When it comes to saving, Americans aren't that great. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the personal saving rate in the United States is a meager 3.8%. This means that out of every $100 in after-tax income Americans bring in, approximately $3.80 is being saved for retirement, emergency expenses, and rainy-day savings. That's not good.
While side-hustling and signing-up for loyalty or credit card with rewards definitely can help Americans save. There are plenty of other ways for people to save without making more money. Take a look at these 25 creative and painless ways.
Banking & Budgeting
1. Take the 52-Week Challenge
The 52-week savings challenge is one of the easiest ways that you can begin to save more money. In fact, it's so easy that you probably won't even realize that you're saving money.
You can start during the first week of January by putting $1 in a piggy bank or savings account. Then increase your savings weekly based on the corresponding number for that week. For example, during the second week of January you would save $2 for that week, $3 for the third week, and so on. Once December arrives you'll end-up saving $49, $50, $51 and $52 per week. This will equal a savings of $1,378 by the end of the year.
The good news, besides the money that you're saving, you can start the 52-week challenge whenever you like.
To get you started on the right path, here's an excellent 52-week challenge worksheet from Jeff Rose. Jeff is a certified financial planner, on his website Good Financial Cents.
2. Switch Banks
Not all banks are created equal. That's why you should do your homework and switch to a bank that offers perks. Find perks like no ATM or maintenance fees, high interest on savings accounts, and no overdraft fees. Generally community banks and credit unions offer better interest rates and these types of perks.
However, there are also plenty of online banks like Ally, Chime, and Simple that also provide the perks listed above, as well as tools that automate your savings and help you set goals.
3. Automate Your Savings and Bills
Your company's human resources department can divide each of your paychecks between your savings and checking accounts. Start by setting a specific percentage automatically deposited into your savings so that you won't spend it. As an added bonus,interest rates are usually higher for savings accounts than checking accounts. If you're self-employed, then you'll have to do this yourself.
Besides automating your savings, pay all of your bills using auto-pay. This will prevent you from paying any late charges if you accidentally forget to pay a bill. In some cases loan providers may even offer a small interest rate deduction if you enroll in auto-pay.
4. Set Goals With a Budget-Tracking App
Setting a goal, such"Pay off credit card debt" or "Student loans. Develop an actionable and realistic plan for achieving it, which in turn will help you stick to the plan.
To make this as painless as possible, use finance-tracking and money management apps like BUDGT, Learnvest, or Mint. This provide a visual barometers of your specific goals so that you can actually achieve them.
5. Freeze Your Credit
Struggling with keeping your credit card use at bay? You don't want to get rid of your credit card - you need it at some point. Try freezing your credit card. And, I mean that literally. Place it in a bag of water and put it in the freezer. This way you'll have to thaw your card before using it. Hopefully, this will make you think twice before making a spontaneous purchase.
But, what if you have a card stored online? Delete your credit card on all online accounts that it's stored on so that you aren't spending impulsively.
6. Take Care of Yourself
Exercise, eat healthy, get enough quality sleep. Start ditching unhealthy habits like smoking. Taking safety precautions like washing your hands and not skimping on routine checkups. Take that trip to dentist. These steps can help you avoid everything from the sniffles to something major like a root canal. That may not sound like a big deal, but even minor health concerns can hurt your finances. You don't want to have to pay for a lot of medicine and doctor co-pays.
7. Look For Freebies or Deals
Get your haircut at local beauty school for free. Take advantage of workout coupons from Living Social, Groupon, or Yipit. Jump in on a free gym session. There are plenty of ways for you to stay healthy, or improve your appearance, for either free or next-to-nothing.
8. Go Generic
Talk to your physician first to make sure that generic prescription drugs are a good option. Typically, generic drugs can cost several hundred dollars less to purchase annually than most brand-name drugs. If your physician, or insurance company, won't prescribe generic drugs, find a physician or insurer that will.
9. Take Shorter, Colder Showers
Taking a short shower isn't always fun - especially when it's freezing outside. But it will reduce your electric bill, and water if you pay for it. The reason? It takes energy to heat water and replenish your tank.
Besides, cooler showers can increase your alertness, refine your hair and skin. Your cooler shower will improve immunity and circulation, stimulate weight loss, and relieve stress and depression.
10. Make Your Own Beauty Products
Why spend hundreds of dollars on essential beauty and grooming products when you can make them on your own using just seven ingredients?
Some home grown beauty products sound too good to be true. Coconut oil, shea butter, coconut butter, beeswax, liquid carrier oil are all good choices. Use arrowroot powder, and essential oils like mint and lavender to make everything. You can inexpensively make deodorant, shaving soap, bug-off bars, sunscreen bars, and shampoo.
