Five easy ways to save money

5 easy ways to save money

There are numerous ways to save money, but many people think putting funds away is difficult. Rather than stopping themselves from opening a savings account, they could start with easy ways to save money and build their funds to meet their financial goals.

5 Easy Ways to Save Money

I’m writing to you sitting next to a jar. This jar is stuffed full (okay, imagine it gently filled — it’s a small jar) of $5 bills. I do not feel proud that this is the best way I’ve found yet to save money consistently. Somehow, having it sit there on the window sill is a gentle reminder that there are more important things to spend my cash on than the x, y, and z that usually make the list:

X = a new wireless router; mine is working, just not sparklingly
Y = a quick run to the shop on the corner for a thermos of coffee
Z = delivery pizza for dinner instead of leftovers.

I can’t quite figure out why this works, but I feel that there is some deep insight here. The thing is, there is “saving” money and then there is “saving money.” In one case you’re putting money away that you intend to spend later (much, much later if all goes well). In another case you are spending money, but not quite as much as you would have otherwise. The trick is to move the extra money from the latter to the former.

1. Save Every $5 Bill

The $5 bill jar is one way, and I found it on Pinterest. Every time you come into possession of a $5 bill, usually as change from another purchase, you save it and put it in a jar.

Some savers have an envelope in their wallet (that won’t work in my tiny wallet, but anyway…) and, every $50 or so, transfer it to a high-yield savings account. Other savers have a goal in mind, like Christmas presents, and the money is for that. I’m combining two Pinterest ideas, and I’ve painted chalkboard paint on my jar so I can write in what I’m saving for.

Related >> Research the best options for a high-yield savings account.

Result of the $5 Pinterest Challenge

I was encouraged to do this by my nine-year-old, who told me one day shortly after Christmas that he had an idea.

“Why don’t you pick an amount every time you get money, like $20, and put it in a jar to save?” he asked.

“What am I saving for?”

“Christmas presents! That way you’ll have a whole lot of money!”

The world conspired to create my jar. I haven’t counted, but there must be $30 or $40 already after just a few weeks. I think this works by setting an easily followed rule that creates an emotional barrier between me and the money. If I spend a $5 bill, I’ve betrayed my own set of internal rules.

2. Save Money ‘Older Than You’

This is a natural outcome from the inspiration given to me by my first work mentor, Herb Althouse. He was a managing director in the loan syndications group at First Union. It was my very first job out of college. I was not even 22 when I started work, and he thought of me as impossibly, adorably young.

To emphasize my adorable youth, he would regularly dig in his pocket and give me all the coins that were older than me. Ever since, I’ve very carefully saved all the coins older than me. I won’t spend a 1970 quarter, even if that means I have to use inexact change. It’s an emotional tribute to Herb.

I realize that this won’t probably result in saving a ton of money (especially if you were born before the ’60s). But it helped me establish the limits that are now keeping me from spending my fives.

3. Set Up Automatic Savings From Paycheck

I remember when I first got a paycheck for my work as a counter girl at the Arctic Circle, a fairly tiny, local fast-food chain that is now even tinier. (Occasionally, I make pilgrimages to one of the last remaining outlets in the coastal town of Newport, Oregon, but it’s not as good as I remember.)

I, displaying my adolescent quant-jock nature, had carefully calculated deductions based on the hours I’d added on my time card. Every two-week pay period, I would multiply my hours by my hourly rate. Then I’d deduct 0.06 for social security, 0.165 for unemployment and a tax rate based on the last paycheck. I knew how much, to the last nickel, would be in my check. It was so frustrating to know how much the gross income was and then be able to spend only the net. I had a cheerleading uniform to save for, after all!

Related >> See how to spend your tax refund.

But I couldn’t spend the money, and one gets used to that post-deduction amount after awhile.

Unlike the 14-year-old me, most adults don’t sit with a notebook, a pencil, and a calculator, figuring out what each check will look like. You get used to only seeing the amount in the “net” line and forgetting the deductions. That’s why it’s so useful to take advantage of whatever automatic savings plan your employer might offer. These include a 401(k) or a simple automatic deduction into a savings account that you designate.

The Army has a fantastic savings plan for military members deployed in designated combat zones that allows soldiers to earn up to 10% interest on $10,000. Pre-paycheck deductions allow you to create that emotional distance from the money you need to keep it in the savings account.

4. Set Up Saving Habits Based on Behavior

My nine-year-old was probably inspired by the summer we saved for his Nintendo DS. I was reluctant to get him a game machie. But with his dad deployed for the first time, the two of them agreed we would tie it somehow to goals we had for his behavior.

So we decided that, each time either Dad or I got paid, we would put $20 in a special envelope toward the DS: if he had been helpful over the preceding period. If he was unusually patient or wonderfully helpful, I’d add in a little extra, $5 or $10. While we were somewhat generous in assessing helpfulness, he was also quite helpful. And because I’d promised to tie the reward to his behavior, and promised him he’d eventually get the Nintendo, I had a powerful emotional incentive to keep my word.

It’s easiest to use promises to motivate your savings behavior when the term for the goal is somewhat short and the other party to the promise can monitor your progress. The physical act of putting the money in the envelope was something I did in front of my son. We only had a few months’ time to reach our goal. You could also, if you promised a spouse or an older child, put money in an online savings account to which you both have access.

Another more institutional equivalent would be if you file your taxes very early. For example, putting some amount of money in your IRA before tax day in April. I did this for both myself and my husband this year. No motivation like not having to file an amended tax return!

5. Come Up With Penalties as Motivation to Save

Yes, we’re motivated best by positive stimulus (This is my best lesson from parenting three boys with cognitive development delays.) But adding penalties is sometimes the best way of forcing ourselves to do things.

I am, for instance, a wonderful saver. I can transfer money into my online savings account with the best of them! I’m rather awful at keeping myself from accessing that money if I really want to take advantage of this one-time-only offer on super awesome film for my vintage Polaroid SX-70. Or if my friends are organizing a group buy of wool comforters.

