Pinch Those Pennies! How to Establish a Weekly Money Saving Plan
Photo by Micheile Henderson
Are you trying to build a savings account?
More than 50 percent of all Americans have less than $1,000 in a savings account. 33% live completely paycheck-to-paycheck, making saving very difficult.
Is there a way to get out of this trap?
While it can be difficult, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to develop a weekly money saving plan that works.
You may not be able to use every single one at once, but hopefully, a few of them will allow you to save up for whatever intended purpose you have.
Do you want to save for retirement? Are you trying to buy something special for your kids for the holidays? Maybe you have a big wedding or special vacation that you’re putting your pennies away for.
Maybe you just want the safety net of having a bit of extra money in the bank for emergencies.
Whatever the reason, keep reading for a few tips on establishing a money-saving plan.
Make a Detailed List of Expenses and Draw a Budget
You’re going to have to do some math and budgeting here. How much money do you really spend each week?
For some people who already know the ropes of saving every penny, this is old news. Of course, you know all of your expenses, how couldn’t you?
For others, though, this might be a newer concept and a bit harder to track accurately.
Think of it like tracking calories. It’s far easier to underestimate than overestimate, and most people tend to underestimate.
When it comes to money, you might be thinking that you spend far less than you do. Small purchases are harder to remember. You may pay for parking here and there, or make a spare grocery run for something you forgot on your weekly trip. Maybe you made an app purchase or bought a soda or coffee.
Record every purchase that you make and see where you wind up at the end. Do this for several weeks until you can average out a month. Do you like where you stand? You might be surprised at how much you’re actually spending.
You’re going to have to sit down and think about how much you actually need to spend on the average week. Don’t blindly guess. How much of your food budget accounts for necessities? Are you going to allow yourself a fund for “extras” like snacks, alcohol, or a night out?
How much do you spend on gas or public transportation? Divided into weeks, how much will you spend on bills, rent, childcare, or other necessary expenses?
The number that you come up with after careful budgeting is likely lower than what you came up with the first time. Use this budget as a guide.
Pay in Cash and Track Your Spending
Are you someone who tends to get a little carried away when using a card every day?
If you’re able, withdraw cash at the beginning of the week in the amount of your budget (excluding bills which will be paid at the end of the month).
Giving yourself a set amount of money that is tangible makes it much harder to overspend. You know the real cost of what you’re buying and it no longer feels like a digital transaction (which can often feel “fake”). Thus, you’ll likely save more.
For purchases that must be made with a card (such as online transactions), either save the cash for the next week or put it into a savings box or jar to remain untouched until it’s needed. The digital purchases still need to be tracked.
It can be helpful to track your purchases with some kind of app for managing expenses. This can lay everything out visually so you’re always aware of what you’re spending even if cash isn’t always an available option.
Get a Side Hustle
Not everyone has time for a side-hustle, but if you do, it might be a good way to make a few extra dollars per month that can be put towards a future savings account. Even if it doesn’t seem like a lot right now, it adds up.
There are a few ways to make money that only require setup and occasional maintenance. This is referred to as passive income. If you possess certain skills, passive income might be an option for you.
These are things like blogging, creating a YouTube channel, or other internet-based income sources.
If you have marketable skills that you don’t use for work, consider applying them from time to time if you’re able.
Are you a writer? Are you an artist or an amateur photographer? Many people want to pay for these services, you only have to look. If you have a real talent for these things, they can be turned into side hustles (or even real hustles if you’re dedicated enough).
If you have the time you can consider babysitting or dog walking.
Check job boards in your city for gigs and you might be shocked at the kinds of things that people will pay you for.
Trying to build more income through a side hustle or your primary hustle is one way to focus on earning money and saving money at the same time. There are plenty of great resources for earning more money doing what you enjoy. See one, benbuckwalter.com, as an example and get inspired.
Invest or Gain Interest
When you finally start having a few spare dollars per week, put them somewhere that will earn you money, not remain stagnant.
There are a few ways to go about this.
There are some kinds of savings accounts that have a higher rate of interest, allowing your money to gain more value over time.
