If you want to save more money, start by getting out of your own way: Automate the process. Set up your savings accounts, retirement funds and debt-repayment plans to draw money from your paycheck or checking account each month so that you never have to make the choice to spend or save those dollars.
As self-made millionaire David Bach writes in “The Automatic Millionaire, ” automating your finances is “the one step that virtually guarantees that you won’t fail financially. … You’ll never be tempted to skimp on savings because you won’t even see the money going directly from your paycheck to your savings accounts.”
It can also be a smart way to get a headstart on a financial goal, such as building up your emergency fund.
Think about purchases in terms of units of time
Don’t underestimate the difference a mindset shift can make. For J.P. Livingston, who retired at 28 with $2.25 million in the bank, the trick is to think of your purchases in terms of units of time rather than dollar amounts.
“Instead of saying a new unlocked iPhone costs $800, you might do the math to figure out it would cost you 60 hours of work, or a week and a half of your life,” she tells CNBC Make It. It’s a concept she first learned about in Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez’s “Your Money or Your Life. ”
“This is great for big purchases,” Livingston says. “To buy a home with an extra bedroom or one with fancier finishings might cost you $50,000 or $100,000. Is that worth working three extra years to you?”
Considering the time value of each purchase forces you to pause before buying and decide if it’s really worth it.
How to grow your emergency savings account without thinking about it
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Worrying about the cost of every cup of coffee or takeout meal can be tedious and doesn’t always lead to a big payoff. To save a larger chunk at once, try focusing on the three major expenses Americans spend 70 percent of their average budget on: housing, transportation and food.
“If you can limit those expenses, that’s where your big time savings will come,” Sean, a millennial with $250,000 in the bank, tells CNBC Make It.
Grant Sabatier, who went from broke to a millionaire in five years, agrees that cutting your housing expenses can make a huge impact and even help put you on the path to retire early.
“Live in the least expensive apartment that you can, get roommates, house hack, buy a two-bedroom apartment and rent out the other room to keep your housing expenses as low as possible,” he says. “If you can cut your housing expense from $2,000 down to $600 or $700, all of the sudden, you’ve 10 or 15 years off the time that it will take you to retire.”
Pay your mortgage more often
Switching to a bi-weekly payment plan is a painless way to save tens of thousands of dollars over the course of your mortgage, says David Bach, co-founder of AE Wealth Management.
It’s simple: If your mortgage costs $1,000 a month, switch to paying $500 every two weeks. Over the course of a year, you’ll end up making an extra payment since you’re paying every other week, rather than once a month.
Making more payments means paying your mortgage off sooner, which means forking over less in interest. It depends on your interest rate, but “on an average mortgage in America, you’ll save over $44,000 in interest payments,” Bach estimates.
Swap out your car for a bike
No matter where you live, biking to work instead of driving or taking public transit will save you hundreds or thousands of dollars every year.
A monthly metro pass in D.C. comes out to at least $972 per year. In Chicago it’s $1,260 and in Los Angeles it’s $1,464. If you drive, the costs of gas, maintenance, insurance and car payments add up, too. Across the U.S., the average commute costs $2,600 per year, according to the Citi ThankYou Commuter Index.
CNBC Make It reporter Yoni Blumberg put this trick to the test. Although his commute time was slightly longer, his trip was “surprisingly manageable.” Plus, he discovered that if he swaps his subway pass for his bike full time, he could save more than $1,400 a year.