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Financial Resource Center

Tools for financial success.

Finding Money to Save

Building up your savings is a key part of financial wellness and stability. But sometimes, it can feel impossible to save enough money to reach your goals, whether it’s sufficient emergency savings, a down payment for a house, investments for retirement, or enough for a more reliable car.

Take heart! You can find success by steadily pursuing small saving tactics every day.

In general, finding money to save—even on the tightest budget—follows two strategies: minimizing spending or earning more money. You’ll hit your savings goals even faster if you do both!

Cut back on spending in ways big and small

If you don’t already have a budget, that’s the first place to start when looking for ways to spend less and save more. Look at how much you earn a month, how much you spend on fixed costs (life expenses that don’t change month to month) like rent, student loan payments, insurance. car payments, etc. and then decide how much you would like to save—$50 a month? $100? Or maybe more. Now build a budget as if that saving amount is a fixed cost. From there, see where you need to cut back in other categories—like food, entertainment, cell phone bill, clothing, personal care, gym membership, etc.—to make that happen.

Maybe you already have a budget and it’s tight. You feel like there’s no wiggle room to save money and pay your bills every month. Below is a table with some small-saving ideas that really do add up over time.

Where to save

Estimated monthly saving

Estimated yearly saving

Save $.50/day in loose change

$15

$180

Cut out 1 liter of soda consumption per week

$6

$72

Drink drip coffee instead of a fancier concoction

$40

$480

Eat out 2 fewer times a month

$30

$360

Comparison shop for gas

$4

$48

Bounce one fewer check a month

$20

$240

Avoid credit card late payment fee

$25

$300

Cancel or downgrade TV service

$100

$1,200

Other ways to spend less but still enjoy life:

  • Avoid convenience and pre-packaged food. Instead, cook low-cost bulk meals (chili and spaghetti are great options) and then freeze the extra portions to eat later.
  • Eat less meat. Meat can be one of the most expensive items on your grocery bill.
  • Use half of the recommended laundry detergent and other cleaning soaps. Better yet, make your own!
  • Learn to repair your own clothing and appliances.
  • Lower the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees, because for every 10-degree reduction in temp, you can save up to 5% on water heating bills.
  • Make your own gifts for family and friends.
  • Organize a neighborhood swap meet to exchange used items.
  • Swap DVDs, books, video games, and board games with friends instead of buying or renting new ones. Also see what entertainment media you can check out from your local library.
  • Volunteer at local festivals and events for free admission to at least part of the activities.
  • Switch to cash only for daily expenses to avoid overspending.
  • Start a garden to grow herbs and veggies from seeds, which you can sometimes get for free or nearly free at a community swap!
  • Carpool for work and errands.
  • Sign up for automatic payment plans that save you a percentage on interest payments.
  • Don’t speed, make sure your tires are properly inflated, and get or perform regular oil and air filter changes.

Remember, every time you save money by underspending in your budget, put the cash straight into your savings account!

Earn more money

When looking for ways to earn more money—outside of simply picking up a part-time job—there are really only two factors you must decide how to offer or supply: time and/or talent. Find tasks that others don’t have the know-how or time to do and then fill the gap!

Some examples:

  • Do odd jobs for family, neighbors, or friends
  • Care for other peoples’ pets
  • Provide lawn or garden care services
  • Offer baby or childcare services
  • Wash, well, pretty much anything that someone wants washed!
  • Repair something you know how to fix but your neighbor doesn’t
  • Offer music lessons or other acquired skill that you have
  • Collect cans or bottles if you live in a state that pays to recycle them
  • Rent out a room in your house

Other tips

  • Set up an automatic transfer to your savings account each month. This ensures you don’t spend this money!
  • Keep short-term goals in sight—maybe it’s saving a set amount each week or month, or hitting a savings total and then increasing it.
  • Save windfalls, tax refunds, and raises.
  • Use an app or credit union program that rounds your purchases to the nearest dollar and puts that money into a savings account.
  • Avoid impulse or runaway spending by re-imagining the purchase in hours worked instead of cost. Ask yourself, is this worth the X-number of hours it would take to work and pay for it?
  • When you consider indulging in a purchase, only allow it if you can match the cost with a deposit into savings. If you can’t afford the purchase and the matched savings, don’t spend the money.
  • See if you qualify for any local Investment Development Account (or IDA) programs where your savings are matched in return for attending financial education sessions and/or planning to save for a home, education, or business.
  • Never give up!
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