So it’s best if I put my money in an account from which I will not be able to withdraw money easily, or without penalties. Sure, sometimes there are limits on withdrawals from savings accounts. But those don’t kick in until the end of the account cycle, so that’s not necessarily a good enough penalty. I find that the “penalties” (in both brokerage fees and time for the sale to clear) of selling stock in my Sharebuilder account are far more effective as a deterrent. It has to be that I don’t have money for food or the mortgage before I’ll do that.

You could think of a large number of ways to add in withdrawal penalties. These include structural ones like the military’s savings plan that only allows withdrawals every 120 days, or a 401(k). Or practical ones like adding money to some online savings or payment account like Paypal or Dwolla. These will take a few days to get back if you need it, giving yourself a buffer to rethink your decision.

Adding penalties to the front end is trickier. But savers can accomplish this by automatic bank drafts that are available from online savings and investment accounts. The Sharebuilder account will withdraw a fixed amount of money each month from your bank account to invest in a pre-selected group of investments. You can cancel or delay it, but it will still trigger that opportunity to rethink your decision. If you’re trying to save cash, you’ll have to make your own self-imposed penalty. Maybe if you spend a $5 bill, you have to go without something the next day. (For me, chocolate works as a powerful motivator!)

We All Want to Save. We Just Need Help.

I don’t think there is a single Get Rich Slowly reader who doesn’t have a desire to save and to keep that money in savings accounts until the emergency occurs or they reach a goal. But it’s really hard, on both counts. I’d be willing to bet that a surprisingly large percentage of GRS readers don’t save (or don’t save nearly enough). Starting small and easy is best. Keep in mind that we have a strong set of emotional tools at hand to help us along the way.

How can you set up emotional connections to savings, both on the front and the back end?

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There are 106 comments to "Five easy ways to save money".

  1. SAHMama says 21 February 2012 at 06:06

    1. Don’t go shopping.
    2. When you must go shopping, compare prices.
    3. Make do or do without.
    4. See if you can get it for free. Swap, borrow, freecycle.
    5. Be content with what you have.

    • Florida Bill says 21 February 2012 at 11:11

      Mama: Your point #3 reminds me of my grandmother, an adult raising a family during the Depression. Her admonition:

      Use it up. Wear it out.
      Make it do or do without.

      • Leora says 21 August 2014 at 13:08

        1. Pay off college loan debt (if you have it) with automatic monthly payments.
        2. Live small. Buy the smallest, cheapest home you can live with and pay if off before retirement. Do not count on your home’s appreciation value for retirement funds. A paid off home is a cheap place to live during retirement.
        3. If you want to buy a car, get a reliable beater. Get insurance for $25/month from Insurance Panda. Forget about buying a house until your debts are paid off.
        4. Only one credit card per family. Keep it in a lock box for emergency use only. If you can’t buy with cash, you can’t afford it.
        5. Be careful as you develop your retirement portfolio. The Bush years taught us not to trust the stock market and banks. Gold, cash, rare stones, high end collectables, rental properties, cottage industry cash and at-work saving accounts with a big employer contribution will keep the money in your pocket. Roth IRA’s are also a good way to save without excessive taxes. Avoid annuities, and accounts that make more money for the bank than for the clients.
        6. Assume that everyone wants a piece of your retirement portfolio. Beware of con artists-they come in all forms. If it seems to good to be true-it is.
        7. If possible, use public transportation and cut back on car ownership. You will save a bundle.
        8. Plant a vegetable garden. Learn to can and freeze food.
        9. Do not buy long term health care insurance. The rates are too high to keep the policy going as you retire. It’s a sucker play for young adult money.
        10. Eat out once a week. Make a shopping list and learn to cook. It’s healthy and you’ll save a lot of money.
        11. Cut off cable TV and watch shows online. You’ll save over $100.00 per month.
        12. Create your own power (sun, wind, whatever cuts the price of heating, electric and gas.)
        13. Co-op services. Barter when you can for goods and services.
        14. Work at home several days a week. You’ll save on gas and meals.
        15. Shop the educational market for a cheaper graduate education.
        16. Live in a neighborhood with good public schools so you can skip the cost of private ones
        17. Constantly look for ways to save and cut the budget.

    • bon says 22 February 2012 at 00:34

      don’t watch tv (unless on DVD) – avoiding commercials makes a big difference

      • ali says 22 February 2012 at 10:34

        @ bon -I don’t know how true that is.

        I had cable (at one point an expensive cable package) and now I have Netflix and Hulu and I haven’t noticed a huge change in my spending.

        But then, I was never one of those people who sees something and *has* to have it. The only things I remember seeing on a commercial and thinking “ooh I have to try that” were a brand of toothpaste and a frozen dinner. I didn’t like either.

    • Money Maker says 25 February 2012 at 08:31

      I agree with that list.

      One thing that I have done to make it easier to not spend money is to imagine those items at a garage sale.

      The glamor of the item I want quickly looses its appeal when imagine it at a garage sale or me selling it in the not too distant future.

      Another thing I have do to not spend money it to give myself a waiting time. If I want it I will wait a certain period of time before I allow myself to buy it. That gets rid of the impulse buys.

  2. I Am 1 Percent says 21 February 2012 at 06:17

    There are probably a lot easier ways to save $50 bucks. In addition to doing the above, shop around for new car insurance every 6 months, shop around for new home owners insurance, cancel the gym membership if you’re not using it, sell your old iPhone or Wii that you’re not using, transfer money to a higher interest savings account, etc.

    • EXK says 21 February 2012 at 06:59

      Yes, it may be easier to save money in those ways, but only if you are already spending money in those ways (owning a home, having a gym membership or an “old iPhone”)….

      • Debbie M says 21 February 2012 at 07:51

        That’s about the second kind of saving, where you actually spend less for what you want. This article is about the other kind of saving where you put money into savings and then somehow just magically deal with having less money available to use for your normal purchases. (I would like to know how this magic works.)

