You may be doing all the right things when it comes to your savings — putting money aside from every paycheck, contributing to your employer’s retirement plan and diversifying your investments. But if you are concerned that these things might not be enough or your goals are bigger than that, here are some money moves you may not have thought of that could turbocharge your finances and set you up with financial security for life.
There are two ways to increase your nest egg: Save more and make those savings work harder for you. These ideas will help you do both because it’s important to know how to save and how to invest what you’ve saved.
Last updated: Sept. 4, 2020
1. Make Your Savings Very Hard To Get At
One of the keys to growing your savings is to keep the money in an interest-bearing account, and don’t touch it. Open a separate savings account at a bank you don’t typically use. An internet bank can be good for this purpose since you won’t be able to walk into a branch and take out the money.
Don’t get a debit card, and, if possible, don’t link it to your other accounts. When you want to deposit money, you can use mobile upload if available, mail in a check or go to a branch if it’s not an internet-only bank.
2. Earn On Your Savings
Make sure you put your savings in a place where you can earn interest. Put your funds into a high-yield savings account, or, if you don’t need immediate access to your money, consider investing it in a certificate of deposit. Certificates of deposit are another way to save and earn a higher rate of interest, but that may require you to keep your money locked up for years. If you do remove money before the CD term is up, because of an emergency or some other reason, you will face a penalty fee.
3. Diversify Your Savings
You don’t have to put all your money in a high-yield savings account or a CD account. Diversifying your savings strategy to include a mix of high-yield savings accounts, CDs and money market accounts can ensure that you are earning interest while still being able to access funds if and when you need to.
4. Invest In Stocks
Although stock prices rise and fall all the time, in general, the stock market follows an upward trajectory. If you are saving for the long term, investing in stock can be a great way to grow your wealth.
5. Use Alternative Investments
Stocks, bonds and mutual funds are just the tip of the investing iceberg. You can invest in just about anything, and some unusual ways to invest money have paid off big in the past. Keep in mind that some of these investment ideas are very risky and may be unregulated, so be sure that you can afford to lose the money you’re investing if things go south.
You can invest in commodities like gold, oil, orange juice or live cattle. You can also invest in shares of boats or buy loans, such as car title loans or commission advance loans. The possibilities are nearly endless.
6. Start Micro-Investing
You can still invest even if you don’t have enough discretionary income to buy whole stocks or alternative investments. Apps like Stash and Acorns allow you to invest whatever money you do have, even if it’s not a lot.
7. Don’t Spend the Fives
Here’s a savings trick that works if you use cash frequently. Every time you get a $5 bill, tuck it into a spot in your wallet and don’t spend it. That’s right, every $5 bill you come across — just stash it away. Every so often, deposit them into your savings account.
This works because $5 bills are less common than other denominations. As of Dec. 31, 2018, there were 3.1 billion $5 bills in circulation, according to the Federal Reserve. For comparison, there were 9.4 billion $20 bills and 12.4 billion $1 bills in circulation at that time. So tucking away your fives can be pretty painless.
8. Save Your Savings
If you’re frugal, you probably buy a lot of items when they’re on sale, like clothes. But what do you do with the money you’re saving when you buy at a discount? You probably use it to buy more stuff.
Here’s a good way to save those savings. When you go to buy an item that’s on sale, ask yourself if you would still buy the item if it were not on sale — the answer should always be yes or don’t buy it. Take the amount you saved, and deposit it into your savings account. So, when you pay $25 for that shirt that was originally $40, put the $15 difference into savings.
9. Look In Your Attic
You may have stuff in your house that’s worth a lot of money, but it’s been stored away for so long you’ve forgotten you even have it. Go through your attic, basement and closets to see if anything that you’ve been keeping but not using has appreciated in value.
If you happen to come across an Action Comics book from December 1938 in mint condition, you could be sitting on a gold mine. One of these sold for $40,000 to a comic book site. And while your grandfather’s baseball card collection may not include a Honus Wagner card worth $3 million or more, he could have a 1962 Roger Maris card that could fetch $200 or so if it’s in mint condition.
10. Claim What’s Yours
Every state has a program to notify people of property that is unclaimed. This could be a tax refund or the proceeds of an insurance policy. There’s a listing of each state’s unclaimed property websites through the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. Check the unclaimed property website for any state you’ve ever lived in, and for the names of deceased relatives who might have left you an inheritance.
