Free Savings Tracker
In this article you can download an awesome, free savings tracker. I will also share ways that you can make easy spending cuts in order to have more money available to save toward your awesome savings goals. And I will include some of the top things that you might want to save money for!
**Important note: Be sure to download your free savings tracker at the end of this article!**
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Simple Ways to Save Money to Reach Your Goal with a Savings Tracker
In this section I am going to list some of the ways that you can find the biggest savings in order to reach your savings goal. And then you can use the savings tracker to track all of the money you are able to save toward your goal from slashing these various budget categories!
Save money on entertainment.
There are many, many ways that you can save money on your monthly or yearly entertainment and related costs. This is the first place that I recommend that people look to if they want to save more money or need to reduce their expenses. Here are some of the biggest areas to cut costs:
- Ditch your dish (satellite) or cable service. Find cheap or free alternatives instead.
- Save money on your cell phones or smartphones.
- Save money on your internet service.
- Go to the movies less.
- Buy fewer books and movies (go to the library instead :)).
- Go to fewer and less expensive music concerts.
- Go to fewer and less expensive sports games.
- Spend less on personal hobbies. (Where could you make cuts? Any expensive hobbies you might give up, at least temporarily?)
- Spend less on video and computer games.
- Spend less on electronic devices.
- Spend less money on toys for your sweet kiddos. (They probably have too many already; am I right? Or maybe I am just projecting my own family situation here. :)) Buy fewer toys, and buy them at thrift stores, garage sales, and the like. Consider doing toy swaps with family members and friends or members of your church.
- Cancel your subscriptions to magazines and paid TV services (Netflix, Sling, and so on—again, videos from the library are free!).
- Consider canceling your memberships to the gym, rec center, museums, aquariums, zoos, and the like.
- Spend less money on recreational activities like skiing, bowling, miniature golf, playing arcades, and so on.
- Spend less on your pets. (I know they are like members of the family for many people; but I don’t spoil our kids, and you can bet that I don’t spoil our pets, either!) See if you can trim spending on pet food, grooming, toys, accessories, and other pet expenses.
- Spend less on Christmas shopping.
- Spend less on gift giving (see if you can make a gift, or give a heartfelt card or baked item instead).
- Spend less on family vacations.
- Reduce the amount allocated to your personal monthly spending money (your fun money or blow money).
Save money eating out.
The average family in America spends about $3,000 a year eating out. That means there is a lot of money that can be saved here! I know it probably sounds crazy, but we spend less than $300 a year eating out. And I don’t feel deprived! Want to know why? The reason is that that frugality has helped us to be able to reach other financial goals that we have—and to do it on one average income.
The best thing you can do to save money eating out is to simply do less of it. 🙂
But there are lots of other ways that you can save money eating out, as well! For example, you can share an entree. You can eat an appetizer for your meal.
You can buy ice cream on the way home instead of having dessert at the restaurant (you can buy a whole gallon of ice cream for the cost of an average dessert!) You can use coupons (check out Groupon, Living Social, and similar sites). And be sure to use the gift cards you receive to restuarants, as well!
Read this article to learn many more ways to save money eating out.
Save money on groceries.
There are so many—so many!—things that you can do to reduce your grocery spending. I discuss more than 70 ways that you can save money on groceries in this article.
But here are some of the things you can do to save the most money:
- Use a meal plan.
- Create a grocery list, and follow it.
- Use a grocery price comparison cheat sheet.
- Shop at discount and salvage grocery stores.
- Save money on meat.
- Save money on produce.
- Spend less money on soda, juice, sweets, snacks, alcohol, and so on.
- Buy grocery items when they are on sale and in season.
Check out these related articles:
31 Budget-Friendly Easy and Cheap Dinner Recipes for under $5
42 Cheap and Easy Budget-Friendly Meals for under $5
13 Ways to Save Big When Eating Out!
73 Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries without Coupons!
59 Must-Know Tips to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half!
151 Easy Ways to Save Money: Your Ultimate Guide to Saving Money!
Save money on transportation.
Another way you can reduce expenses in order to have more money toward reaching your financial goals is with your spending on transportation. The average car payment in America is close to $500 a month! Is is any wonder that nearly 80 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck? Our savings accounts and emergency funds and retirement funds are sitting in our garages!
