Looking for tips on how to save money in the new year? You’re not alone. More than half of Americans who set New Year’s resolutions aim to make better financial decisions in the year ahead. Whether you’re looking to save money on groceries or set aside a few dollars a week in a money-saving challenge, this post will help you make a plan for meeting your own financial goals for this year.
It's always the right time to save more money
Better financial management is one of those goals that never seems to go away. Each year, we set out to do better and, hopefully, we see some success. But that success makes us want to do even more. Where can we cut expenses further? How can we make budget tracking easier? How do we set aside more for the future?
This is a good thing. Finances and spending habits can be a bit like a wild beast that needs taming. It doesn’t happen all at once. It’s a process and it takes time. But as the beast slowly submits to your authority, you gain greater control over it and learn to work together with it to meet your goals. So, at the risk of sounding brash, let's whip our finances into shape (and leave the wild animals alone).
The more you invest yourself in shaping and cultivating healthy spending and saving habits, the better results you’re going to see.
The more you invest yourself in shaping and cultivating healthy spending and saving habits, the better results you’re going to see.
Perhaps you’re reading this in January, right after the Christmas season, and you’re determined to get your finances sorted out after some unexpected expenses in December. Or maybe you’ve landed here in June and you want to get back on track with financial goals you set at the beginning of the year.
Either way, it’s fine! Wherever you are at today, it’s a perfect time to start developing better habits. It’s never too late to take greater control over your spending and follow these tips for saving more money.
Why do you want to save more money?
But before we get into the tips, take a moment to reflect.
Why do you want to make this change in your life? What are you hoping to achieve by learning to save more money?
A goal not driven by a purpose will lose its priority as soon as something more pressing comes along.
So, first, figure out your why: why do you want to spend less or save more this year?
Are you seeking the freedom of being debt-free?
Do you want to save for something special like a home, your children’s education, or a family vacation?
Would you like to create a financial buffer so you have more flexibility in your working hours and more time with your family?
Articulating your internal motivators will strengthen your determination and give you greater motivation when your willpower is low and temptations are high.
Knowing what your greater goal—or vision, if you prefer—is and what it will mean for you when you get there, will also help you choose the money-saving strategies that are best aligned with your goals.
There are countless money-saving tips out there, but not all of them are going to be for you. If you know your bigger goal, you can eliminate any strategies that don’t align with it.
For example, one reason I want to save more money is so that our family can spend more time together. Therefore, money-saving strategies that take me away from my family or distract my attention too much have a counter-productive effect.
I’m going to skip those ones and focus on the ones that actually help me spend more time with my family now, while I’m working toward these goals.
Once you know your why, you’re ready to move forward.
Tips for Saving Money in the New Year
The rest of this post is organized into five categories of tips. You can read through each of them or jump ahead to the sections you’re most interested in by clicking the links below.
It’s important to remember that there are many components to saving money. It’s more than just dropping your spare change in a jar (though it could include that!).
Saving money cannot be an afterthought, though. It is a philosophy woven into every aspect of your financial planning process.
If you’re not thinking about saving when you’re budgeting, you’re unlikely to make much progress toward your savings goals.
If you’re not thinking about saving when you’re spending, you’ll spend more than you need to.
If you’re not thinking about saving while you’re consuming, you’ll be buying those things again sooner than you would have otherwise.
Saving has to be a decision factor at every stage of the planning, purchase, and consumption processes.
One thing I will caution you against before we continue: beware of offers that promise savings for buying more or buying something else. Most sales and promotions take advantage of this strategy. If you’re buying something you don’t really need just because it’s on sale, you’re missing an opportunity for saving.
Click these links or scroll down to find tips for saving money in each of these areas:
- Budgeting: Learn how to plan ahead so you can spend less and save more each month
- Conserving: Learn how to make the things you buy last longer so you can replace them less often
- Thriftiness: Learn how to develop the discipline of buying fewer things
- Spending smarter: Learn how to make the best choices about the things you do purchase
- Keeping it saved: Learn how to actually set aside the money you’re not spending and grow it for maximum benefit
Budgeting: plan ahead to spend less and save more
The first step in any effort to manage and control spending and savings must be the budget. If you don't have a plan for where your money is going, you have no control over. You're just throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks.