A note of caution: Each state makes their listings of unclaimed property available to the public for free. If your name is listed as having property, there is no charge to apply to the state and submit the required documentation to get your property. Don’t get scammed by someone who says they’ll claim your property for a fee. The process isn’t that daunting, so there’s no reason to pay someone to do it for you.
11. Use Your Credit Card
This may seem like odd advice. After all, credit card debt is the biggest threat to financial security, right? Well, it can be. But credit card debt is different from credit card use. If you use your credit card for regular purchases and pay the balance off at the end of the month, it can actually help you save more.
First, you’ll need a credit card that pays you cash back. Then, you’ll need to use your card for groceries, gas and even monthly utility bills. And then — this is the most important step — you need to pay off your entire credit card balance before the due date. This way, you’ll get cash back for what you’ve spent, but you won’t pay any interest on your purchases. Now, the next most important step is to put the money you earned through cash back into your savings account. Don’t let it sit there just to add up or to use it for next month’s balance. Put it into savings.
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12. Take Advantage of Credit Card Rewards
Some credit cards offer travel rewards and other perks in addition to or in lieu of cash back. If you have a travel rewards card, make sure you cash in on the rewards the next time you plan a trip to save on out-of-pocket costs.
13. Save That Raise
If you think you’ve squeezed every last dime from your budget, maybe the only thing you have to do is wait. When you get a raise at your current job or start a new job that pays a higher salary, bank at least half of your raise. Increase the amount that goes into your savings account by the after-tax amount of your increase if you can. If your expenses also go up, maybe due to a longer commute at a new job, for example, factor those into your budget and bank the rest.
14. Save Any Other Cash Windfalls
If you get a bonus at work or a hefty tax refund, put that money straight into savings.
15. Use the Right IRA
If you’re self-employed, you may use a traditional IRA account to save for retirement. But even if you put away the maximum amount, which is $6,000 in 2020 and $7,000 if you’re 50 or older, you may find your retirement account isn’t growing as fast as you might like or need.
Self-employed people have other options, however. One of them is a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP). With this type of IRA, you can contribute up to 25% of your net self-employment earnings, up to $57,000 in 2020.
16. Invest In Real Estate
If you own your home, you’re already a real estate investor. But there are many other ways to make money from real estate. You can buy, fix and sell properties as they do on different fixer-upper shows on television. You could buy a multifamily property and earn rental income. Or you could invest in a real estate investment trust, or REIT, which sells shares of a portfolio of properties like shopping malls, apartment buildings and other properties.
17. Look at Where You Live
Where you live has a significant impact on your expenses. If you can move to a location where housing and other costs are lower, you will be able to put more money into savings every month. While this is a somewhat drastic change for many people, it’s certainly one to consider if you’re serious about setting yourself up for a solid financial future.
18. Round Up
Whenever you make a purchase, round up the amount to an even dollar value and save the change. There are some credit and debit cards that will do this for you or you can do it yourself. At the end of the day or the end of the month when you get your statement, look at all your transactions and round up each one. Put that money into your savings account.
19. Deposit Your Change
This is a variation on the “round up” move. You may have a change jar in your house into which you dump your pocket change when it gets too heavy to carry around. This is a great idea, but you can make it even better. First, don’t use change when you’re paying for something. Only use bills — this will give you the maximum change for your jar. Most importantly, deposit the change into your savings account periodically. Leaving it in the jar means you don’t earn any interest on it, and when you finally do cash it in, you may be tempted to spend your windfall.
20. Don’t Pay Banking Fees
Even if you earn a good rate of interest on your savings, it won’t do you any good if you lose some of that money to fees. If you put your money in a savings account or CD, make sure there is no transaction fee or other potential fees. Some savings accounts will charge you if you make too many — or too few — transactions during each statement period. And with CDs, you can face early withdrawal penalty fees.
21. Sign Up for Overdraft Alerts
Another common banking fee is an overdraft fee — but this can be avoided. Set up an alert from your bank to let you know when your checking account hits a certain level — say $100 — so you know to transfer or deposit money into the account before you get dinged with an overdraft fee.
22. Put Your Bills on Autopay
Never get stuck with a late fee again. Put all your bills on autopay to ensure everything is paid in a timely manner — without having to put in any effort.
23. Control Your Debt
If your goal is financial security, debt has no place in your plan. A mortgage, car payment and student loans may be somewhat unavoidable parts of life, but controlling the amount you pay for those loans can help you on your way to financial security.
