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There will be a moment in your life where you probably wonder how you can start to save money each month consistently.
What would you do with that extra monthly cash? Put it towards paying down debt? Maybe add it to your savings account or investments? Use it for a nice vacation?
Whatever your reasoning, saving more money monthly is an awesome feeling and rewarding too.
But where exactly do you start? Sometimes the thought of “where” and “how” can be intimidating or confusing, but it doesn’t have to be.
Below are a few tips and steps so you can start to save money each month and set yourself up to be more financially secure.
How Much Should I Save Each Month?
How much should you save each month? Many financial experts and sources will recommend saving 20% of your income every month. However, the more you can save and invest — the better it will be for your current finances and future financial health.
Everyone’s income and expenses will vary, so what you can afford to save maybe higher or lower than the traditional 20%.
The important thing is that you are consistently starting to save and ready to put a plan in place to elevate your results.
So are you ready to start saving $100 a month? $500 a month? Or $1,000+ per month? It’s possible, but will take some time and dedication.
What You Should Do First
If you’ve read some of my other posts, then the below may sound like a broken record. But these simple starter pieces are important to pretty much any part of your personal finances.
How you set these items up, approach it, or how much time you spend on each is entirely up to you. These are things you should work on pretty much indefinitely and may alter over time.
But before you start looking for ways to save money each month, begin your process with these three things first.
For you to have a clear picture of where your money goes, it’s best to track it all in an easy way. Personally, I think a basic spreadsheet will do just fine.
I like to put my monthly take home pay, all my bills, etc. lined up in some nice columns.
You may think you can remember everything off the top of your head, but I missed a few things myself when I used to do this. It’s easy to be wrong about a number or forget items without writing it down.
Set realistic savings goals
When you are starting to take saving money more serious, you should create some financial goals for yourself too. And also ensure they are realistic as well.
It’s certainly fine to have challenging goals you might not be able to obtain, but also make ones that have much easier levels that you can achieve. Then work your way up from there.
But these financial goals of yours can coincide with your monthly savings objectives.
Paying yourself first
This is something you want to start doing to keep saving money monthly, but it’s also a mindset you should try to master.
I’ve written about paying yourself first in more detail, but here’s a quick overview.
Paying yourself first means the money you make goes to you first in savings or investments. You do this before paying any expenses or making any purchases.
The simple way to do pay yourself first is to automate the process on a recurring basis. I used to do that in the early days, but have since been more of a manual process.
However, if you are too tempted or need a discipline in place, automating is the way to go!
The Steps to Saving Money Monthly
In order to start saving money each month, you’ll first want to start looking at where you can start cutting expenses.
I don’t think you need to become extremely frugal, but you may need to make some real sacrifices for awhile if you are struggling to save money.
Below, I’ve split these up into two main sections. I’ll dive in to where you must start to cut costs and get more money back in your pockets each month.
Note: I recently wrote a post about spending money and why you shouldn’t feel guilty about purchases that add value to your life. There are some caveats to this and this holds true if you are already mastering your personal finances. Give it a read if you are interested.
The Big 3
The reason I separated these three out first is because they are typically the highest-cost items you’ll have in your life. And this typically holds true for most people.
So what are they? Food, Housing, and Transportation (no particular order).
Groceries and Food
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nationally we spend more than $7,700 per year on groceries and going out. And I would not be surprised that many probably spend more than that a year.
The best way to save money monthly on food is cutback going out to eat, meal prep by cooking in bulk for the week and freezing meals, and couponing/paying attention to sale items.
It might not be easy at first, but start to get in a rhythm and watch your monthly savings grow.
The bulk of your costs of the big three will come from housing — aka where you live. Things like location, size, home maintenance costs, etc.
Evaluate your current living situation and location. Consider downsizing your house or apartment and consider refinancing your mortgage to save money (do your research and make sure it makes sense first).
Moving and selling are not always options, so in that case look to how you can save on home maintenance costs. Learn and do things yourself if you can. Some things may require a professional, so don’t take on everything. But a bit of home DIY can go a long way each month.
Similar to housing, there are ways to save on your transportation needs as well. Buying new cars and the maintenance can really add up.
I’m not one to tell you that buying new is always the wrong option, but if you want to start saving money monthly, find ways to save on your transportation costs.
This could be anything from selling your car to getting a reliable and cheaper used one, DIY car stuff, looking at different car insurance options, driving less and biking, walking, etc.
Basic Ways to Save Money Each Month
Now that I got the big three out of the way, here are some other ways to consider saving money each month.
Monitor utility bills
Besides being conscience of your energy consumption (electric and gas), you’ll want to always monitor your actual bills that come in. Limiting your use of energy will help you save, but watch for any odd charges or spikes in costs of your energy providers.