Before deciding where to put your money, do some research into the different types of savings accounts that are available to you. Different accounts have different requirements and it might benefit you to talk to a teller or bank manager to help you figure out what the best option is. There’s no harm in a consultation and they’re often free.
If you’re confident in your ability to invest, consider investing in stocks.
The stock market isn’t always a safe choice and it can be a bit haphazard. That said, there are stocks that are generally considered to be safe choices as long as you’re intending on keeping your money invested in the long term.
Do some research into the stock market before investing and never invest more than you’re comfortable losing. Even investing a few dollars per week into a safe account (even by using fractional shares) can be a great way to earn interest on your small amounts of savings over time.
Set Goals for Saving
Sometimes the idea of “saving money” can feel too vague, like an amorphous cloud of an idea. What if you broke it down into small, clear parts?
There are a few ways you can go about this.
You can set specific savings goals for objects, trips, or milestones if that’s one of the reasons you’re trying to pinch those pennies. Saying “I want to save money every week” feels obtainable but easy to ignore, but saying “I want to save $300 for a weekend trip for my family” gives you a specific goal to work towards.
These goals can be very small or very large. You can use apps or separate bank accounts to track your progress towards them.
You can also set weekly savings goals.
If you find that you’re spending too much money every week, simply saying “I will spend less money this week than I did last week” is a bit too vague to be effective. Instead, saying “I want to spend $10 dollars less this week than I did last week” or “I want to add $30 to my savings account this week” gives you something tangible.
This might be hard at first, but eventually, you’ll be able to raise your goals.
Figure Out Where You Can Cut Back
For some people, this might be tough.
Many people are already living on pretty tight budgets without extras. If that sounds like you, this tip might not be up your alley. If not though, keep reading.
Do you often buy coffee on the way to work? This might seem like an affordable treat, but how much does it really cost you over the course of a week? What about a year?
The average cup of coffee (without the frills or froths of some of the special drinks) is just over $2. If you’re buying something fancy, you can spend closer to $5, but we’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. If you buy coffee every workday (assuming a normal Monday to Friday work week) you’ll spend a minimum of $10 per week.
That might not sound like a lot, and it isn’t, but what does that add up to every month? Assuming roughly weeks per month, that’s over $40. Per year that’s $520. That’s only for the cheap coffee.
What about other extras? Do you buy your lunch or bring it with you? How often do you grab a protein shake at the gym instead of making one or waiting until you’re back at home to get a meal?
Do you smoke? How much are your cigarettes costing you weekly? Depending on your state, you can spend over $10 for a pack of cigarettes. How much are you spending weekly or monthly? What else could that money get you?
Everyone needs a few small niceties to get them through the day, but consider how many of these things you actually have. Which ones can you cut out?
Make Saving Easy
You can make saving an automatic process. There are some apps for this and some bank accounts do it for you.
You can decide to have x% of your money that goes directly into a savings account rather than a checking account. This takes some of the responsibility out of your hands.
Many of the apps designed for this have a small fee but will take the change from purchases (essentially rounding up to the nearest dollar) and put the rest either into a savings account or into a variety of investment accounts.
This simplifies the process and takes some temptation away from you.
Track Your Progress
While you’re working on budgeting and saving you’re likely going to hit a few roadblocks. This is new, and saving money can be hard. There are a lot of necessary expenses and sometimes things just come up.
Tracking your savings and figuring out where you might be “less than perfect” will enable you to make adjustments as you go along and figure out what’s working and what isn’t.
You might find out that you completely miscalculated the first time and you need to rework your strategy. You wouldn’t have realized if you hadn’t been tracking in the first place!
Turning into a super-saver doesn’t happen overnight, but working towards it over time is key to making it a long-term strategy.
Weekly Money Saving Doesn’t Have to be Hard
Trying to save money can feel impossible when bills pile up and there are mouths to feed. However, with some strategizing, cutting a few extras, and smart saving and investing strategies though, you can have a weekly money saving plan that works for you.
You’ll set yourself up for a stable future or just have a little more of a financial cushion for extra fun things or in case of emergencies. You can do it!
For more financial advice, keep reading our blog.