Americans are doing a less-than-stellar job of saving money — and that goes across the board.
Data from Bankrate shows that one in five U.S. adults aren’t saving any cash for retirement, financial emergencies, or other high-alert financial scenarios.
Reasons for that indifference to savings vary. Part of the problem could be income-related (Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and have no financial room for savings) or it could be that Americans’ financial priorities could be out of whack.
Or, more likely, the reason for a low savings rate among the U.S. adult population is that consumers don’t have the right financial tools needed to save effectively for the long term.
In that event, some financial creativity and discipline tips are in order, with the deployment of these “Top 20” money-saving hacks to (literally) save the day.
Use them all or use the ones you like — but get started with your long-term savings campaign with these top money-saving hacks.
20 Hacks To Help Save You Money
1. Pay Yourself First With Automatic Savings
You can’t miss the money if it’s never in your pocket. That’s the beauty of automated savings, where a financial consumer can set up a direct deposit transfer of a portion of his or her paycheck from checking to savings. Set up an automatic savings transfer on payday and start your money-saving campaign off on the right foot.
2. Get a Spend Tracker and Use It Regularly
Mobile apps are a wonderful tool to save money — especially the apps that help you track your spending. There are dozens to choose from, but popular mobile phone spending and budgeting apps like Mint, Acorns and Every Dollar can help you monitor your spending while helping you build a good household budget, too.
3. Cut the Cord
Streaming video services like Hulu and Netflix ( NFLX – Get Report) make it easy to cut your cable bill and save potentially hundreds of dollars per month. You won’t miss either the TV shows on cable (you can get many of them via streaming services at a deep discount) and you won’t miss the big cable bills, either.
4. Start Your Own Garden
Grow your own vegetables in your back yard garden, and your own fruit if you live in a warm-weather locale. You’ll save money, get plenty of exercise and fresh air, and create a healthy new habit that you can enjoy for years.
5. Get a Side Hustle
Drive for Uber ( UBER) or Lyft, start a dog-walking service, start writing about your passions for money as a freelance writer, or create any other part-time side hustle. You’ll make some money, meet new people, and get a new outlook on life.
6. Cut Those Credit Card Fees
Curbing credit card fees can be as easy as getting on the phone with your plastic provider and asking for a better deal on card fees. Introductory fees and annual fees are among the charges you can cut with a simple phone call. Also, make sure you pay your bills on time to avoid onerous late fees — set up automatic payments before your card payment date to ensure prompt payment and avoid the worst kind of credit card fees.
7. Use the “30 Day Rule”
This personal financial rule can come in handy in avoiding huge purchases you don’t really need. It’s a simple procedure – if you’re considering buying a big-ticket item, like a new $600 big-screen television or $500 watch, let the urge go for 30 days. After that time, the “impulse” to purchase vibe will likely dissipate, and you’ll have just saved yourself a big chunk of change.
8. Hold a Yard Sale
Summer is almost gone but the weather is still conducive to a good yard sale. Selling things you don’t need and cleaning your home up at the same time is very therapeutic. You’ll likely make good and easy cash by selling those golf clubs you don’t use or that box of old cell phones sitting in your desk drawer. You’d be surprised by how much money items like these can fetch and if you really like the feeling, start selling more stuff you don’t want on Craigslist or eBay ( EBAY – Get Report) for more cash and cleanliness.
9. Target Your Household Budget for Big Savings
Taking dead aim at common spending areas, like dining out, shopping for groceries, buying lattes every day, or hiring a housekeeper can save substantial money. Try to cut 25% out of all your everyday household spending items and save hundreds of dollars a month. Extend the 25% rule to your utilities, mobile phone bill, and auto insurance and save more money on common household bills, as well.
10. Save Your Spare Change
Don’t take your loose change lightly. Instead of tossing those quarters, dimes and nickels in a desk drawer or in your pants pocket, get disciplined and start popping your spare change into a jar or piggy bank. At the end of the year, take that spare change to the bank and switch it up for real money (i.e., $10 and $20-dollar bills.) Again, you won’t miss the coins and you’ll have a nice cash cow waiting for you at the end of the year — all because you nickel and dime it on a regular basis.
