4 Easy Ways to Start Saving Money

For most of my life, I’ve struggled when it comes to saving money. I could spend it like nobody’s business, but the thought of putting it in a safe place for the future just didn’t compute. How could I afford to save money when I was broke? Never mind the fact that I was broke due to my frivolous spending; the reason wasn’t important. All I knew was that saving money was way less exciting than buying stuff!

Fast forward to late 2010. A friend of mine was griping about giving her mom money for the millionth time. She complained, “I thought parents were supposed to help out their kids, not the other way around!” Somehow the planets aligned in that moment, and I realized, Holy crap, that’s going to be me someday! The thought of asking my son for money to correct MY mistakes was more than I could stand.

So I magically became frugal and started saving 82% of my income, all while wearing sweaters made from my own hair…. Oh, wait. It didn’t work that way. Sorry, I forgot! Actually, saving is STILL hard for me to do, though it became a lot easier once I forced myself to start. Here are a few ways to start saving money even when you don’t really want to.

Save Your Change

I don’t use cash very often anymore, but I used to, especially when I was at risk of overdraft fees at the bank. Anytime I had change in my purse or my pockets, I would put it in Jayden’s piggy bank (more because I hated change than because I wanted to save money). One day we decided to cash in all the change, and I was absolutely floored to find that he had nearly $80 in his bank! No, that isn’t a huge amount of money - maybe enough to pay a utility bill - but at the time, it was $80 more than I had in my own savings account.

Coins are one of those annoyances that most of us don’t think about, but they can come in handy. Get a bank, jar, or bucket and start throwing your change in there. You might be surprised by how much you can accumulate.

Round Up When You Spend

One of my former coworkers used to round up every purchase she made to the next dollar. She would seriously get out her phone and transfer 53 cents to savings right then through mobile banking so she wouldn’t forget. We laughed at her a lot because it seemed ridiculous. Why bother with such small amounts, especially when you have to go to so much effort to do it? Well, we weren’t laughing last summer when she and her husband went on a trip to Puerto Rico, paid for with savings from 2 years of rounding up purchases.

We have more access to our money than ever before thanks to advances in technology. If your bank doesn’t round up for you, it does take a few minutes (and some dedication) to do this, but it can pay off big!

Turn it Into a Game

Ever notice the letter inside the seal on the face of a dollar? Another friend of mine saves $1 bills, but only those with certain letters on them. Every 6 months, she chooses two letters that she will save - she’s allowed to spend the rest. For some reason, assigning a rule like that turns it into a scavenger hunt, which makes her more determined to find dollars to save. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve left a tip at a restaurant, only to see her trade one or two of my bills for hers.

I think this is a particularly creative way to save money because (1) it’s kind of fun and (2) it keeps you on your toes. My friend is always paying attention in hopes of finding one of the designated letters on a dollar, and her savings has grown tremendously.

Separate it and Automate It

One of the easiest ways to save money is putting it in a separate savings account (or better yet, a separate bank). Ever since I opened an account with ImpulseSave, I’m always surprised to see the balance in my account because I forget the money is there. And because money is automatically withdrawn from my bank account in small amounts, I don’t even think about it. Same thing with PNC Virtual Wallet, my primary checking and savings. Money goes to savings every two weeks, and I only realize how much is there if I happen to look at my savings balance.

The harder your money is to access, the less likely you are to spend it. It’s a fact. If you have to go to a website, remember your password, transfer the money to your checking account, and wait 3-4 days, you’ll probably save a lot more than you think.

How Do You Save Money?

There are tons of ways to get a jumpstart on saving. What ways work for you? Have you ever done anything drastic or silly to trick yourself into saving?


4 Easy Ways to Start Saving Money56 Comments

  1. Rounding up really does work, I do that as well. I also try to snowflake a lot of debt, and that is working as well.

    • I wasn't very good about snowflaking with my debt payoff, but I do it now for savings. Anytime I think about buying something, I tell myself, "If I could afford to buy that, I could afford to transfer that money to savings." It has made a big difference!

