Ultimate Guide to Saving Money

America Saves Week has returned. Every year in late February, one week is declared America Saves Week with the goal of helping Americans understand the importance of building their savings while also providing tools and education on how best to reach those savings goals.

In honor of America Saves Week – and with an eye toward maximizing your saving potential – here are our top tips for spending less and saving more money.

Leave no coupon behind

Clipping coupons may seem like a throwback to a simpler time, but – though they may have evolved over the years – coupons are timeless. And everywhere! There are coupons in your newspaper, coupons in your mailbox, and coupons online. Take the time to sift through all those offers to see what’s available, but make sure you’re never buying something just because there’s a coupon.

Understand and maximize your membership benefits

You probably don’t know half of the perks that are currently available to you. Your various memberships and club cards entitle you to all kinds of discounts and free stuff. From your AAA membership to your credit cards to your loyalty rewards card at the pet store – they all come with free perks just waiting to be accessed. Gas discounts, hotel discounts, free museum tickets, etc. Find out what’s available and take advantage!

Buy bulk (the right way)

There are clear advantages to buying in bulk. Generally speaking, the more you buy of certain items, the less it costs on a per-unit basis. But that doesn’t mean you should just start buying everything in massive quantities. Buying bulk only works in your favor if you have the space and you actually use the entire quantity in a timely manner. Consider what you use the most and how frequently you replace it before committing to bulk purchases.

Learn to do it yourself

To loosely paraphrase the old adage, a man who knows how to fish is probably going to spend a lot less money on fish over the years. You can’t do everything (and shouldn’t try to), but there plenty of small tasks you can learn to do yourself, which may not seem significant at first, but can add up over time. For example, my mom learned how to cut hair by paying close attention whenever she took my sister and me to the hair salon. This little bit of self-teaching saved my family ten-plus years’ worth of haircuts for three people (she never quite mastered the art of cutting her own hair).

Teach yourself to spend a little less

We’re big fans of the step-down spending method for one big reason – radically changing your spending habits all at once almost never works. It’s very difficult to alter everything about how you budget and spend. Instead, step-down spending allows you to tweak your current habits, reducing incrementally, rather than trying to force a big, drastic change that may not stick.

Plan ahead and execute

One of the easier ways to avoid wasting money is simply making a plan and following through. Don’t want to waste food? Plan your meals, shop accordingly, and then follow the food plan. That holds true for every line item on your budget – the better you plan and execute, the less money you’ll waste and easier it will be to reach your savings goals.

Know thyself

If you’re thinking of overhauling your finances and implementing a plan to ratchet up your savings, pause for a moment to consider your own tendencies. Think about the goals you’ve set that you reached and one that you didn’t reach. This sort of self-inventory is important because we all have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to managing money. A money-saving strategy may sound appealing, but it doesn’t make sense to create and follow a plan that plays against your strengths. Be yourself and find a path that suits you.

Know when to let go

Part of saving money involves getting the most out of what you already have. You could get new shoes, but those ones are still good enough for now. However, there’s often a cost associated with maintaining what you already have. When the refrigerator stops working, you can either fix it or buy a new one. The money smart option might seem to be fixing the refrigerator, but that’s not always what’s best in the long run. Pouring money into a lost cause won’t help your savings goals. It can be hard to find the right balance, but it’s crucial that you learn how and when to let go.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, focused on creating and delivering valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.