3 Easy Ways To Save $100 Or More A Month
It's not as hard as you think.
It’s probably no surprise that the top financial resolution year after year is to save more money. It also is probably no surprise that many Americans have trouble following through on this resolution.
What’s disheartening is that women are more likely than men to fall off the wagon on the way to reaching savings goals. A survey by AARP found that 51 percent of women versus 35 percent of men who vowed to save more in 2019 were already off track two months into the year.
So why is it so hard to stick to a plan to save more? Perhaps because the plan you’ve made isn’t simple enough. If you vowed — maybe once again — to save more this year, here are three easy ways to hop back on the wagon and boost your savings by at least $100 a month.
Adjust your tax withholding
One of the easiest ways to save money is to put more money back in each paycheck by adjusting your tax withholding. If you get a hefty tax refund each spring, it can feel like a big windfall. But it’s not free money. It’s your money that you’ve let the government hang onto interest-free throughout the year. You could be saving that money each month in an interest-bearing account and have more at the end of the year than that refund you’d get without interest. If you receive the average federal tax refund of $2,869, you could increase your monthly paycheck by about $239 by filling out a new Form W-4 with your employer to have less tax withheld.
Then increase your contribution to your workplace retirement plan by the amount you added back into your paycheck. By putting that extra money directly into savings, you eliminate the risk that you’ll spend it throughout the month. It’s a surefire way to actually save more.
Trim your monthly bills
If you spend a little time calling your service providers to negotiate better rates or shopping around for better deals from other providers, you could easily save $100 or more per month. For example, drivers with good records miss out on savings of $416.52 a year, on average, by not shopping around for better car insurance rates, according to an analysis by NerdWallet.
In states such as Connecticut, Delaware and Michigan, the missed savings are as much as $1,845.59. That’s nearly $154 a month that could be saved by shopping around for an insurer with lower rates. Compare rates and get quotes at a website such as Insure.com.
Compare plans from cell phone, Internet, cable and satellite TV providers at WhistleOut.com to see if you can cut your monthly costs on those services by switching providers or plans. Or use a service such as BillCutterz to analyze your bills for savings and to negotiate better rates for you. It claims to save its customers hundreds of dollars per year (and gets 50 percent of the savings as its fee).
Once you lock in lower rates, your monthly savings will be automatic. To actually save that money, though, add up how much less your bills are and have that amount automatically transferred each month to a savings account or retirement account.
Get free cash from your employer to boost savings
You might be missing out on an easy way to save more if you’re not contributing enough to your workplace retirement account to get your employer’s full matching contribution. Most employers that offer 401(k) plans match their employees’ contributions — usually $1 for every $1 they contribute, up to 6 percent of the employee’s annual income.
However, 1 in 4 employees don’t contribute enough to receive the full match, according to a study by Financial Engines. For example, say you earn $50,000 a year and your employer matches your retirement contribution dollar-for-dollar up to 6 percent of your income. If you set aside 6 percent of your income — $250 a month — in your 401(k), you’d get $3,000 a year in matching contributions. If you contributed only 3 percent of your income, you’d be leaving $125 of free money on the table each month, or $1,500 a year.
Talk to your employer’s human resources department to find out how much you need to contribute to your retirement account to get the full employer match. If you’ve trimmed your bills and adjusted your withholding, you likely have the extra cash to boost your contributions to take full advantage of this free money that you can add to your savings.
Cameron Huddleston is an award-winning personal finance journalist and author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations with Your Parents About Their Finances.