The new year may still be a few weeks away, but why not get a head start on some resolutions to make 2022 the best it can be? One way to do that is by giving yourself a solid financial foundation. And, for many people, that means putting more money aside to reach their financial goals.
But where do you find the extra funds to save — especially if you’re already on a tight budget? You have two main options: Reduce your expenses or make more money. Here, we share ideas that can help you do either one — or both!
Cut expenses to free up funds
Start by carefully reviewing your current expenses. Look for non-essential costs that you could easily cut. For instance, cancel subscriptions you don’t enjoy or memberships you never use.
Next, look for places where you can make small budget cuts you’ll barely notice. Pledge to eat out or get takeout coffee one or two less times each week. Eliminate one streaming service or move to a cheaper plan. Likewise, see if you can switch to a less expensive phone plan. Be smart about utilities, too. Use your washing machine during off-peak hours. Adjust the thermostat a little lower in the winter and a little higher in the summer.
For potentially greater savings, review your auto and homeowners insurance coverage. Ask about discounts — could you lower your premium by using the same insurer for both your home and auto policies? Can you increase your deductible or lower your coverage?
Then consider your mortgage or rent. You may be able to reduce your monthly mortgage payment with a refinance. If you rent, try negotiating with your landlord. If that fails, consider moving to a smaller unit or a location with lower rent.
Make more money
If cutting costs doesn’t get your budget where you want it, then it’s time to consider ways to increase your income. Ask for a raise — especially if you’ve gained new skills or taken on new responsibilities. And it never hurts to keep an eye out for new job opportunities with higher salaries.
Another route is to take on part-time work. Remember, you won’t have to work those extra hours forever, but just until you reach your goal. For instance, tell yourself you’ll work the part-time gig until you have $5,000 in savings, until you pay off your largest credit card balance or until you meet another financial objective.
You may also be able to bring in extra cash by selling things you don’t need, such as good quality clothing, jewelry or working electronics. If you’re a two-car household, explore the feasibility of reducing to a single car. That could not only bring in money from selling one vehicle, but would also cut costs for insurance, car payments, fuel and maintenance.
Once you’ve added money to your budget by cutting costs or increasing income, create a plan for how you’ll use it. One smart idea is to use at least some money to build an emergency fund that you can dive into in case of unexpected expenses (like major home or car repairs). That helps prevent you from building up new debt or draining savings meant for other needs.
You can also use the money to eliminate existing debt. Once you pay off a balance, you free up those monthly payments to pay off other debts or pursue other goals.
Ideally, some of your new-found funds should go into a “do not touch” savings fund for mid- and long-term objectives. To avoid temptation, have this money automatically deposited to your savings account, either through direct deposits from your paycheck or automatic transfers from your checking to your savings account.
As your savings grow, look for options that let you earn interest (free money!). For instance, consider a savings account that lets you earn interest with no minimum balance requirement. Or explore a money market account or certificate of deposit (CD).
Reducing your expenses and stashing money away for the future can feel challenging at times. To help avoid slipping back to your old ways, remember that you’re saving for a purpose — achieving financial peace of mind and reaching your goals and dreams. If you need help, the team at your local Hancock Whitney financial center can review savings solutions with you and even help you develop a financial plan.
“Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget,” Laura McMullen, NerdWallet, April 16, 2021, https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/finance/ways-to-save-money-on-a-tight-budget,
“12 Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget,” Matthew Goldberg, Bankrate.com, June 2, 2021, https://www.bankrate.com/banking/savings/ways-to-save-money-on-a-tight-budget/
“10 Saving and Investing Tips for All Ages,” Marie Geffner, Bankrate.com, posted Nov. 5, 2018, https://www.bankrate.com/banking/savings/saving-and-investing-tips/