.
Impulse buys are the bane of savings goals and, by their nature, incredibly hard to resist. From candy bars at the grocery store checkout to candles, mugs and stationery adorning the queue at TJ Maxx, you can easily spend an extra $15 you didn’t plan to. To save money on these hard-to-resist items, adopt a 24-hour rule: don’t buy anything you didn’t intend to without waiting an entire day. If you’re still thinking about the item, go back and buy it. In most cases, the urgency subsides within moments of your leaving the store. 24 hours not enough? Wait a week or a whole 30 days.
7. Review your expenses.
Saving money on everyday purchases may add up to a few dollars here and there, making it frustrating for consumers looking to save big money. When you can save $10 or more each month, that’s when you feel like you’re getting somewhere! Review your recurring expenses and look for ways to reduce your monthly costs. This may mean cancelling subscriptions you no longer use, upping deductibles on auto insurance, or changing insurance providers entirely. Regularly auditing your recurring expenses ensures you’re not overpaying for services and keeps more money in the bank.
Minimalism, for me, is less about the dogmatic Dwell magazine interpretation – i.e. fashion – than it is about the sustainability and mental clarity. So to that end, I didn’t hear about minimalism as much as I just did it, then discovered other people referred to me as a minimalist. Life with five kids means that if I was focused on making my house fashionable, I’d be worried about my kids breaking things. Which to me is the opposite of the goals of minimalism, which are to free you up from worry and maintenance so you can focus on life, family, and relationships. I don’t want to be admonishing the kids for getting my fancy modular sofa dirty, for instance, so instead I have a Craigslist couch.
3.) What do you find most challenging in trying to live with less stuff?
Probably constantly re-organizing. When you have more space and more stuff, you can just bury it in the garage or the attic or big closets and forever put off having to organize it. But we have so little storage space that even our in-suite storage unit – or only storage in the world – has been converted to an art room. As a result, we have to think really critically about everything we bring into our house, which I love. Too often we’re tempted to buy useless quick-fix items in our consumption-oriented society, and being a minimalist simply forcing me to think twice before mindlessly buying something.
4.) What do you find most rewarding in trying to live with less stuff?
How much time do you spend maintaining your car, your yard, your house, myriad possessions that break or need replacement and so forth? It’s almost incalculable. I don’t have most of those things, and as a result the time I spend maintaining, cleaning, worrying, fixing, replacing and so forth is drastically less than the average person. The result is a far higher quality of life and a level of simplicity that rivals that of a kid-less 20-something, versus a single dad of five. Life doesn’t have to get more complex the older you get, we just choose to burden ourselves with extraneous things, believing we “need” them.
5.) Do you see any challenges (older, bigger kids, retirement, etc) to continuing on with this lifestyle in the future?
It’s been a while since I talked about kid’s clothing and how we try and keep things minimalist-ish with three young kids. So I thought I would give an update on what we’re doing now, how things are changing as our kids get older (and bigger) and share some of my favourite strategies that work for our family for keeping clothing under control.
Above is what we have stored for our three kids. The top box is shoes and rain boots. The bottom box is summer clothing and hand-me-downs. My kids are now 7, 4 and 2 and our family is complete as they say/ we’re done with babies!! There is a three size gap between the seven year-old and four year-old and a one or no size gap between the four year-old and two year-old. We have cool to cold winters with a lot of rain and the occasional snow day and our summers can go as high as 30C.
Strategies for Small Kid Wardrobes
We’ve made it the last year and a half with two IKEA Antonius units storing all the kids clothes and diapers. It’s getting tight. The culprit: our oldest is wearing a school uniform this year (and they have TWO different uniforms) plus his clothing is getting bigger, just likehim. Luckily the school uniform will be gone at the end of June and we’ll get back 25% of the space once our youngest potty trains in a year and we’re out of diapers. In general I think we do a good job of keeping the kid’s wardrobes modest while still keeping them appropriately clothed. Things we do that help us have less clothing:
- we don’t buy/accept a lot of clothing – simple but it helps immensely
- we regularly cull the kids wardrobes for things that aren’t being worn or no longer fit
- we think holes in the knees of jeans are cool. Someone asked me if we put holes in the knees of the youngest jeans ourselves, like as an ode to distressed jean fashion. I laughed. Nope. He’s just the third kid to wear those size 2T jeans.
- if the outfit was clean at the end of the day (exception: underwear) it gets worn the next day
- we try to invest in durable brands for our oldest son that will last through another kid or two. Especially in outerwear and rain boots.
- we try and wear out items. I won’t send my kids out in torn (besides knees on jeans) clothing or items with big stains on them, but fading or some fraying from lots of use, that makes me happy. So we don’t replace things simply because they look old.
I’m not very particular about what my kids wear and so far they aren’t very particular about what they wear either. I know we are really lucky on this front. There aren’t fights about what to wear in the morning and, THANKFULLY, no one is asking me to go the mall and buy them the latest on trend piece from H&M. We do laundry frequently so at most my kids need a week’s worth of clothes. We try to wash clothing after it’s been worn two or even three times if possible and this increases the longevity of the clothing.
