While you may have ambitious money goals, the key to reaching them is building a collection of smaller everyday habits. By taking baby steps that become second nature over time, you’ll hopefully be able to improve your financial situation. Here are some small habits you can develop today that may help your money grow.
1. AUTO-TRANSFER MONEY INTO SAVINGS.
Setting up automatic transfers is one of the easiest ways to save. To make headway on your goals, auto-transfer a few dollars into your savings account each week. For instance, if you’re trying to save $1,000 in six months for a new computer or a trip, automatically transfer $42 a week into your savings account.
2. PLAN YOUR PURCHASES.
Instead of making a quick run to the drugstore to buy a few items here and there, plan out your shopping trips. Make a list of exactly what you want to buy, and how much you’re going to spend. By having a list and sticking to it, you’ll be better at avoiding impulse buys or picking up items you don’t really need.
The same goes for things you buy online. Figure out what you really need, how much you can afford to spend, and wait at least a few days before making the purchase. If it’s not an essential item, try to wait 30 days before adding it to your cart.
3. SAVE MONEY WITH SUBSTITUTIONS.
Zero in on what’s most important to you and spend the most in those areas. In categories that aren’t as important to you, consider economizing or finding less-expensive alternatives. If you love gourmet cheese, don’t deprive yourself of your favorite Roquefort. But if you couldn’t care less what kind of peanut butter is in your sandwich, get the generic brand.
4. PAY YOURSELF FIRST.
If you want to make sure you’re not overspending, create a budget. But if you want to grow your savings, pay yourself first. That means putting your money toward savings first thing when you get your paycheck, then living off the rest. If you only pay yourself after your bills and expenses are taken care of, you run into the risk of not saving enough to hit your big-picture goals. You can do this by auto-transferring dollars into a savings account or saving a percentage of your take-home pay each month.
5. SEND YOUR SAVINGS INTO A SAVINGS ACCOUNT.
If you’re making a concerted effort to save in different areas of your life, make sure the money you save goes toward your savings. Otherwise, it’s easy to spend the savings, leaving you back where you started.
For instance, if you’ve been brown bagging it to work each day this week, netting you $50 in savings on lunch, directly transfer that $50 into your savings account. Saved $20 on groceries by buying things on sale and scouring for deals on the store app? Put that $20 in an account so it will be there when you need it.
6. SAVE YOUR BONUS CASH.
If you get a raise, had a fantastic month freelancing, take on a side gig, or net a work bonus, commit to putting away some of it. While you may want to enjoy some of the extra money—which is perfectly okay—allocate a percentage of this “bonus money” toward your saving goals.
7. HAVE A PLAN FOR SPARE CHANGE.
That change jangling at the bottom of your pocket? Dump it in a jar and earmark it for a specific saving goal. If you empty your jar a couple of times a year, you’ll be surprised at how quickly those coins have added up.
8. GO LEAN IN ONE SPENDING CATEGORY.
Trying to generate significant savings in every aspect of your life can make you feel spread thin and deprived. Instead, commit to spending less in a specific area. For starters, go for the easy wins. For example, cut back in an area where there’s redundant spending. If you recently joined a sports league, you can probably nix the gym membership. Or if you go to the gym just to use their pool, consider getting a pool pass at a nearby recreation center to save money.
You can also start in spending areas where you’ll have an easier time saving. Let’s say you’re a weekend warrior who lives for Sunday brunch with pals. But you aren’t terribly picky when it comes to what’s stocked in your fridge. In that case, start by saving on groceries that month, and don’t worry about cutting back on eating out for the time being.
9. TRACK YOUR FINANCIAL PROGRESS.
Set aside some time each month to see how much progress you’ve made on your money goals. How much debt have you paid off, and how much headway are you making on saving for a down payment on a home, or for that dream trip next year? Seeing results will help you stay on track. Plus, it’ll give you a boost in motivation, and could help you ramp up on saving.
Small changes can make a big difference in your financial health. Another smart switch: matching the cash back you earn when you use your credit card. With Cashback Match, Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year as a cardmember, dollar for dollar. Terms Apply. Learn more at Discover.com.