You can save yourself costs by calling in, catching mistakes, or potentially switching if the company refuses to work with you if they spike the bills. If you don’t actively look at the recurring monthly bills, you might be missing opportunities to save.
Cancel subscriptions you don’t need or use
This was my favorite for saving money monthly, because it’s so easy to do and can put hundreds back in your wallet a year.
Have cable and aren’t really watching much? Cancel it and sign up for Netflix, Youtube Premium, Hulu, etc. Of course, don’t get them all if you want to save each month, but you have alternatives to the ever growing costs of cable and satellite.
I cut cable and a gym membership (there is a gym in my apartment complex), which saved me over $140 a month! Sure, I’m not going to retire on that savings alone, but that’s more I can add to my savings account or investments every month.
Become a good negotiator
A great skill to learn that can help your finances is becoming a good negotiator. Almost anything you can think of, you can negotiate just by speaking up and presenting your case.
This doesn’t mean begging just because you want a lower price. But you can ask or present why something should be cheaper, which can help you save.
Recently my internet bill jump over $20 per month out of the blue. Might not be a lot, but seemed ridiculous for the price to increase that much.
I simply called them up, asked to explain the cost, and politely stated why I think it should be lower (I’ve been a lower customer for years). They upgraded my internet speed for free, installed the new modem/router, and got my cost back to what it was per month.
Shop around for deals
When you do need to make some purchase, especially something much larger, it is important to shop around for deals and not just go with the first option you have. This includes anything from insurance, cell phones, home maintenance items, etc.
Always make a list and compare options before spending your money. You might be able to find some serious big savings, or even a little bit that will add up over time.
Everything is getting more expensive so it will be on you to do some grunt work to find the most cost effective option.
Earn cashback from everyday purchases
While it is important to cut back on frivolous or impulsive spending, you can’t avoid buying things all your life either.
While you can shop around for the best deals and use coupons, you can also earn cashback on items you buy as well.
Creating an account is free and takes a few minutes to set up. You can learn more and sign-up here if interested.
Consider consolidating any debt
If you have credit card debt, you are probably paying high interest on it. Thus, costing you a nice chunk of change every month.
Now, this option is not the best fit for everyone, but something to consider is consolidating your debt into lower interest.
What this does is essentially merges multiple bills into a single debt that is paid off by a loan or through a management program. You can learn more about this option here.
Put that pay raise to savings
Lol, what pay raise? Amirite? Just kidding, many will experience getting a raise and when you do, a great option is to bank that extra each month. If you haven’t gotten a raise in awhile, it’s probably time to ask for one.
But too often our natural desire is to upgrade our lifestyle if we get a decent raise or spend money a bit more loosely.
However, if you want to start saving more money monthly, the better option is to immediately send that additional money to your savings or investments (Remember, pay yourself first).
Use bank accounts with good interest
When you are putting your money into a savings account, you want that money to accrue some interest. Unfortunately, most big banks or credit unions do not offer great interest rates on your money (I’m talking less than 1% or fractions of percent).
A good way to save more money monthly is to park your emergency fund or separate savings into a high-yield savings account.
Typically, you’ll find anything in the 2-3% range, which doesn’t sound like much but as your savings grows, it will add some money towards your savings each month.
Struggling to Put Money Aside Each Month
Even after some the insights above, you might be rolling your eyes a bit or ready to leave an aggressive comment.
“I can’t afford to save money or anywhere near the recommended 20%, it all goes to living expenses and debt! And it’s easy to save money each month with no kids, debt, or a high paying job.”
I totally hear you. Saving money is not easy for everyone.
The key is to start small, even if it is just 1% of your income. Most likely, following some of the above tips will free up enough to save in small amounts.
And you might have to follow living frugally a bit in order to start building your foundation.
But as you work on your spending, cutting expenses, paying debt and making more money — you can start to increase your savings rate overtime.
You might not be able to jump from 1% to 15%, but you might be able to go to 5% for awhile, then move up from there. And if something comes up, you can always scale back for a bit of time.
Keep your savings goals in mind and stay focused, it will help you stay motivated.
In order to succeed, you have to WANT to make changes to start saving money monthly. And you have to keep a long term outlook and be patient.
Otherwise you may quickly lose interest and fall out of a routine you think is not working because your results are taking time.
I’ve mentioned in other posts, a lot of roadblocks to making positive financial changes is your mindset. Granted, there can be situations out of your control (like a sudden job loss).
But if you can’t get motivated, make a plan, and stay patient — it will be challenging to see any impact on your current financial situation.
But, “how” and “why” you want to save money each month is up to you. This means, you’ll have to determine what expenses to save and which ones you’d like to keep because it improves your quality of life.
This article is originally on Invested Wallet.