In my experience as a money editor, I’ve received quite a bit of good (and bad) savings advice over the years. The bad? Anything that requires me to cut out a daily coffee. (Yes, I know, my $4-a-day Starbucks habit is draining my kid’s college fund!) As for the good advice? Here’s what I’ve got:
1. Nickname Your Accounts
I learned this one from my very own financial planner: When setting up a new savings account, label it by intention (say, a 2020 Portugal vacation or a better car) in order to incentivize yourself to contribute. Most banks make nicknaming easy (Capital One’s 360 Savings, for example, gives you the option to label 25) and I’ve found it’s also a useful way to spend the funds you save on stuff that actually makes you happy.
2. Gamify Savings with Your Spouse
This is a tip I picked up from PureWow’s SVP of content. To keep track, you could use a shared Excel doc to see who can spend less each week. Or you could set up a joint Venmo account that you “pay” every time one of you holds back on an unnecessary purchase. When I tried this with my husband, it was actually pretty eye-opening. Turns out, he’s bad with small purchases like a fancy mustard he wants to try or a new cookbook, whereas I’m weak when it comes to bigger splurges like Céline Dion concert tickets. (Come on, that’s a can’t-miss.) Still, knowledge is power, and at the end of a few weeks, we were able to cut our spending by about 10 percent.
3. Use an Online Bank for Better APY
I grew up thinking it was best to store all of one’s savings under one roof. But as it turns out, you can expect a much better annual percentage yield (APY) simply by relocating your savings to an online-only bank, which has very little overhead and can afford to offer pretty insane interest rates. Ally Bank, for instance, is currently offering an APY of 1.7 percent. Compared with the national average of 0.09 percent you’d get at a big-name bank, that’s huge.
4. Almost Any Service Is Up for Negotiation
It’s tempting to take a price as is, but over the years I’ve come to learn that everything from your cable bill to your Airbnb to your number of vacation days is up for negotiation. For instance, last year I called my cable company and threatened to cut the cord. They countered with a $15-a-month discount, which works out to $180 a year. Likewise, I pitched a lower—but still reasonable—rate to an Airbnb host before booking a recent trip to San Francisco and she agreed, saving me $45 a night.
5. Schedule Zero-Dollar Days
The concept is simple: Spend nothing over the course of a day. That might mean packing your lunches for the week. Or scrounging in the work kitchen for breakfast. Or putting a cute blouse into your online shopping cart and then promptly removing it. Clearly, it’s not a long-term solution, but it can teach you about better impulse control. I recently tried it on a day when a coat that I love-love-loved went on sale. But, given that it was a zero-dollar day, I refrained from purchasing, and when I got home I remembered that I actually own a similar style that was collecting dust in my closet. Two hundred dollars saved! I try to have a zero-dollar day about once a week, but I’ve talked to women who do it as often as every other day. (Maybe that’ll be my goal for next year…)