  2. Like your friend, I save "H" dollars. My dad also saves "H" (and "B" and "K" dollars for my mom and sibling) and then gives that money to us for our birthday and Christmas. I also write down whatever I've saved when I go shopping, be it from sales or coupons. Then at the end of the month, that amount goes into my savings account. Every time my savings account hits $500, I put that money towards a bill. I'm down to 2 credit cards using this method actually. Babysteps.

    • That's a really good idea re: keeping track of the amount you save when you shop! I never even thought about that. Sounds like you have a good system in place!

  3. I must admit that I don't save anything right now. Not because I'm just out spending so much, but because almost all of my paycheck goes toward current bills or debt. What's left is gas money for the month. July will be the end of my child support payments, so I will be able to put some of that into savings and the rest will go toward debt. I can't wait!

    Hope you're feeling better.

    • I know that feeling well! My income has sucked lately, and my savings is nearly drained. It stresses me out, but I'm trying to thankful that (so far) I'm able to pay the bills. Look forward to reading about your accelerated debt payoff when August gets here! :)

  4. My savings go in weekly. It works because it's a small amount, so I'm saving more a month than it seems. Also, I take money - usually $20-50, out of each paycheck and put in a 'rainy day' fund that my husband doesn't always know about (he would probably raid it!). My hubby had a conference to go to in Orlanda a couple years ago, so we decided to take the kids to Disney, since the hotel and 1 airline ticket was paid for by his company. For the couple months before, I took $100 for the 'rainy day' fund. My husband started to worry we would need to use credit for part of the cost (food, etc) until I showed him my wad of cash. Turned out I saved more than we even needed!! I have a tendency to 'hide' money in out of season clothing, to find it months later. So, mostly non-techie ways, but it works for us!

    • This sounds like a good idea but don't be that person that forgot their $1000 in their winter jacket and donated it to goodwill! lol

      • Nope, that would not be good! Usually, I find small amounts, from a couple bucks to $20 or so. Enough to buy a couple groceries or fill up the gas tank just a bit more - and usually I find it when I really need it :)

    • When I was still married, I kept a bank account open that my ex didn't know about. I did the same thing - direct deposit of $20 per paycheck, and it was there when I needed it.

      I've never been cool enough to find money in my pockets or anything. Found $5 in an old purse once and thought I won the lottery! LOL

  5. I just talked with the wife this weekend about saving all of our change and using it for spending money on vacations. We have done this in the past for other stuff and I think its a good idea. We have to open another savings account that the change will go into, plus whenever we decide to take pop can returnables back those go into savings also (michigan pays 10 cents per can/bottle). I like your idea of rounding up, might start to do that one. I also want to start doing the automatic deposits into a savings account, but we are going to be combining accounts when our refi is done, so we will wait til that is finished.

    • You know, I'm not sure what KY pays for cans. I really need to check - we drink a LOT of Pepsi in this house, all from cans. Great idea!

      • It is kind of a sham in a way though, cuz we have to pay a 10 cent deposit on them when we buy em. I guess its a way of forced recycling, if you want your 10 cents back, you gotta bring the can in to get it.

  6. I figured out how much Ineeded to save and by when for a down payment on a house. I did the math and figured out I needed to take x amount of money out of each check to have the money buy the date. I didn't know if I could live with that much less money but I tired. Here I am a year and a half later with it 2/3s the way saved up, we dipped or skipped when we had to for insurance be it car or medical but the rest of the time I have done my best to keep it in there, also adding tax rebates or any other refund I could find. If I couldn't have lived with the money I would have made the amount less. It is still there if I need it for emergencies. I think it was just knowing that if I needed it I could have it that made it easy to do, and now I try my best to not dip, plan for those upcomeing expencise when I know they are coming. After we get the house I will continue to save the same amount to get our cushion incase we lose our jobs or get to sick to work and then I would like to go back down to the 10% that I was doing before. Someitmes there is truth in the catch frazes we hear all our lives, I live by the "pay yourself 1st" mato.

    • People talk about paying yourself first so much, sometimes I think I forget how important it is! It made a huge difference for me when I went from saving "whatever I have left" (which was usually zero) to saving first, then figuring out what I could spend. Having money in savings is an amazing thing - congrats on building up your down payment fund!

  7. I am going to have to look into the "rounding up" strategy. Simple but effective. Let them laugh at me when I'm sipping a cold drink on the beach next year!

