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27 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Saving Money

Most of these tactics don’t hurt a bit and some might make you healthier

By Donna Freedman and


(This article previously appeared on

Think you can't save? Think again. Sure, it seems like there's not much wiggle room in your budget, due to the rising costs of basic necessities — but that's all the more reason to have a slush fund. Fortunately, there are plenty of painless ways to siphon cash from even a fixed income.

Start slowly, but do start; those money seeds will blossom into an extra layer of financial security.

Easy Does It

Start small with these basic tips:

1. Change In a Jar

The old standby of saving all your change in a jar? It works. Sure, it might be only $10 a month, but that's $120 a year that might otherwise have ended up in vending machines or those "take a penny, leave a penny" dishes.

2. Save Your Coupons

Many stores print "You saved X dollars" on the receipts. But it's not savings unless you save it, so transfer that amount — immediately — into your bank account.

3. Save Your Raise

If you work and were lucky enough to get a pay increase, pretend you didn't. Bank it instead.


Challenge Yourself

Once you've started taking little steps, you'll be ready for more advanced strategies, like these:

4. The Dollar Bill Challenge

When you get home from work or running errands, put all the $1 bills from your wallet in a jar. (Some people do this with $5 bills, but that's too rich for my blood.)

5. The Random Number Challenge

Pick a number, then check your wallet nightly for bills whose serial numbers end in the digit you've chosen. When you find them, put the bills into the jar.

6. The Weekly Challenge

Actually a monthly challenge: You put aside $1 the first week of the month, $2 the second week, and so on. You'll end up with $10 to $15 per month. Not bad!

7. The Calendar Challenge

Put aside $52 in the first week of January. The next week, $51; the week after that, $50. And so on. This smarts at first, but keep your eyes on the prize: the $1,378 you'll have amassed by the end of the year.


Use Your Bank

Use your bank's services to turn hard-earned cash into even more money:

8. Automate Your Savings

The easiest thing ever: Set up an automatic transfer from your checking to savings that'll happen each month.

9. Designate Your Dollars

Some banks let you set up sub-accounts and give them specific names. Yours might be "Slush Fund" but it could also be more goal-specific, such as "New Car" or "Reunion Trip."

10. Keep the Changes

This Bank of America program rounds debit-card purchase up to the next dollar and then transfers that amount from checking into savings. For example, if you pay $37.03 for groceries, 97 cents would go into savings. Easy, huh?

11. Password Protection

Turn your PINs into reminders. For example, when you sign on to your favorite shopping sites, maybe having to type "jan92015" — the due date of your first grandchild — would remind you that setting up a college plan would be more rewarding than a new blouse or shirt.


Access Apps and Websites

The internet is full of programs designed to help you save:

12. Get a Cash Rewards Credit Card

Use it to pay for everything you can — groceries, utilities, gym membership — and bank the cash rebates. Look for the best cards at sites like NerdWallet or

13. Save Impulsively

Tempted by an unnecessary purchase? Talk yourself down, then enter the amount of money you might have spent into a free app called ImpulseSave. That money will be transferred into savings.

14. Take Surveys

SonyaAnn, who blogs at A Mom, Money and More, belongs to a few online opinion sites. Last year she earned $123, and also got some products to test. She does it waiting for the laundry to finish or watching TV with her husband.

15. Discount Your Purchases

Buy discounted gift cards on the secondary market for items you need most often. Suppose you buy a $50 Walgreens card for $44 and a $100 PetSmart card for $87. Immediately transfer the $19 into savings and use the cards like cash. Discounted gift cards are available for just about anything you need; check GiftCardGranny for the best deals.


Play Mind Games

Break behaviors by fooling yourself:

16. Make 'Savings' a Bill


You meet your monthly obligations on schedule, right? Make "savings" a bill, then pay it. Tip: Use the "bill reminder" feature of a budgeting software site like or PowerWallet.

17. Get a Savings Buddy

Suggest that a friend or relative join you in the slush-fund goal, then chat or e-mail each week about your progress. You might even make it a challenge, i.e., whoever saves the most has to buy lunch.

18. Symbolize Your Savings

Suppose you or a spouse will retire in 2016. Transfer $20.16 cents into savings every month (or every week). If that class reunion will take place in June 2017, set aside $23 (six plus 17) every month or week to help defray the cost of attending.

19. Hide Your Dollars

Set up your slush fund as an online account; the few days it takes to transfer money becomes a built-in cooling-off period. (Do you really need that whatever-it-is?) Or, open it at a bank way across town and don't get a debit card there. Having to drive and fill out a withdrawal slip should help you re-think purchases.


Transform Your Routine

Take a look at those little, repeated behaviors that could actually be costing you a ton:

20. Change an Unhealthy Habit

Do you smoke? Quit! Then set aside the money that once went for tobacco. In the habit of driving three blocks to pick up a prescription or a quart of milk? Walk instead — you'll save money (gas, wear-and-tear) and get a little exercise to boot.

21. Change a Fun (But Pricey) Habit

Do you meet friends at Starbucks a few times a week? Replace those meetings with pleasant strolls or at-home kaffeeklatschs. (Take turns hosting.) Do you and your spouse give in to the "early bird special" too often? Instead, look for new recipes and prepare them together. You don't have to give up good times; you just have to re-imagine them.


Designate Your Change

A penny saved is a penny earned. These tricks make the most of your change:

22. Round It Up

Still use a checkbook or a paper register to balance your online account? Record that $72.19 electric company payment as "$73" and turn the $35.27 supermarket bill into "$36." Do this all month with both checks and debit purchases, then transfer the differences into your savings.

23. Swipe a Few Bucks

The day before payday or Social Security deposit day, check your checking-account balance. If there's $139.95 in the account, send $9 (or $39) into savings.

24. Found Money = Fund Money

Any unexpected cash (rebate checks, the quarter you found in a parking lot, etc.) goes into savings.


More Sneaky Tips

And if you really need a boost...

25. Launder Your Funds

Every time you do a load of wash, put $2 in a jar. (I do this, and it really adds up.) Oh, and let your family know that any money found in their pockets is now your money. Or, rather, the fund's money.

26. Pay It Forward

Finally made the last car payment? Transfer the amount you would've paid into your savings each month. Not possible? Transfer half the amount.

27. Reward Yourself

Some people have a "swear jar," putting in a quarter every time they let a choice word fly. But why not a "Yay you!" jar instead? If you decided not to buy an ice-cream cone at the mall, put a quarter in the jar. (Better yet, put in the cost of the cone.) Chose to wait until "Senior Monday" to see the latest blockbuster movie? Made dinner instead of going out? Yay you! Now: Pay you!

Donna Freedman writes about midlife and money at

Donna Freedman Former newspaper journalist Donna Freedman is a freelancer living in Anchorage, Alaska. She has written for MSN Money, Money Talks News and many other publications and websites. Read More
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