We don’t store a lot of hand-me downs
One thing I am seeing as my kids get bigger: the clothes are wearing out faster. We don’t have as many hand-me-downs to store as you might expect. Sometimes the middle child will be the last to wear something that was originally the oldest. Usually it’s because both of them wore that size for 2+ years so, combined with wearing things more frequently than a lot of North Americans do, the t-shirt is ready to be cut into rags or the jeans are ready to be made into jean shorts or sent to textile recycling.
I *never* buy ahead in sizes during sale season
My oldest did not grow in a steady pattern at all so I decided early on not to buy ahead at end of season sales. It’s just not worth it to me to spend money and take up our limited storage with things that may, or may not, fit one of my kids next year. A lot of our winter and fall clothing comes from Grandmas at birthdays and Christmas and if they have bought in a generous size I’ll store those items for next year. But that’s it. If buying ahead works for you, awesome. But my kids are all over the growth chart and we have very little storage so we get things in season as we need them most of the time.
I let my kids grow into and out of things
I let the t-shirts get a bit short in the body before going to the next size and that oversize sweatshirt gets to be a fitted style before it’s passed down. My oldest just passed down a zip up sweatshirt he has been wearing for over three years. We have adjustable waistbands on EVERYTHING. We roll up cuffs and sleeves for a few months while a child grows into things.
We keep shoes to a minimum
Our oldest is the shoe-a-holic out of the kids. He has four pairs: rain boots, athletic shoes, formal school shoes, pair of Converse. The other two kids have rain boots and a pair of running shoes. They each have a pair of slip-on style summer sandals that we keep out in the winter to wear to the condo pool downstairs.
Of course, I know we could be more minimalist. We spent a month overseas and the kids took about 2/3rds of their wardrobe and with frequent laundry going we did just fine. I’m all about finding the sweet spot between making life comfortable and having less stuff. Right now this is what works for us.
For parents of many, how do you manage storing hand-me-downs? I would love to hear from those of you with big families, those of you that are the buy ahead type and anyone with an more elaborate or more stream lined system than mine.
We’re currently exploring and getting to know a small island about 100 miles from Africa and a two hour ferry ride from Sicily. As I’ve written before, we’re having kind of a weird stretch right now as a family and I’m learning lots about managing life in less than ideal circumstances. With less time to myself and more demands I’m finding keeping things simple to be the only way forward right now!
Happy New Year! I know many of you are setting decluttering goals for the year and I wanted to share some of my favourite resources. As I have said before, there is no one right way to go about reducing your stuff or paring back your commitments. The right way is one that works for you and that you can stick with. It could be using a method from a book, making a bet with a friend, joining in on an Instagram hashtag like the #minsgame, joining an online community, publicly declaring a goal to friends and family or simply throwing a box in the corner of each room of your home and putting things in it as you see that you no longer use them (my favourite method and so easy to start right now). Here are some other ideas to get you started:
Books on Decluttering
- Do Less: A Minimalist Guide to a Simplified, Organized and Happy Life (Adams, 2014) by Rachel Jonat. Yes, my own book! Simple, no judgement guide to paring down your home and schedule. Check out the over 80 five star reviews for the many reasons why people love this book. *Amazon Prime Readers can apparently read the Kindle version for free!
- The Joy of Less by Francine Jay. I think this was the first book I read on minimalism and simplifying your stuff and it’s a good one. Recently updated and re-released the latest version has several new sections including family life. You can read my review of this book here. Also love the companion journal available for this book.
The Clutter Cleanse Series
- The last two years I’ve run a series called The Clutter Cleanse in January. It’s a six week series with 2-4 tasks each week to tackle closets, homes and schedules. You can find the posts here and if you want to start at post one you can find it here.
Minimalist Writers I Recommend
Almost too many to include but the following writers have inspired me, shocked me and made me laugh over the years. Of note: I’m not a sell everything and live with no couch kind of minimalist (though I love reading about that kind of radical minimalism) so all of these writers lend themselves to the more moderate style of practical minimalism that we aim for as a family.
- Brook McAlary on Slow Your Home: her podcast is both fun, irreverent, soulful and informative and her blog is a treasure trove of posts for slowing down and letting go. Keep an eye out for her forthcoming book.
- Joshua Becker on Becoming Minimalist: powerful posts about our consumption habits, why we all need to live with less and how to do it. Join his newsletter for collections of news on consumption and simplifying.
- Evelyn on Smallish: I started following Evelyn when she had a few less children and they all lived in a tiny one bedroom apartment. They now live in a 1000 sq ft home as a family of six and I continue to admire her authenticity in sharing life as a homeschooling mom of four in a small home. If you have a gaggle of kids and are feeling defeated by stuff go check out Evelyn’s website!
- Courtney Carver’s Project 333: for those of you struggling with wardrobes, fast fashion and the fear of having nothing to wear. Courtney’s many devotees share their minimalist wardrobes under the hashtag #project333.
Don’t be discouraged if you find things get worse before they get better. My family has been at this for six years now and we still have to sort kid’s clothes, donate toys, sell something we bought only year ago because we no longer need/use/wear it semi-regularly. Paring down or minimalism or simplifying or whatever you want to call it is not a a destination but a journey. Good luck!