Your daily habits can make or break your progress toward financial goals like saving more money and paying off debt. While a small impulse purchase here and there can add up to hurt your budget, the opposite is also true: Simple tweaks to your spending and money management routines can help you build your savings. Here are 11 everyday habits that can help you save more money every day.
1. Track Your Spending
It's much harder to take impactful action to reduce your spending if you don't know where your money is going in the first place. Tracking your purchases can give you a clear overview of your expenses. Once you better understand your spending habits, you'll be able to make adjustments with the goal of saving more money. Try using a budgeting app that links to your bank account to view all your transactions in one place.
2. Cut Back on Dining Out
Going out to eat is fun and can sometimes feel like the more convenient option. That can be especially true if you're pressed for time or not in the mood to cook. But frequent meals out can balloon into a large expense.
When you're considering dining out, ask yourself if you can really afford the expense right now. To break the habit, you could try stocking foods that require little prep to eat, such as frozen meals that you heat up in the microwave or oven, deli sandwich ingredients and boxed pasta. While some of these options won't be as cheap as cooking from scratch, they can be a cheaper alternative to grabbing food on the go or hitting a restaurant multiple times a week.
3. Use a Cash Back Credit Card
A cash back credit card, used responsibly, could put more back into your pocket when used for making your everyday purchases. Using a cash back credit card to cover the spending you already do the most, such as at the grocery store and on gas, could help you earn back a percentage of what you spend.
You can often redeem that money as a statement credit, a check or a direct deposit to your bank account. Sometimes, you can get even more value for your rewards if you choose to redeem them through gift cards, travel or select merchandise.
4. Adjust Your Thermostat
You can save substantial cash by tweaking your thermostat in the coldest and hottest months of the year. Turning the dial just a few degrees closer to the outside temperature can help you use less energy and shave money off your electric bill.
If you have the option, installing a programmable or smart thermostat can also help you automatically economize your heating and cooling without sacrificing comfort. Programmable thermostats make adjustments on their own to use less energy to heat or cool your home when you don't need it, such as when you're sleeping or at work. Then, by the time you wake up or get home, the thermostat will automatically bring your home to a comfortable temperature.
5. Try Thrifting
When you need to buy something, you may be able to get it for less if you buy secondhand at the thrift store. Thrifting can help you buy clothes, home goods, school supplies and more for considerably less than you'd pay for the same stuff brand new. Thrifters save an average of $150 a month, or $1,760 a year, according to a study from bargain-finding app CouponFollow.
6. Comparison Shop
When you see something you need, like a new nonstick pan or a pair of running shoes, you may be quick to buy it. But hitting pause and shopping around a bit before you buy can really pay off. Cheaper isn't always better, of course, but it's often possible to find a less expensive version of something you need without sacrificing quality. Make it a habit to search for deals online, hit up outlets and overstock stores or use online shopping comparison tools like Honey and Slickdeals to find the best price.
7. Join a "Buy Nothing" Group
"Buy nothing" groups are online communities that connect neighbors and allow them to offer up—and request—free stuff. For example, people post unwanted furniture, appliances, books, beauty and hygiene products and sometimes even food, all available to neighbors at no cost. You can search for local groups on social media, or check out the site BuyNothingProject.org, which features a "Find Your Community" resource to find your local group.
8. Take a Minimalist Approach
One way to save money daily is to reorient your perspective on what things you actually need. Minimalism is a movement that embraces simple living, which for some means owning less stuff and spending less money. Try practicing financial minimalism and evaluating your purchases through a more critical lens.
For example, instead of going shopping for new clothes each season, look for opportunities to get by with what you already have. You might be buying new shorts in the summer or new sweaters in the winter on autopilot mode. But if you already have those things, the minimalist approach would be to stick with what you've already got.
9. Monitor Your Credit
Higher credit means better terms when you need to borrow. By keeping an eye on your credit, you'll be in the know about areas where you can improve your score. Sign up for free credit monitoring through Experian to stay up to date on where your credit score stands and to receive personalized recommendations on steps you can take to build credit over time.
10. Try Paying in Cash
Some people find it easier to resist overspending and save more money when they pay for everything in cash. One way to budget using cash is cash stuffing, where you put the money you've allocated for different spending categories into its own envelope and pull funds from there. When you run out of dollars in your dining out envelope, you know there's no wiggle room to order in this week.
11. Track Your Net Worth
Daily habits for saving are often focused on the granular, but a big-picture perspective can be motivating for some people. If that sounds like you, try tracking your net worth.
Your net worth is calculated by adding together all your assets—that includes the money in any of your banking or investment accounts as well as equity you own in a car or home—and subtracting the balances of any debts you owe, such as loans, credit cards or mortgages.
Don't be alarmed if your net worth is negative; it's not uncommon, especially if you're carrying student loans or a mortgage. But you might find that setting a goal to increase your net worth over time can help you save more each day.
Consider a budgeting app that allows you to track your net worth and plan for spending in the same space. You Need a Budget (YNAB) and Mint both allow you to link your financial accounts to make tracking your wealth automatic.
The Bottom Line
Taking the steps above can help you align your habits with your goals and save more money each day. Beyond focusing on your daily habits, looking at the big picture can help you save even more money. If you need to borrow for a large purchase, such as an auto loan, improving your credit beforehand can help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Check your credit report for information on where your credit stands, plus insights on how your score could impact your ability to borrow.