        • Elizabeth says 21 February 2012 at 09:18

          True, but some of the techniques in the article also require spending, or spending in a certain way. You have to make a cash purchase in order to get change or those $5 bills to stick in an envelop.

    • Leah says 22 February 2012 at 05:53

      I was skeptical about insurance (as a single gal, I did call around a few times, and no one could ever beat the insurance I loved). But then I got married, and the two of us combined saved $120 every 6 months on our policies. So it is good to call at life-changing times (marriage, aging up through a boundary, and do ask what the boundary is — at once place, I got a discount for turning 26), but I’m not sure I’d waste the time every 6 months to keep calling around once I’ve found a good rate and nothing else changes.

    • Trish Buchanan says 07 April 2013 at 14:18

      I disagree with shopping insurance all the time. I think the relationships we have with our vendors is important over time.

  3. Marianne says 21 February 2012 at 06:43

    Depending on how old you are, saving coins older than yourself can be beneficial in other ways. Older quarters and dimes have higher silver content and are therefore worth more than face value. With the way the value of silver is climbing, who knows how much your ‘old’ change will be worth?

  4. Kraig @ Young, Cheap Living says 21 February 2012 at 06:57

    I use to track all of my finances. I emotionally attached myself to my finances at first by integrating all of my accounts in That gave me a clear picture of my net worth, savings, debt, income and expenses. Instantly, I figured out at the time that my net worth was negative. I hated seeing that negative number and it emotionally connected me to my finances. Each time I log in and see a more positive outcome, I emotionally connect it with positive feelings and feelings of accomplishment. I use some of my free time to dream about a future of options and possibilities now like getting out of debt (which I now am), having a 6 month emergency fund (which I now have) and saving so much, so quickly that I can pay for my first house with cash (which I’m still working on). My finances have gotten exciting ever since I started feeling good about myself and dreaming big dreams. It’s very emotional and I love it that way.

    • Leah W. says 21 February 2012 at 09:44

      I had so many problems with Mint that I finally quit using it. It’s a neat concept, but the execution was, in many ways, just a complete failure.

  5. Twin says 21 February 2012 at 07:07

    Check with your employer to see if you can save pre-tax dollars each month. You can build you savings using money that would have went to the government!

  6. Pam at MoneyTrail says 21 February 2012 at 07:16

    I don’t carry much cash at all. It’s too easy to spend a dollar here and a dollar there. I also simply avoid going to the store. When I do go, I make sure I have a list with me and stick to it!

    • cc says 21 February 2012 at 08:43

      same. this is a clever idea, but i make 95% of my purchases with my credit card (which i pay off weekly. we’re a couple months of points away from 2 tickets to hawaii! :)) – occasionally i’ll have some of my husband’s money (he does all cash, i do all cards, somehow we got married), but any change i return to the coin jar, where bills will slowly be plucked out for quick grocery store runs, and the change will slowly accumulate.
      so the $5 bill wouldn’t work for me, but on the other hand we’ve saved like $600 with the coin jar, and bought our first ever couch. yay!

    • BD says 21 February 2012 at 17:48

      Exactly! I too, do not carry much cash, avoid shopping, and when I do have to shop, I have a list and stick to it.

      The purchases I do have to make, I put on my credit card (which I pay off each month). The purchases earn points, which are then redeemed for cash. So…I get money back just by using the credit card to make purchases that I’d already have to make anyway.

  7. Adam P says 21 February 2012 at 07:42

    For me, the best way is to sit down sometime in December and map out my saving goal for the next year. I keep track of it in Excel, with the amount I believe I can save each month.

    I think I’ve seen it shown in studies that you’re much more likely to stick to a goal if it’s written down (and realistic of course). I certainly feel very guilty if a trip or one off “want” type purchase/expense will make me miss my savings goal!

    The other thing that works, I think for everyone, is automatic payroll deductions (with full employer matching if available).

  8. Debbie M says 21 February 2012 at 07:52

    I’ve heard of sticking a picture of your goal in your wallet so that every time you go to pay for something you see a reminder of a possibly more important goal in time to change your mind about your current purchase plans.

  9. Nicole says 21 February 2012 at 07:57

    Do you have to be cash-only (no credit cards) for these methods to work?

    • Mom of five says 21 February 2012 at 09:02

      We’re a primarily cards family but our adult allowances are in cash. We put all our coins into the change jar each night and if there are dollars left over at the end of the month we put those in there too. For us, it adds up to about $300 each year, and that’s with us occasionally pulling out a dollar or two here and there for exact change for school trips and collections. These last two years our total has been significantly more because I’ve been putting in the change that the kids leave on the kitchen counter.

      • Nicole says 21 February 2012 at 11:12

        Why bother having an allowance then, if not to spend it? Or why not just cut the allowance by $300?

        • Mom of five says 21 February 2012 at 12:20

          Well, I suppose we could cut our allowance by $25 each month, but many months we go over and other months we’ll have $60 or $70 left. I will admit that it is getting so that I can predict which months we’ll have no money left (September, December, and then April or May), so while that argues for adjusting our allowance, inertia will likely keep our current system in place.

    • Allie says 24 February 2012 at 08:01

      If the picture is in your wallet I don’t see why it would matter whether you pay using paper or plastic. Either way the spending method would be in your wallet. I’ve even read of people taping the picture *around* the credit card.

      This isn’t a thing that I do, but it is a popular idea.

  10. Jill says 21 February 2012 at 08:13

    I don’t think the first few tips would be effective for me. I rebel against rules even when I make them myself. My exercise/diet attempts are testament to that. I think it’s because I tend to be “all or nothing”, so if one time I were to spend a $5 bill the whole effort might go out the window. What works for me are things more like tip #3…set things up so that they are easy, but don’t worry about a rigid set of rules.

    • Sarah says 29 April 2012 at 14:18

      I know this is an old comment, but it reminded me something I heard a while ago that really stuck with me: If you got a dent in your brand new car, would you then go out and crash the whole thing into a tree?