Keep an eye on interest rates so you’ll know when it makes sense to refinance your mortgage or student loans. When your car loan is paid off, keep that car for another few years. Take the amount you were paying on your loan and deposit it into your savings account every month.
24. Meet With a Financial Advisor
No matter what life phase you are in, meeting with a financial advisor is a worthy investment. These professionals can help you come up with a plan to meet your short-term and long-term money goals.
25. Automate Your Savings
Have a portion of every paycheck automatically transferred to your savings account. This way, you’re saving without thinking about it. When all of your paycheck stays in your checking account, you’re more likely to spend it all.
26. Build an Emergency Fund
You should have three to six months of expenses saved in an emergency fund so that you’ll be financially prepared in the case of job loss or a major unexpected expense like a home repair or medical emergency. Having an emergency fund will prevent you from needing to rely on credit or a loan to cover these unforeseen events.
27. Always Spend Less Than You Earn
The golden rule of saving is to spend less money than you earn. Track your money in and money out to make sure you are living within — and ideally below — your means.
28. Create a Monthly Budget
Create a budget that includes necessary expenses, wants and savings. The amount you dedicate to each is up to you, but once you set a budget, you should actually stick to it.
29. Save as Much as You Splurge
It’s fine to spend on the occasional “want,” but each time you do, put the same amount into savings. For example, if you spend $100 on a pair of shoes, put another $100 into your savings account. If you can’t afford to save as much as your splurge costs, skip the splurge.
30. Don't Overspend on Your Home and Car
Home and auto purchases can take a large bite out of your budget. Try to keep these costs down as much as you can. For example, buying a used car will save you in the long run compared to leasing a brand new car.
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31. Cut Back on Your Morning Coffee Runs
Getting a fancy coffee is one of life’s little pleasures, and it’s totally fine to indulge in that every once in a while. However, spending $4 every day on a latte adds up to $120 in a month. Consider splurging on a latte every other day and making coffee at home the other days, and put the $60 you would have spent into your savings account.
32. Buy a Reusable Water Bottle
Spending a few dollars on a reusable water bottle is a one-time purchase that’s well worth it. Not only is it good for the environment, but you’ll save by not having to buy bottled water all the time.
33. Cancel Unused Subscriptions
You likely have a subscription or two on autopay that you don’t even realize you’re spending money on every month. Review your monthly statements to see if there is a streaming service or magazine you’re being billed for that you can cancel.
34. Renegotiate Your Cable and Phone Bills
If you’ve stuck with the same cable or wireless service provider for years, chances are your bill has been rising incrementally without you even realizing it. Every year or two, check in with your providers to see if they have new promotions that can lower your bills.
35. Or Cut the Cable Cord Altogether
Not only will cutting the cable cord save you money, but it will also save you time that you can now use to make more money or strategize about additional ways to save money.
36. Shop Around for Insurance
Insurance is another monthly expense that you might be able to lower by switching providers. Use a comparison tool to see if there is a home or auto insurance provider that would give you a lower rate than what you are currently paying.
37. Use Coupons
Search your weekly circular, store flyers and online coupon sites for discounts before making any purchases. Every penny saved counts!
38. Follow the 24-Hour Rule
Before making any unnecessary purchase, wait 24 hours before buying. You might find that you wanted the item in the moment, but that it’s not something you actually want to spend money on when you give yourself extra time to think about it.
39. Don't Save Your Payment Info Online
Many websites give you the option to save your payment information for easier checkout in the future. However, this can lead to more impulse buying. Clear your payment information from every website so that it’s not so easy to make mindless purchases. In the few moments it takes to reenter your credit card info the next time you’re shopping, you might decide it’s something you really don’t need to buy.
40. Shop With Discounted Gift Cards
You can find discounted gift cards on sites like Gift Card Granny and Raise. When you use these cards to shop at stores you frequent, you’re automatically saving money on your purchase.
41. Enact a Weekly 'No Spend' Day
Choose one day a week to not spend any money. This will require some planning ahead, but it’s definitely possible to do.
42. Start a Side Hustle
The more money you make, the more money you can save for the future. Take on a side gig that you can do during nights and weekends to boost your income outside of your day job. This can be anything from driving for a ride-share service to walking dogs.
