5 Little Tricks That Can Help You Save Cash

Saving money doesn’t have to be a chore. Here are five little games you can play that will help you put more cash in the bank.

The personal savings rate may be rebounding, but there is little doubt most of our emergency funds could use a boost.

So how do we save more? Yes, we all know we should cut the cable and drop the morning mochas, but those suggestions seem like work, right? Rather than make saving a chore, make it a game instead.

Here are five ways to play the savings game:

1. Take the 52-week savings challenge

If you have a Facebook account and more than 10 friends, you probably saw this one floating around the social media world last year.

The idea is simple: Save a dollar for every week of the year. So the first week, you put $1 aside, the second week it’s $2, and the last week of the year, you save $52. Make sense?

By the end of the year, you should have $1,378 in the bank, maybe a little more if your savings account gives you a smidge of interest.

Of course, you can always customize this. Maybe you want to double the amount and do $2 for week one, $4 for week two and so on. Or if you’re worried about running out of steam by the end of the year, you could start with $52 for the first week and then work your way backward.

2. Keep your own change

For those using a cash envelope system, limit yourself to only spending paper currency. Put your change in a jar and then roll it up at the end of the month and deposit it in your savings account.

If your finances allow, take this savings strategy one step further. Spend only bills that are $5 in denomination or larger, and put the $1 bills in your savings change jar, too.

3. Make money disappear from your checking account

You can try the same strategy even if you don’t use cash. Some banks offer options that essentially do the same thing as placing your change in a jar. For example, Bank of America’s Keep the Change program rounds up debit card purchases to the next dollar and then transfers the change to a linked savings account.

You don’t need a special bank program to do this. As you record daily transactions, round them up to the nearest dollar or, if your disposable income allows, the next $5. At the end of the month, when you reconcile your bank account — You do balance your checkbook, right? — transfer all the extra money to your savings account.

4. Put your coupon or sale savings in the bank

Who can resist a great deal? The next time you score an awesome price, put the difference between the regular price and the sale price in the bank.

Do the same with your coupon savings at the grocery store. Many retailers will even very conveniently include your total savings on your receipt.

This strategy can have the double impact of not only helping you save more but also leading you to shop less. After all, those $50 jeans are still going to cost you $50 in the end. This strategy can help you decide if something is really worth spending money on.

5. Never get a raise again

Another painless savings strategy is to bank all of your raises. If you can pay your bills on your current income, you can simply send all that extra money straight to savings. The same goes for bonuses, cash gifts or other unexpected windfalls.

This method is especially easy if your employer allows you to directly deposit your paycheck to multiple accounts. Set up a direct deposit to savings for the amount of the raise, and you’ll never miss it. Then, when your furnace gives up the ghost or it’s time to take that cruise, you’ll have a nice sum of money waiting for you in the bank.

What’s your secret strategy, or your nemesis, when it comes to saving money? Let us know in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

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  • Dale

    I purchased (for just a buck fifty) one of those ginourmous plastic home water dispenser bottles. All I had to do was keep dropping coins (and the occasional two dollar bill) into it. It was a 24/7/365 habit. In about six months I had almost two thousand dollars. Painless, easy and hardly noticeable until I replaced a blown appliance with that dough AND started a second retirement account with the rest.

  • Dale

    Guess you kinda missed the request here to “keep it civil”. I didn’t, so you’re on ignore.

    • I.Popoff

      Sorry to point out your exaggeration, but I don’t think there was anything uncivil about my comment.

      • Dale

        Someone admin did or it wouldn’t have been deleted. What exaggeration are you referring to besides your own?

        • I.Popoff

          I deleted it in consideration of your objection. However, I still find it hard to believe you had enough spare change in your pocket every day to add up to two thousand dollars in six months. That would be about eleven dollars each day. But perhaps you are a vendor of some sort, work out of a cash box and accumulate a lot of coinage each day.

          • Dale

            I made a statement about my experience. Whether you choose to believe it or not is not my concern.