      This reminds me that just because I make a little mistake in what I’m trying to do or don’t quite reach my goal that day, week, whatever, doesn’t mean the whole thing’s a waste and I shouldn’t try anymore.

      Just thought I’d share.

  11. doug_eike says 21 February 2012 at 08:16

    All of these are great ideas! My own method is simple but effective–I try to spend as little as possible on everything I buy or do. Thanks!

  12. PFM says 21 February 2012 at 08:24

    I would bet a large percentage of GRS readers DO save a lot (or at least more than average). If they take the time out of their day to read a site like this they have some desire to improve their finances. I would also bet there’s a small percentage of readers who save too much! Sometimes always looking at saving gets in the way of living!

    • Jacq says 21 February 2012 at 18:23

      I was thinking the same thing. Desire and awareness is 95% of the battle. And I save “too much.” 😛

  13. Jennifer says 21 February 2012 at 08:26

    Although we try to save money too, we do fill jars but we end up donating it. My husband and I started a new tradition w/ our 11 month old daughter, and we fill a jar and call it the “christmas jar” (read about this from the book “The Christmas Jars” and someone gave my mother in law one this past christmas after her husband died). Fill all of the money in a jar and leave it on someone’s step anonymously (someone who is having a hard time financially).

  14. fantasma says 21 February 2012 at 08:30

    After paying off all of my debts, I am finding it harder to save.

    I put money away in a separate account yet I take it out to spend.

    I can’t seem to just leave it alone.

    I am not sure if I am burnt out from living so close to cutting it to the bone or lack of discipline.

    Trying to do better.

    • Jason B says 21 February 2012 at 08:41

      Do you have an “allowance?” Just like I automatically save a percentage, I also transfer a set amount every week into an allowance. I’m absolutely allowed to spend that money however I like. But not more than that money! And I don’t have to spend it… I can let it rollover and spend more the following week.

    • Jason B says 21 February 2012 at 08:51

      Trying to post this again because WordPress is evil.

      Do you have an “allowance?” Just like I automatically save a percentage, I also transfer a set amount every week into an allowance. I’m absolutely allowed to spend that money however I like. But not more than that money! And I don’t have to spend it… I can let it rollover and spend more the following week.

    • Mom of five says 21 February 2012 at 09:07

      We also had that problem for a couple of years after being debt free. What really worked for us was an idea I read about here. We began doing targeted savings accounts on ING – i.e. e-fund separate from car replacement fund which is separate from the vacation fund etc. Breaking down the savings into categories helped us feel poorer and so it was easier to save.

      • Amanda says 21 February 2012 at 16:46

        I second this suggestion. My husband is fine with having all savings in one account. Heck, he’d be fine with having all checking and savings in one account.

        However, I prefer to separate out my accounts. So we have checking, savings, summer fund (I’m a teacher, and since we don’t get paid in or for the summer, I like to plan ahead), and vacation fund at one credit union. At ING we have house down payment fund and emergency fund.

        I don’t think it makes me feel poorer to have the money in multiple places since I can see the total over just two websites. But it does feel good to clearly see how close or far away we are from our goals.

      • Sara says 21 February 2012 at 22:33

        I’m starting to think about doing this. I have a sizeable chunk in a single online savings account, and seeing that balance is making me feel like I have more than enough there and should either make investments or purchases. But then, when I start to break out items that I should or want to be saving for down the road (e.g., children, lasik), I start to feel like I’m not yet where I need to be and have to keep saving!

      • Ms Life says 22 February 2012 at 01:13

        I also used to have an active ING account where I had sub-accounts like travel and unemployment, among others. The latter was for the one year I was going to take unpaid leave to pursue other interests. I just started working again in another country and have resumed that system here. It really works for me.

  15. CFritts says 21 February 2012 at 08:40

    I set up my savings at a different bank than my checking/savings. I have a certain amount go to that account, and all the money I make at my 2nd job goes in there too. That way I have to make an effort to go to the bank and remove it if I want to spend it. If I put money into my savings account linked to my checking I just spend it, so this works best for me.

  16. K.C. says 21 February 2012 at 09:04

    I’m not a big fan of negative motivation. I’d rather be rewarded than penalized. Rewards challenge me to go farther.

    Rosa and I save the rewards money we earn from credit card purchases and use it to buy gifts for birthdays, Christmas, etc. We have a penny jar where we deposit our pennies. We save any windfalls that come our way, even small ones.

    Mostly, we budget for savings and treat savings like any other expense. When we pay the “savings bill” each month, we consider that money “spent”.

  17. ImJuniperNow says 21 February 2012 at 09:15

    I had big jars of only US State quarters I was saving. Alas, they were all taken by someone in my house (no one will confess) and spent.

    Everyone in the house got less for Christmas this year.

    Hide your money.

    Lesson learned.

  18. Sam says 21 February 2012 at 09:23

    We use the following “rules” in our household:

    (1) We establish savings goals at the start of the year and we track them, I get positive feedback from the tracking and helps us stay focused.
    (2) We use ING sub accounts for our short term savings, I like seeing a certain amount in our travel/vacation account and in our fun account, etc.
    (3) We use the $300 and the $100 rule. Every purchase over $300 has to be discussed and agreed to between the two of us and no you can’t bribe the dog to your side. Every purchase, single item, over $100 requires a one day wait, $1000 chair requires a 10 day wait. We often waive the waiting rule when booking plane tickets.
    (4) We track our spending in Quicken, there is nothing worse than looking at a pie chart for the month and realizing the biggest slice of pie was _________ (you fill in the blank).
    (5) We use an allowance system, each of us gets the same amount to spend each pay period that we don’t have to report back to the other on, this is for discretionary spending, eating out, dry cleaning, pedicures, etc.
    (6) We don’t use credit cards, we use debit for our spending, unless we are traveling as we discovered we spend more with credit than with debit (even though we paid it off).

