Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts when it comes to saving for retirement. Instead, you must do all the small things that can add to a stable post-career life. Reining in spending, keeping costs down, and setting aside extra funds are just some of the intelligent things you can do to grow the money in your nest egg.
Here are 25 tips for boosting your retirement savings and investing in your future self.
1. Start small
As with any habit, when you change your routine, it is a good idea to start small. Make manageable changes before moving to more significant, more daunting tasks like investing or downsizing.
For example, make your own coffee at home rather than stopping at a coffee shop before work. Opt for the generic brand of hand soap or wait one day before buying the new shoes you saw at the store. All of these minor adjustments will help you make lasting changes to your ingrained overspending habits and is the best way to save in the long run.
2. Create a budget and stick to it
Sit down with your household and evaluate your spending habits. Then, look over your past bank statements and decide where you can cut costs.
Be specific about how much you can spend on what. For example, create a category for food costs, transportation, clothes, etc. and update your budget regularly to help make sure you are reaching your goals. There are plenty of budgeting apps out there that make this process a little less tedious and help you stay on track.
3. Set aside savings
As you gradually change your spending habits in order to save for retirement, be sure to put your savings aside in a separate account. Regularly tracking and earmarking your retirement money and keeping it separate from the rest of your funds will keep the money you are saving for the future intact. Once your savings are put aside, invest them in tax-free accounts, like a Roth IRA, to get the most bang for your buck.
4. Invest in your health
In today’s world, medical expenses can devastate your bank account, even if you think you have good health insurance. Eating healthy and staying fit are essential ways to save on costs in the long run. While fresh food and fitness memberships can be pricey, it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle for many reasons, including your future financial security.
There are other investments that will keep you healthy and are likely to reduce your medical costs. Buying a good mattress, for example, will help you sleep better and save you money in the long run because people who get enough sleep are more likely to have lower medical expenses.
In the same vein, managing your stress levels and taking care of your mental health are important ways to ensure you stay healthy. Stress is a leading cause of illness in the US, which, among other obvious drawbacks, is bad for your bank account. Meditation and mindful movement are free and will improve your mood and your health. Believe it or not, staying zen is also great for your financial future.
6. Invest in yourself
Take a course and learn a new (preferably marketable) skill. Community colleges and local centers may offer classes at a discount. Don’t be afraid to spend on courses that will help you learn and grow. Even if you can’t use your skills to make extra money, learning new things and expanding your horizons is always worth it.
7. Cancel unused subscriptions and memberships
Look over your credit card statements and check which subscriptions and memberships you could live without. It’s easy to sign up for memberships and forget about them, so take some time to comb through your finances to see if there are any recurring charges that could be canceled.
If you have Netflix, Hulu, and HBO streaming accounts, maybe you could live without one or two for a couple of months. Instead, consider a rotating schedule of streaming subscriptions. For example, freeze your Netflix account at the beginning of the year, and watch only Hulu during January and February. Alternating your subscription services can save you a surprising amount throughout the year.
8. Avoid impulse buying
When it comes to personal finances, it’s pretty much a zero-sum game, so consider what you might be giving up in order to buy that flashy item that caught your eye. Then, take 24 hours to think over a potential purchase before buying anything over $50.
To help you decide, write a pro and con list. Then, ask yourself, will this item help me one month from now? One year? If the answer is no, scrutinize whether the item on your wish list is worth sacrificing your hard-earned cash for.
9. Sell unused belongings
Decluttering has the extra benefit of earning you some extra cash. A well-advertised garage sale can earn you thousands in just one weekend. You can also sell your belongings on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or Poshmark and contribute those earnings to your retirement fund.
10. Create a plan to pay off your credit card debt
Getting out of debt is a critical step in saving for retirement. If you do not accomplish this, you will never actually be saving money for your future. Decide how much you can afford to commit to paying off your debt each month and calculate how long it will take to pay off your bills at that rate.
11. Automate your expenses
To keep your credit score in good standing and avoid late fees, make sure to set up automatic payments for all of your bills. Late fees are a complete waste of money and can be used much better elsewhere, like in your retirement fund.
Rent or mortgage payments are most people’s most considerable monthly expense. Downsizing your living situation is one of the most cost-effective ways to help you put extra savings away for retirement. Not only will downsizing help you save on rent or your mortgage, but it will also lower utility bills because you will have less space to heat in the winter and cool in the summer.