That's not a great approach to saving money. You need knowledge, insight, accountability, and discipline if you're going to get on top of your finances and start setting something aside for those big goals of yours.
Here are a couple of great resources on getting a budget set up if you haven't done it before or have struggled to stick with it.
Budgeting Tips for Beginners: How to Start a Budget that Actually Works
In this budgeting tips post, Steffa walks you through the entire process of setting up your budget, from setting goals and to tracking income to using a budgeting app (we use Mint and we love it) and separating your needs from your wants.
She also covers common budgeting mistakes and tips for keeping things on track.
Making a Zero-Based Budget that Works
A zero-based budget is one in which your bottom line amounts to zero each month—that is, every dollar coming in is accounted for in some way. That's not to say it's all getting spent. Your savings and investments are included in there as well. It's just that you're making yourself accountable for everything you have.
Marissa from Simple Money Mom does a great job of explaining how a zero-based budget works and how you can set one up for yourself. She also has a free printable yearly bill tracker to help you manage your payments.
Conserving: make the things you buy last longer
There are tons of simple changes you can make at home to help the things you already own last longer and the services you already pay for stretch further.
By caring for things better or changing the way you use them, you can move toward a lifestyle that not only saves you more money but also reduces your environmental impact by helping you consume and waste less. Sound like a good plan to me!
Homestead Money Smarts
Here's your chance to channel your inner homesteader. No, I'm not talking about following #farmhousestyle on Instagram, although, yes, technically that is fun too!
What I'm actually referring to are the time-tested habits that people on farms have developed for living simpler lifestyles and using and reusing as much as possible.
This epic money-saving post from Original Homesteading offers some awesome conservation tips. Among my favorites: learning to fix things yourself, managing your use of heat and hot water, and revolutionizing (or de-revolutionizing, I guess) your clothes laundering process. Enjoy!
Learning to Spend (and Save) like our Grandparents
Living, as we do, in a time of abundance, it can be easy to forget that life wasn't always this way. In fact, we probably have it better and easier than the vast majority of our ancestors.
Whenever I find myself lamenting that the dishwasher wasn't run the night before, I have to remind myself what extravagant luxury we live in that we even have a dishwasher, and running hot water, and enough dishes to warrant a dishwasher! This list can get long pretty fast.
But just because we have in abundance doesn't mean we can't learn some conservation and money management strategies from bygone eras. In fact, who better to learn from? Steffa from Plantsonify breaks down 17 money-saving principles we can learn from the Great Depression era in this post.
Thriftiness - save money by buying fewer things
Another great strategy for spending less money is to just stop by certain things altogether. It's really easy in our consumption-oriented culture to convince ourselves that the things we want are really needs, and this kind of thinking takes some intentional effort to unravel.
At different points in our relationship, my husband and I have forgone many things we would have liked to spend money on. For years, we tried to get by without a car. We took the bus, even when we went grocery shopping with our little purple shopping cart.
Eating out was out of the question, except perhaps if we were sharing one meal or going to Ikea for the $1 early bird breakfast!
We've always cut our kids' hair ourselves and we try to make our own home and body care products whenever possible. We've never had a TV or a PVR or a stereo. These things just didn't make the priority list for us.
What you choose to cut back on might look different from our list, but I encourage you to cut back wherever possible. This is one of the easiest ways to save money and meet your financial goals.
Here are a couple of posts that offer more ideas on things you can cut out.
A Frugal Mom's 25 Ways to Save
A lot of lists—including the one linked to here—talk about apps you can install on your phone to help you earn money back on things you buy. This isn't a strategy that's worked for me because 1) I live in Canada and most of these apps are US-focused, and 2) I can never remember to scan receipts or load offers. I'm just terrible at it. But a lot of people swear by these apps, so maybe they're worth checking out.
Regardless, this post has many other tips that make it worth checking out. I particularly love the ideas for cutting out household expenditures like paper towels and cleaning products. Also: YEEESSSS! to using the library! Most wonderful free resource ever.
And here are another ten things that you absolutely don't need.
10 Spending Habits to Cut Out of Your Budget
If you haven't already cut these ten things out of your budget, you can definitely do so right now without a second thought.