    We’ve been generally using these rules since 2007, helped us pay off $55,000 in debt and have helped us stay out of debt and put more into savings each year.

  19. Nick says 21 February 2012 at 09:41

    Subscription cleanups help me a lot. If I haven’t used a subscription in a few months it’s cancelled.

    Also checking out little-known benefits like gym reimbursements through health insurance can net a few bucks.

    I’m definitely a big auto-invest guy, too!

  20. Matt at HealthyNWealthy says 21 February 2012 at 09:49

    I like to use a trick learned from GRS: subaccounts in savings. I used ING Direct to make a “Down Payment” account and a “Sunny Vacation” account. My girlfriend did the same things. Now, whenever I spend a penny, I’m reminded that the money could be going to the down payment or my vacation. It forces me to weigh my financial decisions more carefully. The house and the vacation mean more to me than concert tickets or dinner at a restaurant.

    PS sorry if this is a double post.

    • Sam says 22 February 2012 at 06:03

      We do this too, and even our emergency fund ING account is titled as Vacation Home. Something about the title makes me pause even when we have an emergency and we need the money. Funny how the mind works.

  21. lucille says 21 February 2012 at 10:00

    I don’t like saving cash or spending cash. I’m obsessed with earning interest, as minimal as it may be (hey, it’s almost 1% and used to be more than that…fingers crossed for that to come back). I’d be staring at that damn jar/piggy bank/ rolls of change thinking, you could be in my high yields saving account earning me interest. Same with the envelope methods.

    I love the feeling of collecting all of the interest from each of my ING subaccounts and transferring it to it’s own subaccount earmarked just to track interest. I guess that is sort of an electronic piggy-banking. I haven’t touched the interest earned since I opened the account 2 years ago and while it’s a pathetic amount of money (about $70) it’s $70 I didn’t have two years ago and I didn’t have to break a sweat to earn it. As I continue to increase my savings the interest grows exponentially. Oh man, the feeling I had the first time I saw that my INTEREST earned interest! Granted, it was only 2 cents at the time, but now I am earning about 5 cents/ month, just from the interest account. And about $3 from the other subaccounts combined.

    Change jars are not motivating to me…all it would be is a reminder that I had to spend dollars to get that change. I don’t like the idea of playing tricks on your mind in order to save because if you get caught up or don’t know what you are doing you could be tricking yourself to spend more money. You might start subconsciously spending loose bills because you’re chasing the satisfaction of plinking coins into the jar…then it can mutate into a desire to collect coins versus trying to save money. I know, because I have that same obsession with seeing my interest come in each month from ING. But my obsession motivates me to put even more money in savings each month so I can see that interest top last month’s revenue. For some people change jar or envelope type methods may work, not for me.

    • Anne says 21 February 2012 at 10:13

      Do you have any accounts for stocks that pay consistent dividends. You’d LOVE that. You’ll do much better with dividends than current interest rates.

      • lucille says 21 February 2012 at 14:00

        I haven’t looked into stocks yet, outside of my ROTH (still kind of nervous/ clueless) but as soon as I have a somewhat decent efund that’s my next endeavor. The only problem is watching it go down is not as fun. And it’s not predictable, but neither is life.

        • Anne says 22 February 2012 at 06:19

          I’m NO investing maven. Don’t take this as investing advice. I just thought it might be something you would like if you like seeing your interest grow.

          From what I understand it is a good way to earn money. And certainly you don’t need to do it with all your savings. (I want to try it with a small dedicated savings pot I am planning not to spend for a long time.)

          A long time ago, I was gifted a tiny number of shares that yeild two and three dollar dividends about twice a year. Given how little of the stock I own, it’s not a bad return.

          Apparently lots of stocks are relatively stable but give consistent dividends. They say a stock like this might go up or down a bit, but the real money is in the dividends. (Or so I’ve read! I can’t attest to the truth of this. But I am interested.)

          If you’d feel the need to follow the stock price, that might drive you crazy.

  22. linear girl says 21 February 2012 at 10:17

    I don’t ever spend dimes. I throw them in their own jar, they sparkle in the sunlight until the jar is too heavy and then they languish loose and uncounted in a bag in a chest. I didn’t plan to save this way, it just became a side effect of not spending (duh!) them. After about two decades of this, I have a very heavy, highly annoying to spend, unlikely to be stolen emergency stash of about $300-$500.

    I do normal savings things, I don’t even think of this stash as “money,” but it’s an example of how we can make a game of saving or set aside something we think of as valueless that accumulates into something of substance.

  23. louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife says 21 February 2012 at 10:41

    My dad has always done a variation of the $5-in-a-jar idea – certain coins (50p when I was a kid; £2 ones now) in a giant old spirit bottle from a bar — that would pay for his holiday/holiday spending money each year.

    I have some automatic saving at the start of the month but also do a “save as much as you spend” thing — I track all the money I spend and whenever I buy anything that isn’t essential, I transfer the equivalent into a separate savings account. This essentially means everything I buy costs me twice as much so to avoid debt, I have to buy/spend half as much. But, strangely, I find it a positive motivator rather than a negative one – I’ve stopped feeling guilty about the money I do spend on, say, books or a new t-shirt because I know I’m saving the same amount.

    • Elizabeth says 21 February 2012 at 10:55

      I like that tip! I haven’t tried save as much as you spend, but sometimes when I don’t buy something (or I get a really good deal on a planned purchase) I’ll put the money I don’t spend into my savings account.

      I’m trying to make it mean something when I say “I saved $10 on this” or “I saved $50 by not buying that.” Sometimes the act of transferring the cash from one account to another satisfies the urge to spend. (I do automatic savings for retirement, emergency fund, spending money and other savings already)

  24. Sleeping Mama says 21 February 2012 at 10:45

    I’m a saver, so I usually don’t need much encouraging to save my money. I pay myself first via retirement and savings buckets in ING, and whatever extra I have left over each month, I still end up saving it rather than spending it on something I want.

