You may want to increase your savings for a variety of reasons. Whether you’re looking to pay off debt, save for a down payment on a house, or save for retirement, you’ll almost certainly need to increase your savings rate.
My personal goal is to reach financial independence and early retirement in the next five years. It’s well known that the fastest path to financial independence is to amass a large amount of investments and net worth. And one of the most successful ways to increase your investments is to increase your savings.
Let’s look at seven different ways to boost your savings. I’ll prioritize the ones that have the greatest impact and work my way down.
1. Get a salary increase
Assuming you are gainfully employed, the single best way to increase your savings rate is to receive a significant salary increase.
A good example of how an increase in salary helps increase your savings can be seen in the chart depicting my ten-year savings rate. In 2016, I decided it was time to leave my previous employer, so I began interviewing and evaluating job offers. To my surprise, I was being offered upwards of 40% more than what I was already earning at the time! That was incredible! Why hadn’t I done that earlier? /facepalm.
Increase your income and you will almost certainly increase your savings dramatically
“Don’t sell yourself short,” as one of my mentors used to say. Regardless of whether you switch jobs or get a promotion or raise at your current employer, make sure you are paid what you are worth.
Then, as long as you keep lifestyle inflation under control, your income can gradually rise while your spending remains constant. You might even apply some optimizations (mentioned below) to reduce your spending even further.
I’ve so far managed to keep lifestyle inflation in check. Income has grown while spending has stayed the same over the last ten years
2. Lower your monthly rental cost
Obviously, this applies to those who, for whatever reason, choose to rent rather than own a home. Renting is very common in high-cost-of-living areas, like New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area. It can still be a good wealth-building approach, but I won’t go into detail on that here because much has already been written on the subject.
Let’s be real. Not everyone can move in with three other friends and save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per month on rent. Having said that, those who are able to should absolutely do so! I did it for many years and it enabled me to save and invest a large portion of my earnings.
Going back to the savings rate chart above, you’ll notice that I had another increase in savings in 2018. This was the year I met my then-girlfriend (we’re now happily married). We moved in together, sharing a studio apartment and splitting the rent.
Share rent with friends (roommates) in order to increase your savings
There is also another way to save money on rent. Because of COVID-19, many property management firms and landlords are now offering lower rents. This means it is possible to renegotiate your lease terms and pay less while locking in a longer lease.
One of my friends recently told me that he renewed his lease and was able to renegotiate a 14 percent discount, so he now pays $3,010 per month in San Francisco instead of $3,500. That is enormous! This means he’ll pay $5,880 less than he did last year while living in the same apartment!
3. Cut down on unnecessary bills
Many people spend a significant amount of money each month on subscriptions that they are simply too lazy to cancel. This lowers their savings rate, preventing them from paying off their debt sooner, preparing for retirement, and saving for their children’s education.
Every year, a large number of Americans overspend on cable television. According to a DecisionData 2020 report, the average household cable package costs more than $200 per month, and households spend more on cable TV than they do on all other major utilities combined (electricity, gas, water, sewage, and garbage).
Some people pay for cable television as well as a variety of subscription services such as HBO Go, Netflix, Hulu, and others. I suggest carefully reviewing how much you watch these and how much you spend on TV each month and, if possible, lowering your bills.
Consider looking into your mobile phone expenses for you and your family in addition to your TV bills. There are family plans and less expensive “unlimited everything” plans available from resellers of the major telecom providers. I’m paying a flat $50 per month for unlimited everything plus international data, and to be honest, I could probably cut my phone bill even more.
4. Create a budget or spending plan
Making a budget and understanding where your money is going is an easy way to discover those unnecessary costs I mentioned earlier. Seeing the costs in the form of a table or chart can make a significant difference. There have been numerous occasions when I was paying for something and not paying close attention until I noticed that pie chart and realized that expense could have easily been avoided.
It is not difficult to create a budget and to consider what you should and should not spend your hard-earned money on. Begin with what you spend most on and work your way down.
5. Find and eliminate any recurring fees
Recurring fees are something else you may notice once you create your budget and go over your monthly expenses. I actually just called my HSA provider this week to consolidate two accounts because they were charging me fees for both.
In the past, I’ve also caught some poorly managed investments where I had forgotten to reinvest my dividends in a brokerage account and was paying fees to keep that cash there.
Credit card fees are another common and unnecessary cost that you should be able to avoid.
6. Use credit cards wisely
When it comes to credit cards, you should look for ones that have no annual fees and give cash back rewards. It’s also a good idea to use different credit cards for different types of purchases. Some are best suited to travel, while others are better for groceries and gas, or even entertainment and dining.
My apologies if this section seems like an advertisement for a bunch of credit card companies. I am not affiliated with any of these institutions, and there are no links to their websites. I just wanted to give you some real-life examples.
Here are some examples from my day-to-day life. Please let me know if you know of a good one that I should add.
- My grocery credit card is the American Express Blue Cash Everyday card. It provides 3% cash back on groceries at US supermarkets on purchases of up to $6,000 per year.
- When shopping on Amazon.com, I use my Amazon Rewards Card for 5% cash back.
- I have the Capital One Savor card (which now has fees, so I wouldn’t recommend it, but it was free when it first came out, and I am grandfathered into the free plan, yay!) Before the pandemic this was my new favorite card because it offered 4% back on all dining and entertainment purchases. Yes, all of my lunches in NYC were paid for with this card, as were those expensive 3D movie tickets at the theater.
- When I travel internationally I use my Capital One Quicksilver card because it has no foreign transaction fees.
- I also have the REI Rewards Card which I use to buy gear from REI since I’m out in nature often (hiking, camping, skiing, snowshoeing, etc.)
7. Buy essential items in bulk and at a discount
Last but not least, be smart when buying essentials. Using Amazon’s Subscribe & Save or Costco to purchase in bulk is one of the best ways to save money on items you’d buy anyway. I’m referring to items such as personal hygiene products, cleaning supplies, and so on.
One final piece of advice is to keep an eye on slickdeals, which has a wonderful community that is always on the lookout for great discounts. You can even set up alerts to notify you when an item you’re interested in goes on sale.
If you want to dramatically increase your savings, you should probably follow all of these recommendations and then some.
Here is the TL;DR for increasing your savings:
- Get a salary increase
- Get a promotion / raise / new job / start a side hustle
- Keep lifestyle inflation in check
- Lower your monthly rental cost
- Share rent with roommates
- Negotiate lower rent and lock in a longer lease
- Cut down on unnecessary bills
- Find a cable TV alternative
- Optimize your mobile plan costs
- Create a budget or spending plan
- Identify what you spend most on
- Find and eliminate any recurring fees
- Get rid of bank/investment account fees, and credit card fees
- Use credit cards wisely
- Different cards are good for different purchases
- Buy essential items in bulk
- Shop at Costco or with Amazon Subscribe & Save
- Keep an eye on slickdeals