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How to Save Money: Tips, Lessons and Apps

Saving money is a matter of habit. The more you do it, the easier saving money becomes.
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Why is it so important to save money?

While there are many reasons to save money, the main one is to achieve the Holy Grail of any American adult: Financial independence. Low debt and high savings puts you in the drivers' seat, financially, and makes it easier to make the big purchases in life on your terms, like buying a home, buying a car, or attending college.

But saving money also has some hidden benefits that financial consumers may not know about. For example, if you're using a credit card as your primary financial tool for spending money, you're not only not saving cash, you're leaving money on the table.

Think about it. By using a credit card and not paying your bill on time, you're incurring high-interest rate charges. In doing so, you're paying up to 50% more for the items you purchase than they actually cost.

That's why it's so important to save money - for obvious and not-so-obvious reasons. Saving money for purchases ahead of time can actually save you money, and add some much-needed stability to your bank account.

Daily Ideas for Saving Money

There are myriad ways to save money on a daily basis. Here are some of the best:

1. Plan your grocery shopping

Plan out your grocery shopping ahead of time and thus save by eating in, saving on pricey restaurants (along with tips and taxes) and making every meal less expensive in the process.

2. Hold the Starbucks

Cut out the Starbucks coffee every day and brew your own java for that commute to work. If you have a desk, look into getting a small coffee pot to brew on the spot.

3. Brown bag your lunch

Pack your own lunch for work instead of eating out five days a week. You'll save $25 to $50 for doing so.

4 Embrace the 24-hour rule

Here's another way to save money on a daily basis - deploy the "24-hour rule." Here's how it works - you mull over buying a new watch either online or at your local mall. Before pulling the trigger, take a 24-hour waiting period and see just how passionate you are about making that purchase. By waiting, you're reducing that purchase from a "need" to a "want," and can more easily walk away from buying the watch, and saving more cash in doing so.

Weekly and Monthly Ideas for Saving Money

Create a few "30 day" rules to saving money, as well - it's easier than you think.

1. Save every week

Take the "52-week challenge." Here, the idea is to save $1 the first week, $2 the second week, $3 the third week, and so on, until you end the year saving $52 on the last week on your savings calendar. Do that every week, and you'll save $1,378 over the entire year.

2. Cut the cord

Cut your monthly cable bill by slashing the cord and moving to a low-cost streaming service like Apple TV, Amazon or Netflix. At several hundred dollars per month for traditional cable, you'll save a bundle by unbundling.

3. Save on auto insurance

Another monthly savings idea - get less expensive auto insurance. Studies show that 40% of consumers haven't bothered to check insurance rates (which change regularly). In a highly competitive industry, auto insurance firms like Geico, Progressive, and Allstate are all cutting rates, and if you're not taking advantage, you're once again leaving cash on the table.

Long-Term Ideas for Saving Money

Start every year with some solid money-saving campaigns that will come in handy when you look back 12 months later.

1. Start an emergency funds

Starting an emergency fund and contributing to it regularly can save the day if your car needs $1,000 or more in repairs, or if you suffer another financial emergency, like a major illness, or if you lose your job, an emergency fund can save the day.

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2. Start investing

Investment web sites like Robin Hood allow you to buy a few shares of stock on a regular basis - even automatically. It doesn't cost much, and you'll develop a good investment habit.

3. Cut expenses you're not using

Do you really need that $100 per month gym membership? Eliminating it saves $1,200 annually. Do you really need that expensive auto payment? Sell your vehicle and get behind the wheel of a less expensive set of wheels and save thousands every year. Is your mortgage too expensive? Once a year, check mortgage interest rates and see if you can cut a better deal.

4. Save your windfalls

It's also a great idea to take your yearly bonus or raise, if you get one, and immediately sock it away in a savings account. After all, there's no rule that says you have to spend a windfall.

15 Creative Ways to Save Money

While assigning savings goals based on the calendar is a good idea, there are always great ways to save no matter what day, month or year it is.

