Trying to save money can be a daunting task. The world of personal finance often feels overly complex, full of opaque concepts and confusing terminology. And while most of us would like to save more of our hard-earned money, figuring out how to balance budgets, invest, or just spend less can feel like a chore. But you don’t need a degree in economics to manage your money wisely. In fact, there are plenty of easy ways to save money, from tiny lifestyle changes to neat budgeting tricks. Here are a few of our favorites:
1. MAKE UP A MONEY MANTRA.
This might seem silly, but it also sounds more fun than “defining your financial goals." Instead of shouting “Serenity Now” to control your blood pressure, a la Seinfeld’s Frank Costanza, your money mantra could be anything from “I will pay off my debts” to “I’m saving my money for a trip to the Bahamas.” According to Refinery29, no matter what you choose, a money mantra can help you stay focused on your goals and prioritize your spending.
2. FIND ONE EXPENSE TO CUT.
Look at your last credit card statement and find one expense that doesn’t need to be there—it could be a magazine subscription you forgot to cancel, a gym membership you never use, or your daily Starbucks habit.
3. CHECK YOUR CREDIT SCORE.
Knowing your credit score is incredibly important—it can affect everything from your ability to get a loan to whether you’ll be approved for a new home—and it’s also really easy to find out. There are plenty of free credit score sites online, including Credit Karma, which also offers tips to help you manage and improve your score.
4. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF DISCOUNTS AT YOUR SCHOOL OR WORKPLACE.
Many colleges and jobs offer discounts on everything from public transportation to gym and museum memberships—so whether you’re looking to get fit or develop an appreciation for art on a budget, consulting your employer is a great first step.
5. LEAVE YOUR 401(K) ALONE.
This might be the easiest money-saver of all—since it involves not doing anything—but it makes a big impact. Cashing in your 401(k) before you’re 59 will cost you a penalty of at least 10%. Don't have a 401(k) yet? Get on it. Starting early is key to ensuring you have enough savings to live on post-retirement.
6. SET UP AUTOMATIC WITHDRAWALS FROM YOUR PAYCHECK.
It takes five minutes to set up an automatic transfer to your savings account, and it can save you hundreds of dollars without any effort. Just choose how much money you want taken out of your paycheck each month, and watch the savings build up over time.
7. LET AN APP DECIDE HOW MUCH YOU'RE READY TO SAVE.
If you’re not sure how much money to put aside each month, let an app like Digit make the decision for you. Digit automatically analyzes your spending habits and starts putting aside small amounts of money every few days without you even noticing.
8. KEEP A CHANGE JAR.
In the 21st century, it can feel like spare change is becoming a thing of the past. Most of us don’t keep track of those loose nickels and dimes any more, since their weight in our pockets often feels greater than their value. But keeping track of your loose change can save you plenty in the long run. For instance, if you regularly buy snacks or coffee, use your loose change jar as your "coffee budget."
9. BECOME YOUR OWN PERSONAL BARISTA.
If you’re drinking too much coffee for your change jar to sustain you, try making your own. Not only will becoming your own barista save money, but it’ll give you the opportunity to experiment with different coffee creations.
10. BUILD A BUDGET.
11. INVEST IN A SAFE BET.
This one involves a little more research, but can earn you thousands. In general, investing in an index fund rather than an individual stock is a much safer bet, since they offer a lot of diversification and have low fees. Marie Claire, for instance, notes that if you invest $500 a year in the S&P 500 (an index of 500 diversified companies) you’ll likely end up with $7,195 in just 10 years.