13. Negotiate lower rates/refinance
Look into some of your long-term loans. Depending on your current interest rate, it may help you save if you refinance. Mortgages, car loans, and student debt can all be refinanced. This simple step could lower your monthly payments, saving you thousands in the long run.
14. Take up DIY projects
Instead of hiring a home decorator, landscaper, or contractor, take on do-it-yourself projects to save costs. DIY home renovations will cost you a fraction of the amount you would pay to hire a professional, plus you will learn new skills that could help you out in the future.
15. Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk is an upfront expense but will cost you less per unit overall. Nonperishable items like rice and beans, canned items, pet food, and household goods are all great items to buy in bulk because they won’t go bad, and you can use them far into the future.
16. Take public transportation
Transportation costs are a significant portion of most Americans’ budgets. Uber, taxis, and gas costs can add up fast and are major expenditures that can easily be reduced by regularly taking public transportation. Many cities offer monthly bus passes to discourage driving. On top of that, senior citizens are usually eligible for an additional discount on transit passes.
17. Walk and Bike
Reducing your mileage by walking or biking when you can is good for you, the environment, and your bank account. Try establishing new routines that avoid driving to help you cut costs, stay active and reduce your carbon footprint.
18. Eat out less
Eating out is another major cash suck in most Americans’ budgets. Pack your own lunch, make your own coffee and find joy in cooking dinners to help save you hundreds each month on food expenses. Depending on how much you eat out, you could save hundreds each month by reducing this expense.
19. Meal prep
Buying fresh foods in large quantities is the most cost-effective way to grocery shop. However, if the food rots away in your fridge, it does you no good. Meal prepping keeps all of your groceries edible and encourages you to eat out less, since you will have prepared food and won’t have to worry about cooking.
20. Ditch delivery services
While tempting after a long day, try to resist the urge to order Uber eats, Postmates, etc. Eating out is already a huge expenditure, and ordering delivery takes it to the next level. If you are dying for Chinese takeout or pizza, at the very least, try to pick it up rather than ordering delivery. You might be surprised how much you will save by cutting this unnecessary expense from your routine.
21. Consider a side hustle
There are many simple and unexpected ways you can add to your annual revenue stream. Renting out a spare room in your house, selling crafts on Etsy, and doing your neighbors’ yard work are easy ways to get additional cash each month. Put this extra income in your retirement savings account, and you will thank yourself later.
22. Find joy in a staycation
Traveling is another significant, unnecessary expense in the average American’s budget. Rather than taking a cross-country flight, think about places you could visit within driving distance of your home. Perhaps camping at a nearby nature reserve would be a suitable replacement for a beach vacation or a trip to a nearby city would satisfy your urge to get out of town. There is beauty all around us, and we do not necessarily need a trip to Hawaii in order to unwind.
23. Invest in a mutual fund
Investing in a mutual fund means investing in various stocks and bonds, diversifying your investment, and reducing your risk of losing money if one company goes under. Investing in a mutual fund is a safe yet lucrative way to ensure your retirement funds reach their greatest potential.
24. Take advantage of Roth IRAs
Roth IRAs are retirement savings accounts that allow you to grow your retirement savings tax-free. Additionally, once you reach the age of 59, you can pull your earnings without paying a tax on them. These are considerable advantages to Roth and traditional IRA accounts, and their long-term benefits are hard to overstate. Look into whether these retirement saving accounts make sense for you, and if so, open one of your own ASAP.
25. Seek professional help
Hiring a financial professional might be the last place you want to spend your hard-earned cash, but the returns you will receive will benefit you exponentially in the long run. Someone with the expertise to manage your investment portfolio can be an invaluable way to grow your retirement savings.
Alternatively, if you have the time and interest, there are plenty of ways to learn more about investing yourself. For example, there are newsletters, podcasts, and apps that help you learn about the markets and keep up to date so you can make your own decisions about how you want to invest your money.
Saving for retirement is not glamorous but is essential to prepare for the inevitability of this phase in your life. No matter how old you are, it is always a good idea to start planning for your retirement. The more work you put in now, the more financially secure you will be when it is time to retire. Do your future self a favor and start taking steps to start your retirement savings journey today.