    • I keep saying I'm going to do it, but so far I've been too lazy. I know it could add up quickly and I'd never miss it, but I can't get my brain in gear lately. If you try it, be sure to keep us updated!

  8. I can't say I've done anything drastic or silly as I can never say that I've struggled to save. I am by no means a great saver either as I don't feel like I am saving properly. I still feel like I can do a better job saving because it always feels like something comes up that drains my savings. I did use a couple of methods mentioned above and they worked great. I built my EF with automatic transfer and I've saved up my change till it amounted to something and then I spent it wisely :)

    These are some great tips. I especially love the rounding up when you spend. Technology has come far enough that this is a great method to use.

    • I wouldn't downplay your saving ability just because you use the money for worthy causes! It's one thing to spend the money on crap you don't need, but the whole point of saving is having that money available when you need it. It's funny how emergencies seem to appear the second you feel like your EF is adequate… Not that I would know or anything. *crosses fingers behind back*

  9. I used to have a change jar where I would put my change. I averaged $40-50 per month. Now I just automate my savings through a payroll deduction.

    • That's a LOT of change! It takes me ages to build up that much. Automating has definitely helped me save a lot faster than anything else.

    • That's a step! Even saving in the first place is awesome - time to work on leaving it there. What do you spend on? If it's vending machines, I'll have to give you the lecture!

  10. We're so much more likely to experience success when we start small. Thanks for these practical, accessible tips to help us all start better habits of saving.

  11. I save my change and it really does add up rather quickly. I tend to round up when I am balencing the check book so that it looks like we have less money in there then we really do-that's helped out a bunch. That way we can work on avoiding those pesky little over draft fees. I do remember that when I was getting overdraft fees I made myself save the same amount in my savings-which kind of worked. At least until the next month when I would spend it.

    • I used to do that in my checkbook (my mom does it) but it got too confusing. Plus I knew there was extra money in there, so I would spend money we didn't have on paper, thinking "Oh, that extra money will cover this." Except I did it so many times I ended up overdrafting!

  12. I have never liked the idea of "rounding up" especially when it's done automatically by the banks like the programs B of A and Wachovia had. There just seemed to be way too much room for error and overdraft charges if you forget to update your balance regularly.

    I "created" a game on my site for savings. Every time you get a deal on a purchase you transfer the savings to a separate account. When you use coupons, you transfer the savings to a separate account. If you intend to spend money but end up not doing so, you transfer that money to the separate account. If it was already spent in your mind, then it doesn't matter whether you went ahead and spent the full amount or moved that money into a savings account, the net effect both physically and mentally are the same. Before you know it…BAM!, you have savings :-)

  13. I never saved until I opened dedicated difficult-to-access savings account. Just by siphoning a bit of money to it each month, and not being able to access it without actually walking to the credit union made it so much easier to keep my hands off of it!

    • Totally agree! That has made saving SO much easier for me. Before, I always had a savings account attached to my checking account, which was great except I knew the money was there and I'd spend it. Making it a pain in the butt did wonders for my ability to keep my hands off the money.

  14. It's taken me YEARS to establish good savings habits, but I'm so glad I have. Doing so has enabled me to buy my home, take amazing vacations to dream destinations, and to finally feel financially secure.

    Considering I was once the homeless, jobless girl living out of her car, I wouldn't trade my life experiences for anything because they've formed the super saver I've become.

    That being said, I still do struggle sometimes with wanting to just go out & spend what I'm bringing in for a given month. Having detailed goals and a super detailed Excel workbook where I track every single penny helps me stay the course.

    • Your story has always been one of my favorites because of how far you've come, AND because you aren't afraid to admit that it isn't all sunshine and unicorns! I know I'll struggle in some ways for the rest of my life, though it does get easier with time.

      You really need to guest post for me - my readers would LOVE your story!

  15. I use a reverse budget method. Whatever I have left over at the end of the month goes into savings instead of me spending it.

    • Does that work for you? I'm super impressed! I used to try to do that, but I never had anything left at the end of the month because I was too busy spending. Would love to hear more details about how you reverse budget!