So here is what you can do to turn things around and save money on transportation costs:
- Get rid of your car payments and start to buy your cars with cash! (This one thing alone could help you become a millionaire! Woo hoo!)
- Become a one-car family.
- Drive less.
- Save money on gas with apps like GasBuddy.
- Save money on car maintenance and repairs.
- Shop around to get the best deal on your auto insurance.
- Drive the speed limit.
- Wash your car yourself.
Find more than 30 tips for how to save money on transportation costs here.
Save money on housing.
For many families, housing is their single largest expense. But there are also many things that you can do to save money on housing. Here are some of my best tips for saving money on your housing:
- Shop around to see if you can lower your homeowners insurance premiums.
- Look into refinancing your home if interest rates have dropped. (But don’t lengthen the term of your loan! If anything, shorten it!)
- If you are renting, find a cheaper place.
- If you bought too much house, look at downsizing.
- If you really want to save money on housing, consider renting out a spare bedroom (or bedrooms) either long term or on sites like Airbnb and Booking.com.
- Save money on alarm monitoring with inexpensive services like SimpliSafe. (I love SimpliSafe!)
Check out this article for more than 30 ways to save money on housing.
Save money on utilities.
You can pretty drastically reduce your utility bill if you want to. Years ago I heard about a professor of economics who just couldn’t bear to see the money spent on utility costs go down the drain because he knew what that money could grow to if it were invested, and so he kept his AC up and his furnace down, and his family wore sweaters and bundled up during the winter and found ways to stay cool during the summer.
We haven’t gotten that extreme in my family (not yet, anyway; ha! :)), but it’s a little tempting! Because I hate spending money on things that have no lasting value, too! Sigh. In any case, here are some free and easy ways that you can save money on your utility bill:
- Turn down (to 62 degrees or lower, if you can) and turn up your AC (to 78 degrees or higher, if you can).
- Wash all of your clothes in cold water. Washing machines are so powerful these days they will still get your clothes clean even with cold water.
- Hang your clothes out to dry.
- Use your dishwasher less. Wait till it is full to run it, and consider using your dish drain and washing the dishes by hand.
- Turn off lights, TVs, computers, radios, nightlights, and so on when they are not in use.
- Unplug appliances and electronics when they are not in use.
- Open your curtains during the day to let in the sun to warm up your house during the winter or keep them closed to keep out the sun to help keep it from heating up too much during the summer.
Save money on clothing and shoes.
Some people just love to buy designer clothes and shoes. And they look really nice! But so does a paid-for beach house in retirement. 🙂 So we buy most of our clothes, for us and the kids, either on sale or from thrift stores or the classifieds. For now our kiddos are young, so they don’t know the difference (and I hope that even when they are older, they won’t care—and I hope they never do :)).
My sisters and I also swap clothes back and forth for our kiddos that are the same ages, which is awesome! I love to see the clothes that my kiddos wore on my nieces and nephews; it brings back such fun memories! If you have family or friends with kiddos the same age as yours, see if you can set up a kids clothing co-op!
Read this article to learn easy ways to save money on clothes.
Savings Accounts That Everyone Should Have
When you are considering what savings goals to work toward with your savings tracker, here are my top recommendations. Below I list the different savings accounts I feel that virtually every family (and everyone) should have (and that we ourselves have).
Of all the savings accounts that every family should have and of all the things that it is important to save money for and record progress toward with a savings tracker, the emergency fund is I feel the most important.
Before you start saving for anything else (unless you have an immediate expense you know is coming, such as a crucial home repair), save up a starter emergency fund of at least $1,000.
Then after you have paid off all of your nonmortgage debt, go back to saving for your emergency fund until you have three to six months’ worth of expenses saved in your fully funded emergency fund. (I explain whether you should save three months’ worth of expenses or six months’ worth of expenses in this article on how to create an emergency fund.)
Vehicle maintenance and repairs
Another important category to include when determining what to save money for and track with your savings tracker is vehicle maintenance and repairs. We all love our cars, but the simple reality is that they need regular maintenance and eventually they need repairs. So rather than having to put the bill on your credit card the next time your battery dies or your brakes need to be replaced or your transmission goes out, pull the money from your vehicle maintenance savings account.