    I suppose it’s because my wants are pretty small, or I realize how unsustainable it is to purchase, say, a luxury car when my income wouldn’t cover it and still allow me to spend on other wants.

    I actually get a kick out of seeing just how much extra I can save at the end of each month. The higher, the better!

  25. Drew C. says 21 February 2012 at 10:54

    These are great simple ways to save. I always try to not carry cash around, because I seem to be tempted when I do. Just simply creating a strict budget and adhering to it is the best way for me to keep track of what I save and what I spend. If you choose to do a budget, then you need to have accountability or something to make sure you stay on track.

  26. chacha1 says 21 February 2012 at 10:58

    I guess I don’t have the thing where if I buy something but it’s on sale or whatever, I think I’ve “saved” money. I’ve still spent money, and probably on something that wasn’t strictly necessary.

    The money that goes to pay down debt is a form of savings, but it’s still money that’s GONE, not money I have for later.

    The $10 bills I get in change, which I squirrel away into an envelope, aren’t “savings” either. They’re a stash. That’s money I fully intend to spend in the relatively short term.

    And the $50 that gets auto-transferred to my savings account every month is more a prompt to make a more conscious, larger transfer than any attempt to significantly save – because again, that money will be spent, in the more or less short term, on something un-fun like brake pads or new glasses.

    I think I’ve “saved” money if it’s protected from being spent. The only money that really qualifies is the money going into my 401(k) every pay period.

  27. Katie says 21 February 2012 at 11:42

    High-interest savings accounts were mentioned and since reading about them on GRS I’ve looked into getting one. I noticed though that to transfer $ into one thru my bank there’s a small fee. I looked into a local credit union thinking they wouldn’t have the fees but I saw they do too. Has anyone figured out a way around the transfer fees?? Thanks!!

    • Sam says 22 February 2012 at 06:05

      I’ve never had any fees to transfer from our day to day accounts which are at Wells Fargo and prior to that Wachovia to ING (which is our high interest accounts, but not that high these days).

      I’d call your bank and see if there is a different account that doesn’t have transfer fees.

    • Diana L says 27 February 2012 at 14:12

      I found that if I try to transfer money out of my account, there is usually a pretty substantial fee (ex. Wells Fargo). However, if I initiate the transaction from the account the money is going into (ex. ING), then it is free. I’ve learned to always start the transaction from the account where the money will end up.
      FYI – the money leaving the checking account shows the same as a bill being paid on the account statement.

  28. MemeGRL says 21 February 2012 at 11:47

    Everything old is new again; my mother had a bank when she was little and she put in every nickel she had in change. When it was full, she cashed it in and split it between treats and savings account. I suppose $5 bills might not be a terrible update. Alas, we need the change now for school milk money so that’s not a good plan for us.

    But–one thing I started doing was taking note of the line on my grocery (or other) receipts that said “You saved $X.xx today!” I would then immediately transfer $X.xx to my savings account–after all, the money isn’t truly saved unless it’s saved, and these were purchases I was going to make anyway. Whether due to falsely inflated prices or truly frugal shopping–no matter–it added up to a nice vacation after a while.

  29. John | Married (with Debt) says 21 February 2012 at 12:03

    We use SmartyPig and automatic deductions to save for planned expenses. Since we have been in debt repayment mode, most free cash goes there.

    But, we made sure to save for a big vacation, too.

  30. Neurotic Workaholic says 21 February 2012 at 12:22

    I have two change jars – one for coins and one for bills. When I started reading Donna Freedman’s writing, one of the things she emphasized was building an emergency fund. So it’s good to also read articles like yours that also give tips on saving money. I am saving money for this summer, when I usually earn less money. I keep thinking of how I would have to use my credit card if I don’t have enough cash to cover expenses; my desire to not increase my debt overrides my temptation to take a few bills out of my change jars to buy stuff I don’t really need.

  31. MelodyO says 21 February 2012 at 12:23

    Great post! This is a perfect example of turning saving into a game. Of course it would be more difficult to play if you’re counting every penny, but most of us aren’t in quite so dire of straits and what fun it is to watch your stash grow without even feeling the pinch. The slow march to financial freedom doesn’t always have to be Serious Business.

  32. frugalportland says 21 February 2012 at 12:26

    Great tips — also, it helps me to automate mycredit card payments so that I “pay in full” every month. Not so much fun as cash in the jar, but immensely helpful.

  33. dipo says 21 February 2012 at 13:11

    I have been throwing my pennies into a jar for a little while and yesterday took them to coinstar, I couldn’t believe it was over $7. I got a Starbucks card since I like to get coffee but have been cutting back in that area, so it was a nice treat.

    • coinlove says 13 September 2012 at 19:46

      That is a good idea to treat yourself after such diligent saving, but you would have saved even more if you would have rolled the pennies and got free coin rollers from the bank. Also, that would have been an ample opportunity to look at your coins more closely for value (wheat pennies, die mark errors) and could have possibly doubled or tripled your savings.

      I think I’m going to use your idea to save my coins and treat myself and save my actual dollars for my 401k. Happy Saving 🙂

  34. partgypsy says 21 February 2012 at 13:47

    Two things that I’ve done differently this year that have seemed to help. One I have a goal I’m really excited about, and so it’s been so much easier turning down spending for now over the happy thought of that money being available for the goal.
    Second since the first of the year I’ve paid off the balance on credit card and been minimizing paying for things via credit. I’m less likely to spend knowing it is going to be taken directly out of checking. At the end of the month instead of writing a big check to the credit card company I can instead make a big transfer to savings instead. I never used to do this because I get cashback points, but I’m going to think more carefully what I have to spend, points or no points.

