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The easiest way to save a lot of money is to make a lot of it first. If only it were that simple. But just because you may have to try harder than some (and most of us do), it doesn’t mean saving money has to be hard.
If you make enough money to pay for all of your necessities every month, there’s room to save and grow those savings. You might just have to do some rearranging to make room.
Do these five things before the weekend to start saving, and you’ll see it gets easier from there:
1. See Where Your Money Likes to Go
You know where your money comes from. But do you wonder where it all goes? If you do, you could probably use a budget.
Budgeting helps you stay on track financially, and it helps you visualize where your money goes every month, quarter and year. It also helps you spot inefficiencies and identify areas you could cut back on without much, if any, change to your quality of life.
These days, budgeting has never been easier. If you have a checking account, there’s probably a budgeting tool integrated into your bank’s app or your online account.
The fact that it has never been easier to track your money means there are lots of solutions available, many of which are fully free. So if you find your bank’s tools to be a bit unintuitive or lacking in features, check out the free options available in your preferred app store.
2. Start Investing with Free Stocks
Investing might fall closer to the back end of your 10-year plan, but it shouldn’t. It’s a common misconception that getting into investing requires a ton of experience and your entire paycheck, but that’s simply not true.
Can you imagine where your investments would be if you put a few bucks into the stock market when the idea first crossed your mind, which was probably years ago?
You really don’t need that much money to start investing. In some cases, you can even kickstart your fund with free stocks valued anywhere from $2.50 to $200.
Whether you’ve got $5, $100 or $800 to spare, you can start investing with Robinhood.
Yeah, you’ve probably heard of Robinhood. Both investing beginners and pros love it because it doesn’t charge commission fees, and you can buy and sell stocks for free — no limits. Plus, it’s super easy to use.
What’s best? When you download the app and fund your account (it takes no more than a few minutes), Robinhood drops a share of free stock into your account. It’s random, though, so that stock could be worth anywhere from $2.50 to $200 — a nice boost to help you build your investments.
Try swapping out a minor luxury for your first investment. Invest that $30 instead of buying movie tickets, pause that streaming service you didn’t even use this month or let a home-cooked meal help you redirect a few dollars from dining out to investing.
3. Save Smarter, Not Harder
For many people, budgeting is a lot like dieting and exercising. You feel good when you do it, but there’s a reason it always makes for a good New Year’s resolution.
Instead of feeling bad about shopping, try to feel good about how much you pay for things when you do.
These days, you can do that without combing every sales flyer or making it rain with a wad of coupons — though there’s nothing wrong with either.
There are web browser extensions that’ll alert you before checking out if you can get the same product or service for a better price from another online retailer.
And that’s exactly what this free service does, and it’s how it saved people more than $160 million last year.
Just add it to your browser for free, and before you check out, it’ll check other websites, including Walmart, eBay and others to see if your item is available for cheaper. Plus, you can get coupon codes, set up price-drop alerts and even see the item’s price history.
You can get started in just a few clicks to see if you’re overpaying online.
Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the extension using the links provided.
4. Protect Your Family From a Flood of Debt
We save for rainy days. But what happens when it rains, pours and then floods? Most people don’t want to spend a lot of time mulling worst-case scenarios, despite these situations being the worst to be unprepared for.
You can plan and save for the unthinkable. It doesn’t take much time or money to help your family manage the mortgage, tuition, car payments or common household expenses without your income.
It takes about five minutes to leave your family $1 million in life insurance with a company called Policygenius.
Not sure how much coverage you need? A general rule of thumb is to secure seven to 10 times your average salary. Policygenius even has a life insurance calculator to help you find the best coverage for you.
5. Spend $5 on Making Retirement a Reality
If you don’t have a regular savings account, a retirement account might seem flat-out unrealistic right now. And if that seems unrealistic, you might not think this tip applies to you when we tell you this: You could fund that retirement account with stakes in Apple, Microsoft and Google.
If you can spare $5, then this certainly applies to you.
Seriously — with only a few dollars, an app called Stash lets you can invest in thousands of stocks and ETFs, which can help you grow your investment portfolio and reach your retirement goals.1
Some companies may even send you a check every quarter for your share of profits, called dividends. If these companies profit, so can you.
It takes two minutes to sign up, and your investments are protected. With Stash, investments are held by their custodian, Apex Clearing Corporation, a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) — that’s industry talk for, “your money comes with protection.”2
Plus, when you use the link above, Stash will give you a $5 bonus once you deposit $5 into your account.3
1For retirement, Stash offers access to traditional or Roth IRAs.
2To note, SIPC coverage does not insure against the potential loss of market value. Apex Clearing Corporation is a third-party SEC-registered broker-dealer and member FINRA/SIPC.
Remember, not all stocks pay out dividends. And there’s no guarantee any stock will pay dividends in a quarter or year. Dividends may be subject to additional taxes, and are considered taxable income. Please refer to the IRS for additional information.
Investing minimums for fractional shares start at $0.01 for a Personal Portfolio
3Offer is subject to Terms and Conditions. To be eligible to participate in this Promotion and receive the Bonus, you must complete the following steps: (i) successfully complete the designated registration process of opening an individual taxable brokerage account (“a Personal Portfolio”), (ii) link a funding account (e.g. an external bank account) to your Personal Portfolio, AND (iii) initiate and complete a minimum deposit of at least five dollars ($5.00) into your Personal Portfolio. In the event you only complete the designated registration process to receive the Financial Counseling Service (as defined in your Advisory Agreement) or do not otherwise complete the account opening process for an individual taxable brokerage account (“Personal Portfolio”), you will not be eligible to receive the Bonus.
The Penny Hoarder is a paid solicitor of Stash.
This information is for educational purposes only. This material is not intended as investment advice and is not meant to suggest that any securities are suitable investments for any particular investor. Investment advice is only provided to Stash customers. All investments are subject to risk and may lose value. All product and company names are trademarks ™ or registered ® trademarks of their respective holders. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.