Parents and writers are always looking for how to save money every month. But it can be hard to find ways to save the extra pennies. In fact, when I have extra change I worry that my kids might swallow it. So when I learned about a killer app that takes your spare change and invests it for you, I was curious.
Honestly, I’m not naturally frugal and find saving money difficult, but I was already in the mindset of trying something different.
How to Save Money Each Month
This began my search for help in how to change my spending habits. The first budget software app I stumbled across was Acorns.
Basically, you hook a bank or credit card up to your Acorns account. Every time you make a purchase, you can round up that purchase to the nearest dollar. You spend $4.85 at Starbucks, Acorns rounds it up to five bucks. You can have this done automatically or decide purchase by purchase.
Acorns then invests it in a money market account. You can withdraw the money anytime. Think of it as squirrels carrying off your discarded nuts and tucking them away for winter.
Acorns Found Money
Another feature of Acorns is that you can earn money through what they call “found money.” You love to shop at Wal Mart or get your Groupon on, and depending on the agreement you either receive a flat fee for shopping there or a percentage of your overall purchase.
I needed a toilet trainer for my third attempt at potty training (sigh) and found it at Buy Buy Baby. They gave me about 79 cents for buying the product through an Acorns link. So I got moola for buying something I was already going to buy. Now, 79 cents doesn’t sound like a lot, but over time these nuggets can start to add up. I got an insurance quote and earned $10 in found money.
Acorns also provides retirement accounts like Fidelity does so you can have your different investment accounts all in the same place.
There are some fees for using Acorns but it’s minimal. $1-3 bucks per month depending on what features to want access to on the app. I like to check it a few times a day to peruse my round-ups. I feel like it’s a new toy that’s helping me grow my bank account.
And full disclosure here; if you start an Acorns account through my link, I get $5 and you get $5 dollars to start investing with immediately. But this isn’t why I’m recommending it. The concept is brilliant. If you just save your spare change each month, it’ll be a big chunk of change twenty years from now.
You Need a Budget
I’ve tried a few different budget apps and software. I just couldn’t seem to stay on budget. Of course, I have two kids and a love for warmed banana nut bread, so I find it hard to keep on track and save.
When I came across, You Need a Budget, I was intrigued. The pitch line is that you need to assign every dollar a job. Huh?! I didn’t get it at first. So, if you’re like me and doing the Scooby Doo voice, then I’ll walk you through it.
For every dollar you earn, you give it a reason for existing. This money’s job is to pay rent, for example. And that little jerk’s job is to pay my credit card bill. Oh, and that one is for my banana nut bread. As you spend money, you record what job it filled. If you’re over budget in one category, YNAB will tell you and then you can reallocate funds to make up the difference.
If you planned on $200 for eating out, but you overspent by 15 bucks and have that amount left over in groceries, you can move that money to the dining-out category.
YNAB also allows you to set goals and tells you what you need to save or pay each month to reach them. If you don’t meet the monthly goal or you surpass it, it takes this information to modify the existing goal for the following month.
You can also connect all your savings, checking, and credit card debts to YNAB. You can see your entire net worth at a glance. They claim that an average user saves $300 - 400 per month.
I’ve only been using it for a few weeks, so I’m not sure whether I’m average or not, but I will say that it’s made me more accountable. It has really put into perspective what I’m spending and on what.
Now, there is a fee for YNAB after the 34-day trial. I found this ironic since they are in the business of helping you keep to a budget. However, there are no ads and the way it’s opened my eyes to how to save money each month, the fee seems to be worth it.
I will say that understanding how the app works and how to connect your accounts seemed complicated, and I’m still trying to figure out how to allocate certain purchases. But, overall, it’s given me a sense of empowerment and control.
Start a Savings Account
Now, this might seem like a no-brainer. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t open just any old savings account, but one that isn’t super easy to access. Before I opened one at Synchrony Bank, my savings account was through my checking account. I could easily move money from one account to the other.
The problem was I started off saving money each month, but then I would run out of money by the end of the month and ending up transferring half of it back in a few weeks. I really wasn’t saving anything.
There are a few different choices for online savings accounts that offer different features and interest rates. I chose Synchrony Bank because of its high-yield savings account, and you get an ATM card with no user fees. I wanted to be able to withdraw the money easily in an emergency.
Always Save 20 Percent
I’ve heard this term countless times in my life. Like a parrot on a pirate’s shoulder, but for the first time I’ve been practicing this philosophy. For every dollar I earn, I save 20 percent. I’m doing this regardless of the debt I need to pay. If this is hard to do, then think about a side hustle.
My side hustle is freelance writing. My friend at work is an Uber driver on the weekends. I’ve even considered teaching Chinese kids online in the early hours of the morning.
I do know that saving money is tough. There’s always something that comes up or late night Amazon shopping happens. I’m learning. My writing partner has always been naturally frugal and she wrote about you can save money HERE.
Whether you’re a struggling writer working paycheck to paycheck or someone who seriously needs to save money and build wealth, I hope these money saving tips help you reach your financial goals.
I would love to hear your money-saving suggestions in the comments below. How do you save money each month?