  16. I have two piggy banks. One is for all my spare change. I actually weigh it every month!. The other is for $1 bills. These come from my studio fridge. I sell water bottles and diet soda to my students. I average about $10.00 a week. I will spend it next Christmas. I also save all cash that comes into my shop and cash all checks to live one. But cash goes into a separate envelope to be spent on things like going to see the kids and travel. We also save 10% of our income pre-tax and are raising it to 12%. We will do this every year until hubby retires. Only two more consumer loans to pay for cars. Then we will knock out the mortgage. But boy is it hard. I like to spend money.

    • Me too girl! I can ALWAYS think of something I'd like to buy. But you're making great choices, especially with the money from the drink sales. I'd be like, "Oh, it's just ten bucks!" and waste it on junk. Which is why I avoid cash like the plague. For some reason when it's not in my bank account, I act like it's not real money.

  17. Right now my husband and I utilize a giant Coke bottle change jar and a separate bank for savings. Our giant Coke bottle is just a little over half-full, we estimate there should be about $700-800 in coins. We use one bank for our everyday checking and a small savings and the rest of our money goes to a credit union to earn better interest and be a little more out of reach. We still have access to that money if there were an emergency, but we don't check that account everyday so it is kind of like it doesn't exist.

    Speaking of coins and games - I used to work at a movie theater and we only accepted cash (people just loved to remind me how they preferred to use credit cards). During my time there (over 6 years) I amassed a nice coin collection. During slow time I would go through all of our quarters and look for collectable coins - I found two 1964 REAL SILVER quarters that I saved and are now worth about $8 each. My co-worker found collectable dollar bills, something about having been issued when still on the gold standard or something like that. Anyway, if you do a little research you may find you have more money in your coinage than you thought!

    • One of my cousins had one of those big Coke bottle banks. I had NO idea they would hold that much money! Makes me want to go get one and start hitting people up for change!!!!

      • I love that coke bottle but fyi: It takes FOREVER to get this sucker filled - we are talking years in the making lol. Patience is the key word.

        You should consider getting your son one - when he graduates he could add all the saved coins to his bank savings and presto - he could be an instant thousandaire lol :)

        Before we were married, my husband had it 1/3 filled and cashed it out and it was a few hundred dollars. We have more silver coinage - dimes, nickles and quarters - than pennies so that def. helps.

  18. Thanks so much for this post :) You're the best. I'm so glad that you can save money with ImpulseSave! It's so great to hear how what we're doing really matters and really helps. Thanks.

    Also, I love the idea of rounding up to the next dollar. I should start doing that with my ImpulseSave account. It's awesome that your friend did that so diligently and was able to go to Puerto Rico! What an inspiration!

    • No problem! I LOVE my ImpulseSave account!!! Can't wait for the iPhone app - unfortunately I'm completely dependent on technology and need apps to function!

    • Reading Andrea's post, I was wondering if combining Impulse Save and rounding up would work. Is it ok to impulsively save .53¢ at a time?

  19. I have a few techniques:

    I save my spare change and cash it in a few times a year.

    When I go grocery shopping, the receipt lists how much money I saved. When I get home, I take the "saved amount" from my checking account and transfer it to my savings account.

    I used to also round up my purchases to the whole dollar, but haven't done that lately.

    • Checking the receipts is a good idea. I usually throw out grocery receipts, but I'm going to start looking at them and see if it helps me save. Thanks for the tip!

  20. You're a better person than me! I HATE counting out change. It ends up in the bottom of my purse covered in hair and random sticky junk.

  21. My husband wanted to get separate coke bottles for each coin, I was like HECK NO we'd never get those things filled haha. Once this gets full I think we will switch to silver coins only and put the pennies in a coffee can or something.

    It is taking us longer since we, also, don't use cash very often. I estimate it will be another 2 years before we fill it at the rate we are going - I keep meaning to get a roll of quarters or dimes from the grocery store but I always forget.

    And I hope you don't think I'm a creeper - insomnia and I've reached the end of the internets, your blog is keeping me entertained!

  22. I love my bank the rest account. I have already accumulated about $30 since opening it up two months ago! Now I'm going to start adding a little here and there to this account and voila! Christmas money without busting the budget :) Great article

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