11. Drive Safer
You can save hundreds of dollars in auto insurance costs simply by being a better driver. Auto insurers routinely jack up insurance rates on drivers with traffic violations — the more severe (like speeding) the higher the rate increase. Slow down, be cautious on the road, and save more in auto insurance — up to 20% of your total bill in many cases.
12. Have a “No Spend” Day
It really doesn’t matter the day or the week and you can have multiple “no spend” days a week. The goal is to go a full day without spending a penny on any item, or at least on excessive items. Yes, you may be forced to spend money on tolls to get to work but by and large, you really don’t have to spend any money if you don’t want or need to. Instead, eat what’s the in the fridge and brew your own coffee in the morning. Or, grab a beer at home from your own stash rather than hit happy hour with the gang. This hack also works on weekends, where the challenge grows more serious, given more free time. But if you can handle a “no spending day” on a Saturday, you can have a no spending day on any day of the week.
13. Ditch Your Credit Cards
No, that doesn’t mean cutting your Visa ( V – Get Report) card up with a pair of scissors. What it does mean is to stash your credit cards away in a safe place until you need a card for a financial emergency. In the meantime, with no card in your pocketbook or wallet, it’s nearly impossible to use it while you’re out and about.
14. Create a Grocery List and Stick to It
Yes, this money-saving hack seems too obvious but the fact is, a grocery list works. Why? Because if you stick to the list and only buy what’s on it (and what you need) you’ll save on those onerous impulse items. Make the task easier with a mobile app like AnyList or Yummly that can easily categorize your shopping list for you.
15. Go With the Store Brand Over the Premium Brand
While you’re at the grocery store, get into the habit of buying the generic store brand products over the high-profile, but higher cost premium brand. Whether it’s peanut butter or cough medicine, you won’t know the difference and you can easily save 10% to 15% by sticking with generic grocery products.
16. Paid Off a Big Bill? Keep Paying
When you finish paying that $350 monthly auto loan bill or that $250 per-month college loan, go ahead and keep right on paying it every month — only this time to yourself. Look at it this way, you’ve already grown used to the big monthly payment and you’ve managed to make it work with your lifestyle. So why not keep paying that $350 payment, but instead of going to a car dealer, have it go to your bank savings or money market account? It’s a great way to save money and build wealth, and it doesn’t really impact your stand of living. More importantly, you’re $350 richer every month.
17. Don’t Spend a Financial Windfall
There’s no law that says you have to take a financial windfall (like an inheritance or bonus at work) and spend it. Instead, why not steer it into your savings or retirement account, or even the stock market, and put that money to work for you. Ask a millionaire about the path to wealth and he or she will tell you that passive investing – making your cash work for you – is the path to profits.
18. Do a “Daily Double” Deposit
You want to save $3,339.75 the easy way? Here’s the deal. Start the process by popping a nickel into a piggy bank or large empty jar today. Add an extra .5 cents per day to your daily contribution (without fail) and after 365 days you’ll have saved the $3,339.75. The beauty part? Your largest daily contribution is only $18.25.
19. Take Out Your Cash Once at the Start of the Month
Avoid pricey ATM fees and, at the same time, ditch your debit card for the month by taking all your spending money out of the ATM on the first day of the month. This move keeps a secure lid on spending and forces you to save your cash for your highest monthly expenditures — you’ll save hundreds of dollars doing so.
20. Play the $5 game
Everyone knows the drill. You pay for an item or two with a $20 bill and get a $5 bill back in your change back. Instead of spending it, put the $5 aside – every time you get a $5 bill. Do this over the course of the month and watch your proud little stash of $5 bills stack up. Then treat yourself to something nice at month-end, because you deserve it.
It’s never too late – or too early – to plan and invest for the retirement you deserve. Get more information and a free trial subscription to TheStreet’s Retirement Daily to learn more about saving for and living in retirement. Got questions about money, retirement and/or investments? Email Robert.Powell@TheStreet.com.