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piggy bank on stacks of cash

With the new year just around the corner, I thought I’d give you some food for thought on ways to build up your savings account in the coming year. It seems like one of the resolutions on everyone’s list come January 1st is to do better with their finances, whether that be by paying off debt, saving more money, or increasing retirement savings.  In honor of that long-held resolution, I’m sharing 7 savings techniques that are relatively painless for most.  Even if you’re on a tight budget, I’d encourage you to do something to build up your savings account, and remember: every penny adds up.  Don’t dismiss your small savings attempts, just focus on the fact that you’re saving more than you did previously, and give yourself a pat on the back for the success of having a bigger, healthier savings account.

1. The Old Standby: the Change Jar

People often forget that those dimes, nickels, quarters and pennies add up quickly when they’re thrown into a jar each day and left untouched.  I routinely read stories about people who create an emergency fund, pay off debt or save to pay cash for a vacation simply by throwing that loose change into a jar instead of spending it.  I’d encourage you to try it yourself for 60 days and see how much extra money you can find by saving your change.

2. The Grocery Bill Game

Here’s a savings idea for you:  When you go to the grocery store, and buy the on-sale items that fit into your food menu, put the money you saved by buying on sale into the bank.  So, for instance, if milk is regularly priced at $2.79 a gallon, and it goes on sale for 2 for $5, you’d buy the milk, and transfer the money savings of 58 cents into your savings account.  Again, don’t pay too much attention to individual amounts, just make the grocery bill game a habit, and watch the pennies add up.  A bonus benefit?  Playing this game will encourage you to be more diligent with buying groceries on sale.

3. Pay cash

Another way people learn to be successful with growing their savings account is by paying cash for everything.  Then, at the end of the day, they put change and $1 bills into a jar or savings fund.  These small bills and the change that comes with it are often spent on little, unnecessary items anyway, so having a purpose for the change will ensure that you are wasting less money and working to build up your savings account at the same time.

4. Automate

Yeah, I know: you’ve heard it before.  But I’m saying it again: AUTOMATE!  Work through your employer or your bank to have a specific dollar amount from your paycheck put into a savings account every single month.  You likely won’t miss the cash, and at the end of the year, you’ll have a nice, cushy savings account to show for it.

5. Save Unexpected/Extra Cash

When you get a birthday gift of cash, a raise, a tax or other refund, or any other unexpected cash that’s outside of your regular paycheck, commit to putting it all into savings.  Don’t view that unexpected cash with spending eyes, looking for a fun something-or-other that you can buy.  Instead, use it to build yourself a more firm financial foundation.

6. Do the 52-Week Challenge

The 52-week challenge says that you put money each week into savings that matches the week of the year.  For instance, in week one, you put $1 into savings, week 2 gets $2 into savings, and so on and so forth.  Some people also do the challenge in reverse, putting $52 in savings during week 1, making the challenge easier as the year goes on.

7. Save What You Don’t Spend

This is another savings technique that works well for many people. It works like this: If you’re out somewhere, and have a hankering for, say, a cheeseburger, you stand strong and skip the drive through.  Then the $1 or $2 you would have spent on the burger goes into savings.  Same goes for if you’re out to eat and order water instead of a soda: the $2 you would’ve spent on the soda goes directly into savings.  This game is also a great way to see how much money you would have spent had you not chosen to be disciplined about your budget and your spending.

 What are your favorite way to build up your savings account?