43. Set Up a Passive Income Stream
The best type of money is the kind that makes itself. Earning passive income usually requires an initial investment that can pay for itself over time. This can include buying an ATM or billboard or buying an already profitable website.
44. Put Money Into a Health Savings Account
If your healthcare plan enables you to contribute to a health savings account, take advantage of this perk. With an HSA, you contribute pretax dollars that can then be used to cover medical expenses such as deductibles and copayments.
45. Take Advantage of Your 401(k) Match
If your employer offers a matching contribution to your 401(k) retirement plan, make sure you are taking it. This automatically doubles the investment you make toward your retirement.
46. Continually Increase Your Retirement Contributions
As you earn more and/or pay off more debt, you should be increasing the percentage you save for retirement.
47. Regularly Rebalance Your 401(k)
Check your 401(k) regularly to ensure your portfolio matches your risk tolerance. Generally, you should decrease the risk as you get closer to retirement.
48. Ask for a Raise
If it’s been a while since your paycheck got a boost, don’t be afraid to ask for the money you deserve. This is especially true if you’re outperforming your goals or if your scope of responsibility has expanded since your last pay bump.
49. Have a Plan for Long-Term Care
Long-term care can be a major expense in retirement, so make a plan early about how you will pay for it. You might consider buying long-term care insurance.
50. Delay Claiming Social Security Benefits
The full retirement age is between 65 and 67, depending on the year you were born, but you can begin claiming benefits as early as 62. However, if you claim your benefits early, the amount will be reduced. Conversely, for every year past your full retirement age that you postpone collecting benefits (up to age 70), the amount of your benefit will increase.
51. Adjust Your Tax Withholding
Sure, getting a tax refund is exciting, but it simply means you are having too much tax withheld. That’s money that could have gone straight into your paycheck instead, which means more money you could have had to save or invest and earn interest on. Use the IRS tax withholding estimator to appropriately adjust how much you’re having withheld.
52. Check Your Credit Report
Check your credit report once a year for free by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. This will allow you to see any errors that could be negatively affecting your credit score and have them corrected. Your credit score determines the interest rate you get for any loan you take out, so having a high score will save you money in the long term.
53. Improve Your Credit Score
If your credit score is low, make moves to improve your score so that you qualify for lower interest rates. Having a high credit score can also give you an advantage if you are applying to rent an apartment or get a new job. Some ways to improve your credit score include paying bills on time, becoming an authorized user on a card held by someone with good credit and keeping unused credit lines open to lower your credit utilization.
54. Do It Yourself
We regularly pay extra for convenience, and these extra expenses can really add up. Chop your own fruits and vegetables instead of buying them precut at the store, paint your own nails and cook or pick up food instead of paying high delivery fees.
55. Always Have a Shopping Plan
Whether you’re shopping for holiday gifts or making your weekly run to the grocery store, be prepared with a plan. Have a list of the items you need to buy, have coupons printed out or saved on your phone, and know where to go to buy what you need for the lowest price.
56. Save for College
Just like you can contribute to an HSA to pay for future medical expenses, you can contribute to a 529 plan to pay for future college expenses. Contributing to this tax-advantaged plan now can help you be financially prepared to help your kids pay for college down the line.
57. But Prioritize Saving for Retirement Over Paying for Your Kids' College
As a parent, you likely want to give your kids all the help you can when it comes to paying for college. However, you shouldn’t reduce your retirement contributions — or worse, dip into your retirement savings — to do so. Remember, your child can take out loans to pay for college, but you cannot take out loans to fund your retirement.
58. Buy Used or Refurbished Items
Whether you’re shopping for furniture, clothes or tech, you’ll often save big by purchasing used or refurbished items.
59. Shop Through Cash-Back Sites
Sites like Rakuten and Coupon Cactus allow you to earn cash back on purchases at a number of popular retailers when you shop through their portals. This can be particularly useful if you are making a major purchase online. You can even shop with a cash-back credit card so you earn extra cash back.
60. Invest In Yourself
Investing in yourself is the best investment you can make. This can mean taking an online course to boost your earning potential or reading books that will improve your financial literacy so that you continue to make smart money moves.
Setting Yourself Up for Financial Security
As with your other financial decisions, you’ll want to do your research before deciding to implement any of these money moves. Be sure to create a budget for your expenses and see how much you can save and invest each month. And if you decide to commit to setting yourself up for life financially, these tips can help you get on your way.
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Karen Doyle contributed to the reporting for this article.