Seven saving hacks to ease financial pressures

Rising inflation and the upcoming holiday shopping season could weigh on your budget

For big expenses that are on the horizon, set aside a small amount of money each month so the final cost doesn’t overwhelm your budget. Getty Images
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With the holiday shopping season just starting and prices of many consumer goods continuing to rise, saving money can seem impossible. But those financial pressures also make doing so even more important.

Saving is your margin,” says Eric Maldonado, a certified financial planner and owner of Aquila Wealth Advisers.

“When things happen – your car breaks down or there’s a layoff, or smaller stuff like gifts for the holidays – you have something to fall back on.”

Mr Maldonado notes that saving can also allow you to have money for fun things.

The personal savings rate for Americans has been dropping in the past few months, and as of July was 3.5 per cent, according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Mr Maldonado recommends aiming for a savings rate closer to 20 per cent of your take-home income.

“You can live off of 80 per cent and put 20 per cent towards deferred gratification,” he suggests.

That guidance matches the popular 50:30:20 budget, which suggests putting 50 per cent of your take home income towards needs, 30 per cent towards wants, and 20 per cent towards savings and any debt payments.

“If you're just starting out, then it can be too daunting, but you can work towards it,” Mr Maldonado adds.

If you’re looking for ways to power up your savings, consider these strategies:

1. Pause before buying

“One of the biggest mistakes people make is buying things you don’t need,” says Vivian Tu, author of the forthcoming book Rich AF: The Winning Money Mindset That Will Change Your Life and a TikTok influencer who posts as @YourRichBFF.

To counter that tendency, she recommends “taking a beat” before making any purchase.

“Really ask yourself, ‘Why do I want that thing? What makes it special?’” she suggests.

Ms Tu says asking herself that question helped her to scale back on material purchases so she had more money for experiences, like holidays and brunches with friends.

2. Spread out the impact of big expenses

For big expenses that are on the horizon, Cary Carbonaro, a financial planner and senior vice president at financial advisory company ACM Wealth, recommends setting aside a small amount of money each month so the final cost doesn’t overwhelm your budget.

“If you know you’re going to spend $1,200 at Christmas, then put aside $100 a month for the whole year,” Ms Carbonaro suggests. “Everybody overspends in December unless you budgeted for it.”

3. Try kerbside pickup

When Ryan Greiser, a financial planner and founder of the financial company Opulus, and his wife noticed their credit card bill going up with inflation, they brainstormed ways to cut back.

One of their most successful ideas was relying on online grocery ordering with kerbside pickup.

“We noticed that if we did kerbside pickup, our bill was $50 to $100 less than if we went into the store because we only bought the things on our list. It reduced impulse buys and allowed us to easily compare prices and coupons that popped up on the screen,” Mr Greiser says.

Given their weekly shopping needs for a family with three young children, that shift allowed them to save $200 to $400 a month.

4. Rotate subscriptions

Mr Greiser and his family also started saving $10 to $30 a month by rotating their streaming subscriptions based on what shows they were currently watching.

“We keep one or two active subscriptions and cancel the rest or pause it when a show wraps up so we can rotate to the next one,” he says, adding that he sets a reminder on his calendar so he doesn’t forget to cancel.

Similarly, he pauses his fitness subscriptions when the weather is good enough to exercise outside.

“They are month to month, so easy to pause and restart,” he says.

5. Ask for discounts

Speaking up for yourself is another saving strategy. “You have power as a consumer,” Ms Tu says.

That means you can ask your bank to waive late fees or overcharge fees, or ask for a discount on shoes that have a scuff on them.

“Be polite, be kind, but you can be entitled and understand that your business has value,” she adds.

The answer might be “no”, but there’s no reason not to ask, and it might just save you some money.

We keep one or two active subscriptions and cancel the rest or pause it when a show wraps up so we can rotate to the next one
Ryan Greiser, financial planner

6. Shop around for insurance

Find discounts on the bills you don’t look at very often, too. Instead of letting your home and auto insurance automatically renew, consider taking time to shop around through an online comparison tool.

When Mr Greiser did that, he ended up saving a total of $1,000 on his bundled car and home insurance plan.

7. Sign up for cashback apps

Popular cashback apps allow you to earn cash for online shopping after you set up an account.

“I highly recommend using cashback apps,” Ms Tu says. “I know it seems like kind of a pain to sign up, but you can save hundreds of dollars a year because it lets you get cash back on purchases you were already making.”

Sometimes making the extra effort pays off, right into your savings account.

Updated: September 29, 2023, 5:00 AM