An additional item to include when deciding what to save money for is the purchase of a vehicle. Do you want to know where most people’s wealth is? It’s sitting in their garage. Really. I don’t mean that our vehicles make us rich. I actually mean the exact opposite, because vehicles go the wrong direction—they go down in value. They depreciate. And yet the average car payment in America is more than $400 a month. Did you know that if you paid yourself that $400 a month for 40 years instead of paying it to the bank in car payments you would have invested $192,000 (can you believe that people spend that much on this depreciating asset?!), and at an average annual return of 11 percent, which is very realistic over the long term, you would have $2,907,969! Isn’t that amazing?
So instead of paying the bank that much money and all of the interest included when you finance a vehicle, set up a vehicle savings account and pay yourself a monthly car payment. That may mean that you want to sell your current vehicle that has a car payment and buy an inexpensive car to get around in until you can buy yourself a car for cash in a couple of years.
If you can pay yourself $200 a month for 2 years while you drive you $1,000 to $3,000 get-around car, you would have about $5,000 to buy a little bit nicer car. And then if you drive that car for two more years, you could then buy a $10,000 vehicle ($5,000 from the value of the current car plus $4,800 from saving $200 a month for 24 months = ~$10,000).
And then if you drive that $10,000 vehicle for four more years, you could then buy your next car, with cash, for $20,000. And because you’re going to buy a car that’s at least 2 to 4 years old, since you don’t want to take the huge bite that happens when you buy a new car (save that for when you have a net worth of at least $1 million and can really afford to take that kind of financial hit!), you can get a great vehicle for that price—and you’re just eight years into your vehicle saving plan.
If you want to buy a vehicle for even more than that (though personally I hope to never spend more than that on a vehicle unless it’s an RV or sailboat or something—I like to use my money for things that go up in value), you could save more, such as $300 a month. If you saved $300 a month for eight years and earned a little interest on that, you would have about $30,000 to pay toward your vehicle, plus the resale value of the current car you were driving.
And of course you could increase that by about $10,000 for every additional $100 a month that you chose to save—so if you wanted to buy a $50,000 vehicle with cash, you would need to save just $500 a month for eight years.
I know that having a car payment in America is normal, but you don’t want to be normal! Normal is broke and in debt and living paycheck to paycheck. Normal kind of stinks. So don’t be normal. Be awesome. And one of the ways you can do that is to get out of debt and never look back. Find out how you can save on the many costs related to car ownership by reading this article.
Probably the biggest purchase you will ever make is your home, so a down payment is another important item to include on the list when determining what to save money for. If you hope to be a homeowner in the foreseeable future, you should start to save toward the purchase of your home. This is another awesome goal to track with a savings tracker!
To be able to save as much money as possible in your down payment fund, rent as inexpensively as you can. Rather than rent a posh place with all of the awesome amenities, rent an inexpensive (but reasonably safe) place for as little as you can, and save the difference. There’s a lot you can put up with if you know that it’s only for a certain amount of time (say two to five years, as you save up a good down payment) and if it’s for a great cause. To learn more about saving up to buy a home, check out this article.
If you know that you are at least five years (and the closer you get to ten years or more, the more this might make sense) away from purchasing a home, you might even consider investing the money in mutual funds to earn more money on your money.
You might even consider what we’re planning to do for our next home purchase—the 100 percent down plan! We are planning to stay in our modest, three-bedroom, 1,300-square-foot home for the next five to eight years (we’ve lived there almost eight years now) so that we can buy our next home (that will probably be close to twice the value of the one we live in now) with cash.
It’s maybe a sacrifice to stay in a smaller than average home with our three kiddos, but the payoff of never being in debt ever again is worth the trade-off. And as we save that money for the next several years, because it is a mid-term time frame of more than five years, we are investing the money in mutual funds in our Schwab brokerage account.
If you want to know how we choose the mutual funds that we are investing in to diversify our investments, enter your information below and I will be happy to email it to you, no strings attached.
When you buy a home, you not only sign up for 15-plus years of hefty payments but you also sign up for the upkeep and repair that a home requires. Home ownership (generally speaking) is definitely worth it, but you need to be prepared for the extra expense of home maintenance in your budget.
You should save about 1 percent of the purchase price of your home for home repairs and maintenance each year. So if you purchase a $250,000 home, that would be about $2,500 a year that you should save, or about $200 a month. This money can then be used for the deductible of your homeowner’s insurance if you need to make a claim, for example.
Note: You should consider putting your homeowners insurance deductible high enough that you never want to make a claim unless it’s something pretty catastrophic. So put your deductible at about $2,000 or more. That will keep your premiums significantly lower, but perhaps more important, it will keep you from making insurance claims that you should not make for things that you should instead pay for out of your house maintenance and repairs savings fund—or even your emergency fund if needed.
If you make too many claims, not only will your insurance premiums get raised significantly, but you might even get dropped from your insurance company. And because your claims are visible to other insurance companies (on something called the CLUE, or Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, report), making too many claims will also make other insurance companies less likely to be wiling to take your business.
So instead, self-insure by having a fully funded emergency fund and then by saving monthly for the home repairs that you will need to make throughout your time in your home.
To find helpful information on saving money on housing, read here.
Furnishings and appliances
It is also a good idea to include a category in your budget for furniture and appliances as you are determining what to save money for.
You need to plan to do periodic repairs and replacement of your appliances and furniture. And you don’t want to have to rely on credit cards to do that. So instead, save up regularly for these eventually anticipated expenses.
You’ll get a good feel for how much you need to save once you start paying attention to this, but if you’re unsure, start saving $50 a month. If you buy gently used furniture and appliances, you’ll get a great bang for your buck and be able to buy a lot of great things for $600 a year.
Christmas and gift giving
Another savings account to consider setting up and recording your progress on with a savings tracker is a Christmas and gift giving fund (or one for each).
The way many people act, you would think they don’t realize that Christmas (and the cost of it) are coming until at least Black Friday. But you can plan better than that! If you spend the average $900 that most families in America do, then you can save up for Christmas for just $75 a month. Sweet! So get it done.
Or, you might also consider cutting back on your Christmas spending so you can save less each month and put the money toward other great causes (such as your children’s educations or your own retirement—now those are gifts that keeps on giving). Read this article for ideas on how to save on your Christmas spending and this article on how to open an educational savings account for your child.
And then you might want to save some money each month for additional gift giving such as birthdays, weddings, and so on. Either that, or make it a line item in your monthly budget when needed.
Another category to consider setting up is a vacation fund. And once you know the specific vacations you want to take, recording your progress toward saving up the money to take them with cash with a savings tracker is an awesome way to go, to enjoy a debt-free vacation!
The best kind of vacation is the one that doesn’t follow you home in the form of credit card payments! So set up a savings account to save up for your vacations. You can estimate how much to save each month by looking at how much you have spent in the last year or two on family trips and vacations, but $100 to $200 a month is probably a good place to start.
Miscellaneous/other short-term savings
We also have a savings account for miscellaneous purchases and expenses. You may want to have one to cover things that come up somewhat less frequently like purchasing electronics or bikes and recreational gear or things like that.
Learn what other things you might to save up money for.
As you use your savings trackers to track your progress toward your financial goals, you will be able to move yourself and your family steadily toward financial freedom. Best wishes as you work toward reaching that ultimate financial goal!
What are your most important financial goals currently? What savings goals do you intend to use the savings tracker for? I would love to hear your best ideas for what you are going to use your savings tracker for!
How to Use the Free Savings Tracker
The Savings Goal Tracker is fun and easy to use! All you have to do is write down what you are saving for, how much you want to save, the amount that you want to save each month, and your desired date for reaching your savings goal.
Then, write your savings milestones in that area of the worksheet. One thing you can do to help you stay motivated to keep on saving and to reach your savings goals is to celebrate when you reach certain milestones. So, for example, you might go out for ice cream as a family when you reach certain milestones. Or if they are bigger milestones or you have more room in your budget, you might go out to dinner or a movie. Or you might buy yourself a video game or book or favorite treat from the grocery store.
Knowing that you are going to get a reward is a great way to help keep yourself motivated to save and reach your financial goals! Sign up to receive the free Savings Goal Tracker below!
Invitation to Share
Was there something in this article that inspired you to change something about your money? Are there ideas or tips that you feel could help others? Would you please take a minute to share this article via email or social media? I would love your help to share these principles of financial well-being. Thank you!
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