Try these creative money-saving tips on for size.

1. Avoid the ATM

Save on pricey ATM fees, which can cost up to $5.00 per transaction, especially if the ATM isn't in your bank's network. Take out money at the bank counter for free.

2. Cut out subscriptions

It's easy to sign up for introductory offers for goods and services. But when you do, you can just as easily sign up for subscriptions you don't really need. Instead, use a service like Trim which searches out and cancels subscriptions you're not using - and don't really need.

3. Turn off your lights and save on electricity

It may not seem like much, but dousing the lights in your home when you're not using them can save $25 or more off your electric bill each month.

4. Split Netflix and other streaming accounts with your household

If you really get and use a subscription service, try to split it with your roommates or family members that you still live with. Take Netflix  or Hulu, for example. Both allow you to have more than one person on the account. Take advantage and split the bill, and cut your monthly payment in half.

5. Stop auto-saving credit or debit card numbers 

When shopping online, merchants love to keep your credit or debit card number in hand in case you want to make another purchase (they hope you will!). Keep temptation at bay and opt not to keep your payment card number available on "auto-status" when you make a purchase. You'll think twice about making another one when you don't have to actually type in your card number.

6. Inflate your tires to save on gas

By keeping your vehicle's tires properly inflated, your car or truck will run more efficiently and, more importantly, save money on gas.

7. Make a shopping list and stick to it

Limit your grocery bill by making a shopping list and adhering to that list. When you buy only what you have on your list, you'll better fend off "impulse purchases" that can add to your bill.

8. Switch to a better bank 

If your bank is prone to charging fees for things like ATM use, issuing checks or rare overdrafts, switch teams and opt for a bank that not only cuts fees, but gives you better interest rates on savings accounts.

9. Split your paycheck to save automatically

Most companies offer employees direct deposit and there's a good way to take advantage of automatic paycheck payments. Ask your employer to split your check deposit between your bank savings and checking accounts. Aim for an 80% deposit into checking and 20% deposit into savings. You'll save automatically and earn more interest with a savings account deposit.

10. Stream workout sessions

Save on pricey gym memberships by streaming online gym workout sessions and work out in the comfort and privacy of your own home.

11. Stick to happy hours

Thirsty for a beer after work? Just head to a local watering hole with a happy hour deal. Typically, it's a two-for-one deal for most drinks - and likely the same for some tasty appetizers.

12. Catch a matinee showing

Looking to catch the new Star Wars or Avengers movie? Great. Just go to an afternoon flick and save on ticket charges. While you're at it, eat before you go to avoid spending $20 on popcorn and a soda.

13. Get a water filter

If you're into buying palettes of bottled water, stop right now and invest in a water filter. With a simple installation, you'll soon be drinking clear, cold, uncontaminated water right out of your kitchen tap - and save hundreds per year in the process.

14. Refinance your student loan

Use a financial website like Credible to curb your student loan payments. The site automatically hunts down great student loan deals that cut your interest rate - and saves you big money by refinancing.

15. Junk your storage unit 

A typical storage unit can cost up to $150 or more per month. Do you really need all that stuff? Instead, junk the junk - and the storage unit - and sell all of your stuff on eBay; earn money on the sale; and save money by getting rid of the storage unit.

Best Money-Saving Mobile Apps

Save money on a regular basis using some great money saving mobile phone apps.

Honey, for instance, allows you to save cash by automatically applying coupon codes to purchases as you make them. The app works at 3,700 stores across the globe.

Or try CamelCamelCamel, which tracks prices on Amazon (which change all the time.) Identify a purchase on Amazon, and CamelCamelCamel will signal the best time to buy it.

For a great overall money-saving app, try Digit. This app estimates what you can save on a regular basis, based on your cash income and regular spending habits. It then pops the money into a bank-like savings account automatically. You'll even earn a 1% bonus every three months using Digit, based on your average account balance.