            What IS my concern is being told that my experience is an exaggeration by some cyber stranger. You know nothing of me or my professions nor do I know you. If you had stated that my comment sounded like an exaggeration to you I might have felt less offense. But that is not what you did.

            The words we share here (and perhaps a picture) are all that anyone knows of any of us. I try to use them carefully. Perhaps you should consider doing the same.

          • I.Popoff

            So much for spontaneity.

          • I’m happy to see spontaneity take a back seat to civility.

  • Dale

    I love number three. I’ve used this strategy when I couldn’t save at my normal rate. But I wonder why anyone would wait until the end of the month to balance their checkbook?? I balance weekly because of many small transactions. I’m still saving into that big water jug, too! ;-))

    • Jcatz4

      The usual time to balance a checkbook would be when you receive your bank statement monthly. Recording each transaction you make and subtracting them from your checking acct. balance as the month goes on makes sense but you balance a checking acct. because of outstanding checks that haven’t cleared your acct.

      • Dale

        I can, of course, see that. Maybe I’m a bit obsessive about it but I keep all my receipts dated for the same month together in an envelope and reconcile weekly. I’ve caught the bank lying about what was subtracted from my account that way. After reading about all the charges filed by the Consumer Protection Bureau I don’t trust others to handle my money honestly. Sad statement whether for me or the world but quite true.

        • Jcatz4

          Everybody has their own way of doing things. I haven’t kept a check register for many years. I know that may sound crazy but since I very seldom write checks (abt. 12 a yr.), charge everything that I can because I earn a little cash back bonus (of course, I have to pay balances on cards in full each month to make that work in my favor) and I set up all of my bills to be paid through my online banking. I rarely use my ATM debit card. I can go to my online banking at anytime to see what has been deducted from my acct. and to make sure that everything is ok. So far so good.

          • HautePepper

            I do the same. I don’t even remember the last time I wrote a check or even had a check book. Every time I use my debit card, I get an automatic, immediate notification on my phone that the exact correct amount of money has been recorded. The notification links to the bank and I can see every transaction in real time. Since the notification comes immediately at the time of purchase, I always have the receipt in hand and can easily see that it’s correct. Everything is done for me.

  • Lori Kemer

    I used to clean my change purse out every evening, putting only the pennies in a jar. I only used bills, thereby keeping all my change in my coin purse. By Christmas time each year, I had saved enough to buy 6 live Christmas trees for our home, one in each child’s bedroom, one in the living room, family room and entryway. These were not small trees but rather 6′ – 7′ trees. I can only imagine what I could have saved if I threw all my change into that jar. Since I am now retired and on a fixed income, it is a little harder to save but I am going to try my old technique along with some of the others mentioned above.

  • eyeRollz

    My credit union has automatic transfers that you can set up. I set up a weekly transfer from my checking account to a savings account for a couple of dollars. Over time I increased the amount by a dollar every now and then. I don’t notice the money leaving the account and I now some money in case I need it.

  • Lorilu

    I save my change, and take it to the bank to be counted in the machine (which is free for bank customers). Then I take the printed voucher to the teller and deposit the money immediately in my account.

  • Kenton Gidewall

    I kept trying to get my teenagers to balance their checkbooks, but they looked at me like I was crazy when I told them they should. They said, “I just look online at my bank account to see how much money I have.” When I told them that that can mess them up because you can have checks floating around out there that you forget about, they looked at me again like I was crazy. “Checks? I don’t even HAVE checks for my account!”, they said. As I’ve gone more electronic, using BillPay, I’ve found the same thing. I don’t balance my checkbook anymore because with online accounts and BillPay, there are very few surprises with my account and just looking at my balance online is sufficient.

  • Kenton Gidewall

    I’ve followed the rule of putting 50% of my raise into savings before. Putting away 100% year after year means that you don’t keep up with inflation and you find your money buying less and less. 100% for one year is probably OK, but not every year. I would hate to be trying to live today off of what I made 20 years ago.

