31 Ways to Save More for Retirement
We live in a unique time in financial history. A time in which many people have a full-time career and a side hustle (or two). And with this, Americans have more debt than ever and are putting saving for retirement on the back burner of their personal finances. Entrepreneurs worldwide are starting their own businesses, virtual work is abundant, and thousands are following the FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) movement.
Developments in technology and concepts like early retirement have changed the career game. With so many people seeking alternative employment options, it’s more important than ever to think about retirement savings.
But this isn’t just for the freelancers and FIRE chasers. This is important for traditional workers, too. No matter which path you’re taking to get there, it’s important that we’re all prepared when the time comes to end your career and enjoy the time off that you've earned, retirement.
Keep reading to learn 31 ways that you can incorporate into your finances to save more for retirement!
1. Create a budget and stick to it
Have you ever opened up your bank account and wondered, “where did all of my money go?” Or wished that there was more left from your last paycheck? Not having a detailed and accurate budget is one of the fastest ways to lose control of your finances.
Grab your (made at home) coffee, a notebook, and pen or an Excel spreadsheet, and get ready to get to work. Write down every bill you have and when it’s due. Car payments, insurances, mortgage or rent, credit cards, student loans, utilities, gas, food, phone bills, cable, memberships, and childcare; leave nothing out.
Set up a miscellaneous category next. This should be the smallest section. Online shopping and take-out shouldn’t overshadow your bills or savings. Once you’ve worked your budget, make sure you’re sticking to it or it won’t help.
2. Determine how much you’ll need
According to a 2018 survey from Bankrate, 61 percent of Americans don’t know how much they’ll need to have saved for retirement. An even more recent survey from the same company showed that 21 percent of working Americans aren’t saving at all.
How can we be prepared for retirement if we don’t even know what we’ll need? In the past, many people have gone decades without ever considering their post-work needs. As a result, many older individuals will find themselves struggling later to live off of Social Security or working into their 70s.
The sooner you start, the better off you’ll be later on. Many reputable companies offer free retirement calculators that determine your needs based on many different factors. Click here to determine how much money you should be saving for retirement.
3. Build an emergency fund
Many financial experts say the general rule for emergency funds is three to six months of expenses. If this sounds like a lot, it's wise to break it into smaller chunks until you get there. Calculate your total and then divide it by monthly, weekly, or daily savings steps.
An emergency fund can help protect you against unexpected expenses that may have derailed your savings goal or depleted your paycheck otherwise. Emergency money and retirement savings should be separate. Don’t fall into the trap of using retirement money to cover unexpected expenses and planning to replace it later.
4. Start right away
The common approach to retirement savings used to be: “I can always start tomorrow.” But financial advisors and personal finance books, blogs, and movements have worked hard to change this. You’re missing out on valuable opportunities to advance your savings and compound interest each time you put it off.
The best time to start saving for retirement was yesterday, and the second-best time is right now. It’s never too early (or too late) to improve your financial health and well-being. Start saving now!
5. Contribute to retirement accounts
If you work for a traditional company that offers to match a certain amount of your 401K contributions, take advantage of this. Contribute to the highest amount that your company will match as it is essentially free money. Better yet, tax-free, free money.
Once you hit financial independence or pursue a non-traditional income path, that may not be an option anymore. Get all that you can while it’s there early in your career. After you make the switch to a different income stream, take advantage of other available retirement accounts to maximize your savings.
Open a Roth or Traditional IRA and max it out each year. Both offer the opportunity to set money aside to grow and compound with interest. If you need help determining which one is the right choice for you, read this article!
One of the best things you can do for your future self is to increase your income now. For one, you’ll be able to pay off debt faster, which could save you thousands on interest from credit cards and loans. It’ll also help boost your emergency fund and savings.
If you work for a traditional employer, try to negotiate your pay. Create a list of talking points and ways you’ve been helping beyond your job description. If they won’t budge, consider looking for a job that offers a better salary.
If you freelance, seek out better-paying clients. You never know what opportunities you’ll find until you start looking and with many resources available, there's no reason you shouldn't be looking!
7. Invest your income
Once you have a solid emergency fund established and you’ve paid down your debt, it's time to start investing your extra money. Depending on your risk tolerance level, there are several options. It can be something simple like an app that automatically invests rounded up change from your debit card purchases. Or it can be a bigger investment like stocks, mutual funds, or an investment property.
Assess how much time and money you want to put into your investments first to help determine which one is the best fit. No matter which one you land on, letting your money make you more money is an important step.
8. Obtain multiple income streams
Whether it’s a second job on the weekends, a side hustle, or selling things you made online, all of these income streams will start to add up. Any money you make off of your investments counts as an additional income stream, too.
Having multiple income streams takes away some of the pressure involved in relying on only one source. If you have a new enough car, consider driving for ride hauling services like Lyft or Uber before and after work or on the weekends. If you’re crafty, consider making things to sell online. Get creative to boost your income!
9. Cut inflated bills
Take a look at your budget and see what categories you’ve overspent in. If none stand out to you, just start going down the list and trying to cut each one.
Check for cheaper insurance rates by getting quotes online. Cancel your cable subscription if you haven’t already. Between Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+, you’ll find something to watch. Cancel your gym membership and take advantage of workout videos on YouTube or exercise outside.
This is a great option to look into if your credit rate has gone up since you originally obtained your student loans. In most cases, it should have. Applying to refinance is relatively quick and easy, and the payoff is often worth it.
Refinancing to get a better interest rate could save you hundreds of dollars each year. Over the life of your loan, it could easily save thousands. If you need more reasons or want to know more, read our article on reasons you should refinance your student loans!
11. Restructure your other debts
If you’re like the majority of working-class Americans, you’re carrying credit card debt with interest rates north of 19 percent. The compound interest on cards with high-interest rates can be (and often is) financially devastating.
Paying ridiculous amounts of interest on past purchases is like throwing money away. Thankfully, credit card rates can be negotiated. Especially if you’ve been a customer for several years and make payments on time.
Call the customer service line for each one and let them know that you love being a customer and always pay on time, but you got an offer for a card with a lower rate. Can they match it? Most of the time, they’ll say yes or meet you in the middle.
12. Consider switching banks
Many banks will offer competitive interest rates or special deals for new customers. For example, one recently offered a credit of $300 for opening a new account and setting up a direct deposit of $1,500+ per month. The deals are easy to find online and can easily make or save you hundreds of dollars. Just be sure to update your automatic payments to use the newly created account!
13. Reconsider your credit
The allure of having credit cards has probably faded with each e-mailed statement, but they can be really helpful if you use them right. Consider canceling cards for retailers that encourage you to spend money you don’t need to, or ask for a lower credit limit to limit your spending.
Then, look for cards that offer rewards in the form of cashback, airline miles, gas, and groceries. You can earn points on things that you need rather than items that end up in the back of the closet unused.
14. Automate your savings
Set a certain amount to be moved from your checking account to your savings each month. Pick an amount you won’t miss and increase it exponentially over time. By increasing your savings rate just 1% per year, you could end up saving thousands more over a few years.
If you need more automation, try using an app that can do it for you. You can choose one that goes off of a pre-set amount or one that rounds up change from your purchases. Decide if you want it to pull from your checking account and drop it into your savings or invest it somewhere for you. Either way, automating your savings is a no-brainer.
15. Automate your bill pay
There are so many things to do in a day that sometimes paying a bill might slip through the cracks. Avoid late fees, penalties, and closed billing cycles by setting up automatic bill pay. Most banks will let you do this right on their website.
16. Save on utilities
Utilities rack up faster than most other bills. You can save in this category by investing in a smart thermostat to monitor the temperature in your home.
Unplug electronics when you’re not using them. Make use of fans in the summer and extra blankets in the winter (within reason), and brush your teeth in the shower. You can find more ways to save on utilities here!
17. Plan for medical expenses
Even if you have health insurance, large medical costs can put a huge dent in your retirement funds. If you have any pre-existing conditions, factor these in when you create your emergency fund. If you don’t, it’s important to have money set aside for any large, unexpected medical costs later on. It’s not a fun topic to think about or prepare for, but it’s necessary and can help you to stay on track when the time comes.
18. Consistently evaluate your progress
Creating a budget, cutting your expenses, and restructuring your debt are all fantastic steps to get you going. But the work’s not done just yet.
Use the notebook you wrote your budget in to keep track of changes in bills, utilities, medical expenses, and interest rates. Keeping a close eye on all aspects of your finances will give you more control over what happens to them. Use this information to get better and improve your finances.
19. Rent out a room
If you have an empty in-law apartment, extra bedroom, or a finished, empty basement, it could be wise to monetize them. Platforms like Airbnb let you rent out space in your home and keep most of the profit. They’ll take a fee, but you’ll still get money just for turning an area you weren’t using into a bedroom for a grateful traveler. Research your local laws and restrictions to ensure that it is legal in your area first!
20. Pay off your mortgage early
Additional payments on the principal balance of your mortgage can help you eliminate your debt faster. You’ll save thousands of dollars in interest by doing this.
For example, a mortgage with a $200,000 balance and the following terms: $993 per month in principal and interest over a 30-year term. If you add just $300 extra to that monthly payment, it’ll save you $64,000 in interest over the life of your loan and you’ll be paid off 11 years sooner.
You can use our mortgage calculator here to see how much you will end up paying for your original loan!
If you have multiple cars, it may be time to consider selling one. Many frugal couples have saved thousands of dollars by going down from two cars to one. It may take some adjusting or rearranging but the savings are worth the sacrifice. Factor in the cost of car maintenance, fuel, insurance, and financing and you could be saving thousands per year.
Empty nesters can also save thousands of dollars by downsizing to a smaller home once their kids have moved out. Not only will you save on your mortgage payment, but your electric bill will also decrease!
22. Sell your clutter
Everyone is guilty of the occasional impulse purchase and we all grow out of things, so there’s no shame here. Go through rooms and closets in search of unneeded clutter.
Items that you haven’t touched in years or have never even taken out of the box can be transformed into retirement money. Pile up your items and organize a tag sale or sell them on any number of sites like Amazon, eBay, or Craigslist. If you’re downsizing, this step will make that easier, too.
If you work from home or for yourself, you get to enjoy the unique perk of location flexibility. This may be a good time to consider relocating to a more affordable area.
We’ve all read stories about people who have reached the FIRE finish line by selling their belongings and moving into a shack on an island where the cost of living is next to nothing. You don’t have to take it that far. Simply do some research to see if there are areas (city/state/country) you may be interested in where the cost of living is lower.
24. Get creative with transportation
You may have already gone down to one car in your household, which is a great first step. Now, are you ready to take it even further?
If you live close to work, try walking or biking instead of driving. If you work from home, you can phone a friend or an Uber when you need to go somewhere. You’ll save on insurance, gas, and repairs, and you’ll likely get some money to invest from selling your car.
25. Save on groceries
This is one of the easiest categories to save in and you can save a lot. With a little bit of patience, you can find coupons (digital or physical) that will save you hundreds each year. Avoid impulse purchases by making a list and never shopping while you’re hungry.
Buying in bulk is always a good idea if you have space. Read our post on how to save at the grocery here!
26. Skip the bar
Fancy dinners and Friday drinks are always fun, but they add up fast. You can easily spend thousands of dollars over the course of a year on temporary enjoyments like these.
You can find other ways to spend time with friends and coworkers that won’t damage your retirement plan (or your health!). Try organizing a book club, a group hike, or game nights instead of late nights out.
27. Find free entertainment
The next time you feel like splurging, spend some time outside instead. Enjoy the sunshine, go for a walk, or read a book on top of a mountain you conquered. Relax on a beach or take a bike ride. The urge to splurge is often just a sign of boredom.
There are tons of activities you can enjoy without spending unnecessary money. Many towns will have free festivals in the summer, spring, and around holidays. You can also find free live music relatively easily.
28. Stash extra cash
All too often, we get excited about a bonus or a raise and spend the whole thing in one shot. Don’t blow your extra money on a shopping spree or a weekend away, save or invest it instead.
Each purchase you make is a trade-off. Would you rather have more material possessions or watch the compound interest in your investment account grow? The choice is yours. Use this extra cash wisely.
29. Vacation for less
Vacations easily eat up thousands of dollars at a time. Everyone needs a break now and then, but there are cheaper ways to get one.
Try exploring locally on your next vacation. We often try to see the world before we see what we have two states over. You can organize a beach or hiking trip, kayak a lake and stay in a cabin, and enjoy a variety of other fun activities for much less than a cross country, island, or other country trips.
You can also save by using sites like Airbnb to rent space in someone’s home (or the whole thing) rather than booking an expensive resort. If it’s a road trip, pack food to avoid overpriced gas station snacks and fast food.
Looking for cheap airfare? Always check out Airefarewatchdog before purchasing your next flight!
30. Read about retirement often
There are tons of books, blogs, and podcasts about retiring to choose from. Spend some time finding your favorites and then dive in. Many millionaires claim that reading and learning has contributed to their success.
People are coming up with new retirement strategies every day. This is the best way to keep on track, stay connected to your goal, and inspire your creativity along the way.
31) Delay Social Security benefits
For each year that you delay taking advantage of Social Security payments, your benefits will increase. One of the best things about this list is that if you take advantage of even half of these strategies, you won’t need Social Security money as soon as you turn 62 anyway.
There are many ways you can save more for retirement. Automating your savings, lowering your expenses, and paying off your mortgage early are all great ways to save even more.
Retirement will come faster than you think. It's important not to delay your savings until it is too late. Start saving today to maximize your returns so you can live a retirement without the stress of your finances. After all, retirement is a time to relax and enjoy.
What are your best tips for saving for retirement? Comment below!