Home & Electronics
11. Compare Homeowners Insurance and Refinance Your Mortgage
If you own a home, then make sure that you check out the rates of competing insurance companies. Look at expenses before renewing your existing homeowners insurance policy. QuoteWizard is a great resource to help you find the best insurance quotes.
Additionally, consider refinancing your mortgage to a lower interest rate. You can save over $5,000 in interest charges over the life of the loan. You safe simply by lowering the rate from 7 percent to 6.5 percent on a 15-year $100,000 fixed-rate mortgage.
12. Weatherproof Your Home
Caulk any holes and cracks in your home. These can be the biggest energy suckers in houses. Cracks allow warm air escape to escape during the winter and cold air to escape in the summer. Your local hardware store has all the materials you'll need to plug these air leaks.
Weatherproof your home by making sure it's insulated, replace single-paneled windows with storm windows. Keep these closed at night during the winter to keep drafts out and closed during summer days to block out the sun.
13. Cut Back On Heating & Cooling
Installing a programmable thermostat like Nest will automate the indoor temperature in your home. You'll save around $200 off your annual heating and cooling costs.
If you want to trim your heating and cooling costs even more, use tricks like layering up with blankets and drinking hot beverages during the winter and placing ice on pulse points.
14. Lower The Temperature On Your Water Heater
How low? According to the Department of Energy, it should be about 120 Degrees. For every 10ºF reduction in temperature, you can save from 3%-5% on your water heating costs.
15. Unplug Energy Vampires
Even even when they're not in use, all of the following are using energy if they are plugged in. Television, computer, stereo, phone charger, blender, microwave, toaster, coffee maker, printer, and other non-essential appliances. Appliances are still drawing energy from the wall. You may be wasting approximately one month's electricity bill each year on this so-called vampire energy.
Plug these items into a power strip so that you can quickly turn everything off by just pressing a single button.
Shopping, Entertainment, and Socializing
16. Write a List and Stick To It
When you go shopping write a list in advance so that you won't buy anything else. Even if it's for your weekly meals or new seasonal wardrobe. Only spend money by purchasing the items on your list. Budgeting this way could result in annual savings that amount to hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
17. Don't Buy Just Because You Have a Coupon
Coupons found in your weekly grocery circular, Living Social, or an app like Checkout 51 can be awesome and will defintely save you money. But don't buy items just because you have a coupon. Only purchase the items that you actually know you're going to use.
18. Pack Your Lunch, Eat Leftovers, and Grow Your Own Food
Not only is brown bagging your lunch usually a healthier option, it can save you a ton of money in the long-run. Think about. Instead of spending $10 a day for lunch, you may only spend $5 a day.
On top of packing your lunch, don't throw away those leftovers. Freeze the leftovers so that you can eat them on those nights you don't feel like cooking. Get creative and convert the leftovers into another delicious dish.
Consider growing your own produce instead of buying them at the store. Even if you don't have a backyard you can still grow plenty of fruits and veggies in your home. Try growing avocados, tomatoes, oranges, beans, and mushrooms.
19. Get a Library Card and Share
Libraries offer more than just physical copies of books. They also offer e-books, CDs, DVDs. Some places rent out or let you borrow items like tools and sewing machines.
Besides your local library, share items with friends or family. A book, Netflix account, bicycle, or power tools, you can just ask to borrow them from someone you know.
20. Hang Out With Thrifty Friends
Hang out with people who don't like to go out all the time and go hog wild at dinner. Spend more time with people who enjoy having potluck dinners, playing board games, visiting thrift shops. Taking advantages of the numerous free events in your area.
21. Walk & Bike When Possible
When you walk or ride a bike it doesn't just save money, it's also good for your health. Think about walking to the grocery store instead of driving the next time you have a smaller shopping trip.
22. Maintain Your Vehicle
One of the most important aspects of inexpensive car ownership is proper maintenance. Keeping your tires properly inflated, get your oil changed, and having your engine tuned up at the required intervals. Maintenance saves you money by saving on gas, reducing any "surprises," and extending the life of the vehicle.
Did you know that the average American commuter spends more than $1,000 on gas each year commuting to and from work? Carpooling with a co-worker reduces your gas costs and saves on maintenance. This means that you don't have to worry about purchasing a new vehicle anytime soon.
24. Take Advantage of Public Transportation
Taking the bus or subway will lower your gas consumption, reduce the daily wear-and-tear on your car, and trims spending. Using public transportation avoids tolls and parking costs. It can also lower your insurance premium since you're using the car less often.
25. Comparison Shop...On Everything
Shop for the best auto insurance rate possible. Use Gasbuddy to find the cheapest gas prices. And, when traveling, check multiple sites for low airfares.