Spending smarter: make the best choices about the things you do buy
There are some things that we simply can't do without, and for these, we can regularly examine our spending patterns to make sure we're making the best decisions possible. The cheapest option is not always the best one. If you have to replace something frequently because it's not built to last, you will end up spending more in the long run than a more expensive option made with attention to quality.
The same goes with things like food. Just because food it cheap doesn't mean it's better. Decide what your nutritional goals and values are as a family and then make purchasing decisions that are aligned with those goals and that work within your budget. If you're planning to switch to an organic or plant-based diet, for example, you might not be able to make that change overnight but may have to work up to it, switching out a few products at a time.
Save Money on Your Heating Bill
Let's face it: winter in North America (or most of it, anyway) is super cold. Heating is a necessity. But paying through the roof for heating doesn't have to be. Carrie at One Crazy Mom offers some practical tips for saving money on your heating bill this winter.
Save Money on Your Groceries
Again, the first step in managing your spending is knowing where your money is going. Conducting a grocery audit is a great way to figure out what you are currently spending on food and developing a plan for meeting your food purchasing goals.
As a vegetarian family, we buy a LOT of fruits and vegetables. And we go through it all. A friend was visiting last week when my weekly groceries were delivered and she marvelled at how much food we bought. "Come back in five days," my husband and I joked simultaneously. "The fridge will be empty."
But buying fresh produce comes at a cost—that stuff isn't cheap! If you're not too attached to your meal plan and have time to shop around a bit, check out this post on saving money on your produce from Lisa at A Day in Our Shoes.
Even if you stick to a rigid meal plan like we do, you can still benefit from buying seasonally and growing some of your own veggies and fruit. This post also brings up an important point about channeling older generations who did not have the luxury we have today of making every meal delightful. "Not everything can be your favorite," is my new go-to phrase.
Aside from housing, food is our family's biggest monthly expenditure. With seven people in our house and others visiting regularly, I often feel like I'm pumping out meals at the rate of a small restaurant. After learning I was sensitive to wheat and dairy, I attempted to cut these foods out of our diet as much as possible. You can imagine what this did to our grocery bill. It soared even higher. If you're on a wheat-free or gluten-free diet, check out these tips from Sharon at the Helpful GF for saving money on gluten-free foods.
Even if you're not on a special diet, there are many steps you can take today to save money on your grocery and food bills.
Save Money on Your Internet Service
Internet service seems to be one budget area that can fluctuate in price quite a bit. Depending on your area, the type of service you need, and the providers operating near you, you may have more options than you know when it comes to reducing your Internet bill.
I've read stories of many frugal mamas who've saved hundreds of dollars a year by simply doing a bit of research and calling their current provider and asking for a better rate. Find out how you can do the same.
Saving: what to do with the money you save
So, now that you've assessed your financial picture, cut back on your spending, and adjusted your spending patterns, you're going to be saving lots of money! But what should you do with it? And how do you keep up these habits? These last few posts will help you with this.
5 Simple Tips to Live and Stay Debt Free
Sometimes our mindsets play a greater role in our spending (and overspending) than our desires and needs do. Changing the way you look at money and how you spend it can bring lasting positive benefits to your financial management style.
52 Week Money Challenge
Saving money can be a drag if you don't have something to look forward to. When your frugality is tied to a specific, tangible goal you're trying to achieve, you'll be more likely to stick with it for the long run.
Ginny at Savor and Savvy challenges her family to save a little money each week to fund their travels around the world.
In this post, she discusses this decision and how she makes saving a fun game in her household. She also offers free printables you can use to track your own savings.
8 Ways to be Sure You can Handle Financial Emergencies
Finally, the Bible is a source of wisdom when it comes to our approach to money. God knows how much of a temptation money and spending present to people and he laid out systematic principles to help us overcome these challenges.
Rachel Norman at A Mother Far From Home offers 8 financial habits based on biblical principles to keep money in its proper place in your life and prepare for unexpected financial emergencies.
Rest assured that you don't have to implement all the tips found in this post to successfully spend less and save more money in the new year.
Assess your current situation and make a budget. Choose a few habits you can work on and commit to those. Don't add in anything else until you have those ones down.
Then try a few more. With time, your savings will grow, alongside your self-discipline and your ability to make wise financial choices.
I'd love to hear what has worked for you when it comes to saving money. Share your top tips for saving money in the comments below.