  35. stellamarina says 21 February 2012 at 14:03

    Just this morning I phoned my bank to deposit a CD that is soon coming to term, into my savings account. I will be using this money towards a budget, two month, trip to Malaysia. (I figure the whole trip will cost me $3000)

    I am now retired (with a few side hustles still going) but when I was working I had $25 direct deposit every pay day to this Credit Union. ( I had a few other direct payments set up elsewhere too) When the savings account had over $1000 dollars in it I would put that amount into a CD. Now, many years later, I ration myself to one CD a year if I need it for my yearly trip to a new foreign country. Quite a lot of interest has added on to the $1000 dollar amounts by now and I appreciate my long term planning for future retirement travel done at the time.

  36. Louis says 21 February 2012 at 14:51

    if you already finished paying your loan or mortgage don’t stop paying it, only this time put that payment to your savings account. And when it reaches some amount put it in a CD or a stock that yields a good rate of return.

    • Sam says 22 February 2012 at 06:06

      I like this one, great idea.

  37. Sara says 21 February 2012 at 15:37

    I am not too fond of these kind of gimmicks. Better to work on the emotional reasons behind spending behind your means and use an automatic transfer to move the same or a larger amount into savings. I do save change, but only because it is too heavy to carry around. When the jar is full I take it to the bank and put that money in savings or towards a scheduled purpose. It took a whole to get as financially disciplined as I apparently am but it is the best thing I ever did. Games like the $5 bill thing can lead to excuses not to save – well, I didn’t get any $5 bills this month. That said, I use a similar game to increase my fitness in that every time a car goes by when I am walking I increase to maximum speed or a fast run for 3 minutes as an interval. And that game has really helped ramp off my fitness level from a recreational walker to being able to run up mountains. So maybe the $5 bills would help too. What do I know ; )

  38. Wes says 21 February 2012 at 15:41

    As a reader since 2007, I can say that this post is probably the worst I’ve ever seen on GRS. It’s sad how this site has become characterized by vacuous posts that are little more than SEO fodder. A five dollar bill jar? Saving change that’s older than you? What happened to creating a financial plan based on actual needs and savings goals and using that as a guideline for every dollar? This post belongs on one of the trashy mainstream financial sites, alongside an article about what hot stock the “pros” are recommending.

    • Elizabeth says 21 February 2012 at 19:39

      Well, the title did say “easiest”…

      After spending part of my day researching tax deductions, I can safely say I’ve found a difficult way to save money 😉

  39. cath says 21 February 2012 at 17:46

    Maybe it’s a different chain, but Arctic Circles are all over the place in Utah:

    • BD says 21 February 2012 at 17:52

      Seconding this. There is an Arctic Circle within walking distance from where I live. It’s an “Ok” place. I’ve eaten there a few times in the past 5 or 6 years (I don’t eat out very often).

  40. Joe says 21 February 2012 at 18:46

    Pay yourself first. If you add this to the “spend less than you earn” mantra, it’s pretty much the fundamental law of personal finance.

  41. Tie the Money Knot says 21 February 2012 at 19:17

    Here’s an easy way to save money: picture yourself old and hungry for money, and needing to work when not physically up to the challenge. That works for me, in terms of coming up with motivation to find tactics to save.

    • Elizabeth says 21 February 2012 at 19:36

      I’ve read that we’re more motivated if we think positively — that is, we think in terms of doing something rather than avoiding something. I find if I focus on the negative, I just get frustrated and worried.

      My spin on this kind of thinking is imagining myself in my later years remaining financially independent, working because I want to, and spending time with loved ones.

      But sometimes fear is a great motivator too!

  42. ali says 21 February 2012 at 20:51

    Any time you have a receipt with “you saved $X” move that amount to your savings account. Or if you don’t want to move small amounts of money then if the money saved is $15 or more.

    Like at the grocery store, at the bottom of the receipt it says “You saved $14.90 today” so, I move that amount to my savings account.

  43. Brittany says 22 February 2012 at 01:46

    Not that it matters too terribly much, but it’s not the Army’s program, it’s the Department of Defense’s program, which is all branches. We’re currently maxing it out, and it’s not difficult to do so with a few budget adjustments. Guaranteed 10% interest is of course worth it. Another reason it’s great is because you can only withdraw for qualified reasons, “Emergency withdrawal must be approved by your commanding officer who must determine that it is necessary for the health and welfare of you or your family.”. So once it’s in, it’s in.

  44. Jerome says 22 February 2012 at 04:10

    My personal variation of the 5 dollar bill trick: save the 5 dollar, or in my case euro, bills. I add to this unexpected savings I have on my grocery-bill. For instance if diapers are cheaper, I add the saved money to my pot.
    Than once in a while I use this money to buy boring dividend paying shares. That way my money starts earning more money, which again can be used to buy more dividend paying shares. I used this method to build up a college fund for my kids which now contains almost 95 thousand euros and earns 4.600 euro per year in dividends. Not a huge capital but very welcome indeed!

  45. Skint in the City says 22 February 2012 at 04:51

    I love the idea of saving all coins older than me. Injects a bit of fun into the whole thing – starting it today with a clearout of my purse!

    I’ve got another tip for UK readers – kinda similar to your $5 one. whenever I get a £2 coin I save it. They’re not as common as the other coins – I maybe get a couple a week – but it’s amazing how you don’t miss them but how the soon add up.

    • daren says 23 April 2014 at 15:10

      I do the same thing, every £100 gets added to my savings and dividend paying shares alternately.

  46. How to Save Money says 22 February 2012 at 06:55

    Very helpful tips in saving money. Its not easy to save money on a piggy bank specially if you badly need something and you have no other means to buy it than to break the JAR. But if we really want to SAVE for something, we need to be focus and sacrifice a little bit, after all a reward in waiting for us in the end. 🙂

  47. BrokeElizabeth says 22 February 2012 at 09:50

    I love #4 – it will definitely help me when I start tackling my student loan debt.

  48. Carl Lassegue says 22 February 2012 at 13:10

    I loved the article! For me, it’s a whole lot easier to save when I have a goal or something to save for.

