This article is part of the “Save More Series,” which comprises of 4 articles. Read part 1, part 2, and part 3 for more information.
No matter what your income looks like, saving up can be difficult. Most of us are just trying to keep our head above water on monthly bills, rent and groceries — and squirreling away some of that hard-earned cash for a later day? That’s often the last thing on our minds.
Fortunately, saving doesn’t have to be a huge hassle — nor does it mean cutting out all expenses and living off the grid for a few years. Are you planning a big trip later this year? Want enough for that first semester of college or a down payment on a new car? The first step is to make a plan, and then you have to stick to it.
In order to save up $5,000 in three months, you should ideally have a target in mind that you save up each month. Depending on your budget and other circumstances, aim for roughly $1,500-$2,000 in savings each month. This may sound challenging at first, but here are five simple ways that can help you get on the right path.
1. Take up a side hustle — even if it’s only for a few hours a week.
Potential Earnings: Over $1,000/month
Everyone has some spare time on their hands, so why not use yours to make a little extra cash for those financials goals? You don’t even have to commit to a part-time job or other scheduled position. Thanks to the growing gig economy, you can grocery shop for people, run errands, deliver food, walk dogs, pet/house sit or taxi others around in your own car. Most of these options offer flexible hours and let you work where you want, when you want to.
Some common gig services you might want to look into working for include:
You can even deliver orders for Amazon (through Amazon Flex) or do things like secret shopping or taking online surveys when you’re available. Just make sure you set up direct deposit and have your pay go automatically into your savings account. You don’t want to be tempted by all that extra income and throw your savings goals off track.
2. Use a round-off savings app to slip savings under the radar.
Potential Savings: Over $100/month
Saving $100 bucks might seem hard all at once, but saving it a few dimes at a time? That’s much easier to come by when you’re strapped for cash. Fortunately, there a handful of apps that can help you do just that.
Chime, for example, rounds up every purchase you make to the nearest dollar and then deposits that cash right into your bank account. You’ll also earn a 10% reward on all money you stow away – that’s an extra $25 for every $250 you save! Acorns is another similar one. However, instead of routing your spare change into a savings account, it actually invests those funds into a potentially money-earning portfolio. It’s a great, easy way to “make your money work for you,” as they say.
3. Renegotiate your long-term contracts and existing rates.
Potential Savings: Over $50/month
If you’ve been using the same provider for a while (for just about anything), then it’s time to consider renegotiating your rate or contract. This can mean calling up your gym, car insurance provider, cable company, cell phone provider or any other service you’re a longtime customer of.
Before you call, do some research on what specials or promos, if any, your provider is running. Presumably, if they’re willing to offer X% discount for a new customer, they should be willing to extend that same deal to a longtime and loyal client like yourself. You should also look at competitors’ offerings. Come armed with this information before picking up the phone.
When you do call, ask to speak to a customer service representative or, better yet, a manager or retention specialist. Start by telling them how long you’ve been a customer, how you’d like to remain a customer, but that their rates are no longer within your budget. “I see you’re offering X% discount to new customers. It doesn’t seem fair that someone who has been a loyal customer for Y years has to pay Z more per month. Is there anything you can do to remedy this?” If they say they can’t help, ask to be transferred to someone who can or, at the very least, the cancellations department. You can try again with the next representative you speak to until someone is able to help you renegotiate your rate.
Regarding your car insurance, you have a legal right to be re-rated once every 12 months. If you have good credit and a clean driving record, always do this, as you’ll likely qualify for a discount and see your rate reduced significantly.
4. Take advantage of lesser-known discounts.
Potential Savings: Over $50/month
If you work for a big organization (or your spouse does), or you’re a customer of a big-name brand in some way, you’re likely missing out on serious discounts one way or another. Check with your HR department and ask for a list of discounts and benefits. Many employers have negotiated reduced rates with cell phone providers, insurance companies and local businesses as well.
If you’re a customer of a major car insurance brand or cell phone company, you’ll also likely qualify for discounts. AAA, AT&T, Progressive, etc. — they all offer promos and discounts at partner service providers. You should also check with your bank and credit card companies. You could save by shopping at designated stores and restaurants (or maybe even get cash back on those purchases).
5. Stop the subscriptions — at least temporarily.
Potential Savings: Over $5/month
For three months, consider cutting out the various subscription services you’re paying for. This can include things like Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music or any other media or streaming service you’re a part of, as well as magazine, newspaper and social media services you might be subscribed to.
You can also kick subscription boxes to the curb temporarily — cooking ones like Hello Fresh or Blue Apron, makeup ones like Birchbox or clothing ones like Le Tote or Fabletics. Make sure you funnel those saved subscription fees into a savings account — ideally one that earns you interest. If you’re a big subscriber (think five services or more), it could save you hundreds of dollars a month.
$5,000 Is Well Within Reach
At a bare minimum, doing these things (to the extent they apply) could get you over $1,200 in additional savings each month. Of course, you should be able to save substantially more following at least a few of these methods. Stick to them, commit to at least three months of hard work and you’ll hit that $5K milestone in no time.
A quick disclaimer: This is not an exact or proven savings plan. Actual savings amounts vary greatly from person to person, depending on their financial scenario, living expenses and individual spending and saving habits. For guidance that’s customized to your unique situation and goals, consider consulting a financial planner or tax advisor in your area.
Read more from our “Save More Series”: