Warmer weather is around the corner, which means it’s time for some fun! Whether your children are home from school during spring break or you’d like to do something special for yourself, saving up some extra cash now will help keep your budget on track.
These 26 strategies will help boost your savings, allowing you to enjoy your spring break—whether you’re taking time off or not.
- Spring clean your budget: Monitoring your budget helps keep finances in order, so if you haven’t addressed any changes to your income or expenses, now is the time to do so. See if you can save your receipts for a month, and check them against your budget to make sure you’re sticking to it.
- Stick to cash: Spending with cash helps you avoid increasing credit card debt and interest payments, and can help you stay on your budget. Try portioning out cash for each of your spending categories in envelopes; when you’ve used it up, you don’t have an opportunity to overspend.
- Set short-term goals: The key to saving is balancing life’s long- and short-term decisions. Retirement accounts, emergency funds and education expenses will help you plan for the future, but more immediate short-term goals, like saving $100 every month, are more attainable and will motivate you to keep saving.
- Automate your savings: If you have to think about adding money to your savings, you risk being tempted to spend the money before it makes it into your account. To avoid that temptation, try setting up automatic transfers between your checking and saving accounts, or have your employer allocate some of your income directly to a savings account so that you are essentially paying yourself first.
- Bank your bonuses: When you get your 2018 tax refund, put some of it straight into a separate savings account. The same goes for any gifts, inheritance or other windfalls where you aren’t counting on the money to survive.
- Count your coins: What do you do with loose change after a purchase? Start putting your change right in your pocket and add it to a jar when you get home. Those small amounts can quickly add up and provide you valuable savings every year.
Banking and credit
- Prioritize credit card payments: Your goal with credit card payments should be to pay balances off in full every month. If you can’t do that, then you are probably spending above your means, and you’d be better off stepping away from using the card until you can make a dent in your balance.
- Use in-network ATMs: The average out-of-network cost to use an ATM in 2017 hit $4.69, which means you could be paying way too much to get access to your money. Instead, make a conscious effort to only use in-network ATMs. If your in-network ATMs happen to be out of the way, try planning ahead and taking out as much money as you might need for the upcoming week or foreseeable future.
- Know your credit inside and out: Your credit is ultimately what will help you save money on interest in the long run, so improving it now will only help boost your savings faster. The federal government allows you to request a free report each year from each of the three bureaus. Try checking Experian in January, TransUnion in May and Equifax in September, and you’ll have a year’s worth of free credit monitoring.
- Use a prepaid debit card: If you don’t have a trusted bank account or you want to find ways to separate your savings from your everyday funds, a prepaid debit card like the Green Dot Prepaid Visa® Card may be exactly what you’re looking for. Set up direct deposit with your employer, and you could have your money waiting for you on your card up to 2 days before payday (subject to your payment provider’s process and timing). View Green Dot’s simple fees here.
- Use automatic bill pay: Lapsed payments can end up costing you in penalties and late fees—avoid this trap by enrolling in automatic bill pay for your monthly bills, from credit cards to utilities. This will also help you keep an eye on your account balances more regularly as you’ll want to make sure you have money available for payment.
- Check your energy usage: You may be spending more on utilities than you need to because of old infrastructure. Your local utility company may offer to perform home audits on your usage to help you figure out how to bring costs down, or you can try finding a contractor through the U.S. Department of Energy.
- Keep the elements out: Do you have holes or small cracks around your windows? These may be causing your heating and cooling systems to work overtime. Patch up any holes and consider the age of your windows, as replacing them may save you in the long-term.
- Leverage the sun: During the winter, let the sun shine in as this will help keep your home feeling warmer. During the summer, do the opposite by keeping the sun out during the day, which will help you rely less on a cooling system.
- Go low-flow: An easy and cheap fix that you can do in an hour is to replace your showerhead with a low-flow alternative.
Entertainment and Fun
- Go to the library: Whether you want some movies to watch as a family or you’d like a book to escape with for a week, your local library has you covered with plenty of free entertainment to choose from.
- Make your own gifts: If you have to buy something for every birthday, baby shower, holiday and more, you’re spending a lot on things that you and your family can’t use. Instead, start getting handy and make your own gifts for others. Take a knitting class or learn to make wax candles and you’ll be producing personalized gifts that don’t break the bank.
- Cut down on eating out: Just cutting out one meal on the town a month will help you save, as you’ll be avoiding expensive drink costs in addition to your meal.
- Never leave home without a list: Know exactly what you are going to the store for–and how much you have budgeted to spend–before you leave the house. Just think of the layout of grocery stores, and how they are designed to tempt you into buying more than you need; a list will help you stay focused.
- Stop and think before a purchase: Try forcing yourself to stop and think before you buy anything. You should have shopping lists for your essential items, but everything beyond that should have a 24-hour waiting period. Ask yourself if this purchase is worth the money, and whether you may be able to find cheaper options elsewhere.
- Think of costs in terms of your wages: It can be helpful to curb spending by thinking of purchases in terms of how many hours you have to work to earn them. If you make $20 an hour, that $100 handbag is equal to five hours of work; is the expense worth those long hours?
- Stop buying cheap clothing: You may not want to buy the best quality clothing for growing children who only get a year of use, but you should consider quality when it comes to your wardrobe and the clothes of other adults in the family. If you have to buy a new coat every year because the seams fall apart and the fabric tears, then you may be spending more in the long run than you would buying a quality piece that will last you for years.
- Make your own coffee and lunch: Bringing lunch from home and making your coffee can save you serious money in one year. Choose leftovers and make healthy produce-based meals that make your grocery spending go further.
- Opt for the store brand: Do you want to pay more for branding and marketing? If not, choose the store brand whenever possible so you can save while still getting the same products.
- Drink more water: Why spend money on sugary drinks when you can be healthy and frugal by drinking more water? Especially when dining out, where drink markups are high, try sticking with water for an enjoyable night out without compromising your wallet or your health.
- Go generic: When it comes to medications, generic options will typically save you hundreds of dollars each year, and you’re getting the same health benefits.
If you’re ready to enjoy the upcoming spring season, get a jump on managing your money and get your very own Green Dot Prepaid Mastercard® or Visa® Card today.