  49. Christa says 22 February 2012 at 14:04

    For a while, I attached the pain concept to my savings account by making it really difficult to access the money. I could deposit, but I couldn’t transfer back to checking. It worked really well, and now I’m so well-trained that I don’t dip into savings, even though I have online withdrawal access.

  50. bobj says 24 February 2012 at 00:53

    A capital idea!

  51. Chris Gold says 24 February 2012 at 12:46

    I really like the ideas related to a unique and disciplined saving habits like the old coins one. I’ve made use of the automatic paycheck deduction consistently but we all could save more utilizing these few suggestions on top of that. Forming a few different money saving habits like the ones above and being dedicated to keeping to it will certainly pay off. Thanks for the suggestions.

    • stellamarina says 14 April 2016 at 00:58

      And if those old coins are old enough to be silver……even better to keep them in a separate jar and sell them to the coin dealers later.

  52. jackie says 27 February 2012 at 16:38

    Whenever I spend money on alcohol or junk food I transfer an equal amount into my highest priority savings account. It’s my way to remind myself to think long term when I’m in my most instant-gratification moments. (This is on top of the money I put into various accounts at the start of each pay period).

  53. Diane @ Philzendia says 09 March 2012 at 09:43

    All great ideas. I really like the pinterest jar idea and think it’s a great way to get kids started with saving.

  54. Amy Celisano says 02 October 2012 at 21:08

    Hi Sarah,
    I find that your $5 jar idea is a great way to save money, especially if you know what you are saving for. I have a money tin that my partner and I are using to save for living overseas in Canada. Before we started putting money in the jar we decorated it with pictures of the Canadian flag and emblems so each time we put money in the tin thereafter we knew what we were working towards. Your ideas will be of great use and hopefully the saving fund will continue to grow!

  55. Lee says 24 November 2012 at 09:35

    Take your spare cash and go to a coin store and buy a couple of ounces of silver bullion for 35ish dollars per ounce, It quenches your desire to spend money, it is a hedge against inflation, and if you need it you can always get your value back out of it. That can’t be said for cash. Just look what a dollar could buy 10 years ago and what it can buy today.

    • Darren says 10 April 2016 at 13:02

      And how much was silver worth 10 years ago?

  56. Paul says 25 November 2012 at 08:58

    First clear your loans. From my experience I can say, there are smart financial calculators which show you in detail how to payoff any type of loan early. The calculator which I use is ” Smart Loan Calculator Pro ” which is available for iPhone / iPad. It is awesome. It is not for one time. It is life time use smart calculator. Give it a try. I guarantee, you would thank me after you download and check it. After checking it, I realized how easy to payoff any type of loan early.

  57. pip says 01 February 2013 at 08:23

    I’m going to start saving a penny a day starting today@

  58. MoneyStreetSmart says 21 February 2013 at 12:31

    I think evaluating each purchase on several levels in extremely important. I am all for saving as much as I can by realizing what I need vs. what I want. I also do see the long term value in quality and spending more up front to reduce repeat costs in the long term. For example, a computer for your son/daughter for school. Sure, $400 nowadays can get you a basic laptop computer but will it last? If you are extremely good with computers you might be able to get four years out of it however, for the average computer/student user, you’ll end up paying for repairs or a new computer before you know it. Saving is crucial but so is realizing the value when spending to make sure you are not sacrificing quality in the long run. I guess the same could be said for vehicles, sports equipment, clothing, etc.

  59. FrugalistLife says 10 June 2014 at 04:41

    I would say;

    1: Set up allotments
    2: Get rid of TV
    3: Pack your own meals
    4: Drink water only
    5: Simple Cell Phone Plan

  60. Joe says 07 April 2016 at 09:35

    I’ve found the best way to save money is to create separate bank accounts or buckets for different goals. At this point many bank offer very low minimums for a savings account or you can get an ING Direct type of account. Have automatic withdrawals come out, at $15-20-$25 a week you will not even notice it!

    • Shannon says 12 April 2016 at 06:53

      This is exactly what I do. I have a rather small amount going into a savings account I set up specifically for health savings. It is amazing how quickly small amounts add up!

  61. Latoya @ Femme Frugality says 08 April 2016 at 04:17

    I’ve tried the $5 savings and I was able to save quite a hefty amount. I can’t even remember why I stopped or what the money got spent on, but I think I may start again using the front end and back end emotional connections you mentioned. I have no clue as to what those would be, but you’ve definitely given me something to ponder!

  62. Ramona says 08 April 2016 at 04:49

    The jar WORKS. I saved a lot of money for our daughter’s presents last year. Small 1 o5 5 Lei *our currency, or bigger ones, 10, 50, depending on what we’d get in our wallets (mostly small bills). In 2 months we had almost 200 bucks.

  63. Timothy says 02 May 2016 at 07:38

    Great idea to make saving a game/habit. For years I have put aside a few Sacagawea and or Presidental gold dollars each month. I tally my dollars each month, and at the end of the year these funds can be invested or put away to gain interest. This can be done with US quarters as well…currently there are at least 75-100 different designs (See US…ie state quarters, national park quarters. Try to get 10 each and put em aside!

  64. Cathy R says 05 May 2016 at 12:35

    I have seen the jar method work fantastically. Whether you just aim to save all of the change or a particular denomination, it can certainly provide an easy method for saving. The same can be said for “rounding up” debit card transactions. Every time I use my debit card, I round the transaction to the nearest $5 by moving the difference into a savings account. And I do this for each transaction, whether I make one or 10 transactions in a day, each is rounded up and I deposit the difference into savings.

  65. Ramon Lopez says 28 December 2016 at 09:00

    well like I live expense house include heat, water, light, and air conditioner plus the bill is come over 200 to 300 dollar so I never save money to eat plus I live jersey in Paterson that highest tax in United State American I always bring three dollar outside plus I ask people for dollar is not good if the bus price is less money is so okay I save much faster to pay the karate include prepare for the money summer saving to pay the karate include the belt rank in case I get the test and pay the year so I don’t why people like play game on money for there have millionaire over rich.

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