    • Victor

      Man, you are so lucky to get a raise every year!

      • Jcatz4

        Yes, he is lucky. My Social Security didn’t get any raise this year. They say that’s because the cost of living didn’t go up. I think they base that on the fact the gasoline and oil have been lower but they are not the only things I purchase. In fact, since I am retired, I usually only have to fill my gas tank once every 3-4 weeks.

    • engliv

      Where can you successfully invest your savings?????

      • Kenton Gidewall

        Take a look at some other articles here on Money Talk News. They have lots of suggestions. A few that I use: If you are talking about building up your emergency fund to 3-6 months of expenses for an emergency fund, then online banks like Capital One 360 and others offer about a 1% rate. My credit union also has some great rates. If you are talking about beyond an emergency fund, then peer to peer lenders such as Lending Club can give you some decent rates. Of course, the stock market will probably give you the best long-term rate of return and I would suggest you stick with mutual funds there.

  • Michyle

    I do all of the above. One Variation I do is to set up a budget for Rent, Utilities ect and add 10-15% to the amount a put to the side.

  • Sharonkb

    Two years ago I read advice from a person who said, “Never spend a $5.00 bill”. Each time this person received a five dollar bill in change, it was put in an envelope and deposited in the savings account every month or two. I didn’t think this would work for me, as I carry very little cash, but decided to try it. In six to eight months I had saved $400.00. I still follow this rule today. The only frustrating part is if I only have around twenty dollars and buy something for a small amount – and the clerk hands me three fives back.

    • Chris Schodrowski

      Would part of this strategy include you thinking twice about breaking the $20 for a small purchase?

      • Sharonkb

        It always makes me think twice about making a small purchase, which saves me more money. The few times I do it is for a small prescription, which I could charge on my credit card and pay it off when the statement comes.

  • Georgia Wessling

    I was deep in cc debt and working 1 f/t and 2-4 p/t jobs to get it paid off. However, at 51, I also knew I had to start a 457 account. I put a small amount in and later began putting in my annual raise (yes they still had them from 88-2005) into that account. After 6-7 years, I was told I could no longer deposit the entire raise. Shocked me. Why couldn’t I. They said the maximum I could put in was 25% of my gross monthly income. I informed them I couldn’t possibly be doing that. They assured me I was. I was allowed to add $11 a month that year. This when I was paying off massive debt, living away from home in a studio apt., eating out daily, and going home once a week or so to see my spouse. I knew when I started this that if things got too tight, I could always change or stop my donations to the 457. Thank God, I never had to do that. But, what really amazed me was how easy it was to do this. I could not spend what was not in my checking account, so I learned to live on that. I have never regretted doing that. I didn’t have the million or so they say you need, but my much less than $100k total is okay by me. I withdraw the minimum each year end and that helps what little interest there is to grow.

  • disqus_ESVHOKOSbN

    Had all paycheck deposited into a saving account, We removed a budget amount ($500 every two weeks, was lower when we started) we called this account regular checking (food, clothing, utility bills, everyday bills) placed the same amount into another checking account, we named Morty. from this account we paid for car insurance, Mortgage. We only gave ourselves a raise when bills went up (we would look at our budget at the beginning of each year). We paid off our Mortgage in just about 10 years. We were a one income family and my husband was able to retire on his 55th birthday. He had a really good 401k plan the company matched 100% so he put in the max. We did received some extra money from a parent passing, but we have put that all away with the money we saved over the years (we have been investing in dividend stock since the early 1980’s and those dividend have also been reinvested). we have used drip funds and brokerage account (buying and holding on to dividend stocks, we are now living off the dividend and still saving about half of the dividends we make). We travel, buy a new car every 6 year or so. We are not spenders, but we do not want. It can be done, we started this method when we first got married in our early 20’s. Our child was born handicapped so we know we would have to make sure she would be taken care of, I don’t know if we would have done this other wise, but so glad we did.

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