You probably already know that saving money is a smart idea.
Actually saving money, though?
That’s the hard part.
Luckily, we’ve got the financial experts at Bank of America right in our backyard.
We got the lowdown on everything from creating a budget to where you should put those dollars you save. Plus, we came up with some simple ways to save money around the Queen City.
Creating a budget doesn’t have to be intimidating. Bank of America broke it all down in just five steps that can help you.
(1) Figure out your net income
Before you start building out your budget, you’ll first want to take a look at how much money you’re really making. We’re talking your take-home pay, minus health insurance, 401k contributions, etc. This is important in setting realistic parameters for your budget.
(2) Track your spending
Next, you’ll want to get an idea of how you’re currently spending your money. You can create spend categories and see which areas you might need to work on cutting back.
The experts at Bank of America recommend that you start with tracking your fixed expenses, i.e. rent, utilities, etc and then look at your variable expenses. Variable expenses are things like gas, groceries and eating out. This is where you may find opportunity areas.
Pro tip: If you bank with Bank of America, take advantage of their mobile app. They’ve made it really easy to check in on your accounts and track your spending. The app even has a budgeting feature where you can build a budget right on your smart phone.
(3) Set your goals
Before you wade through all of you spending habits, sit down and come up with some financial goals — both short-term and long-term. Short-term should take no longer than a year to achieve while long-term could be things like saving for your child’s education.
(4) Make a plan
Now that you’ve tracked your spending and created some goals, it’s time to make a plan. Take a hard look at your fixed and variable expenses and decide on areas where you can cut back. Make a distinction between things you need to have and things you just want to have. You might find that you can let go of some things.
(5) Adjust your habits
Use your past spending habits as a guide for creating new ones. For instance, maybe you discovered that you eat out five times a week. Try cutting that down to two times a week and you can really save some money.
For more helpful financial resources and money saving tips, visit Better Money Habits.
Trade your expensive monthly Uptown parking spot for…
A Blue Lynx Light Rail pass
If you work in Uptown and drive, you know the price of parking is insane. If it’s feasible from where you live, opt for taking the light rail instead. A monthly pass is only $88, which isn’t bad compared to parking spots that cost between $150-$200 per month. And you’ll save on gas.
Trade your pricey boutique workout classes for…
A YWCA or YMCA membership
Cost: $52-68/mo for individual memberships
Are your fancy workout classes draining your bank account? YWCA and YMCA memberships are very reasonable. $68/mo is the standard rate (if you make less than $80k a year, you can get a customized rate that’s less). With both, you’ll have access to a wide variety of classes and workout options.
Trade a day of drinking at a brewery for…
A day hiking trails at the USNWC
Cost: $5 for parking
It’s easy to rack up an expensive tab after a day drinking at a local brewery. Craft beer is tasty but it sure isn’t cheap. Instead head up to the Whitewater Center for some trail hiking. You only have to pay for the parking and then afterwards you can relax and watch the rafters.
Trade your extravagant Saturday morning brunch for…
Breakfast sandwiches and iced coffee in Freedom Park
We sure love a good Saturday morning brunch but between the mimosas and French toast, it’s not cheap. Instead of your usual $20+ Saturday morning brunch, grab some breakfast sandwiches and iced coffee and enjoy a morning in Freedom Park.
Pro tip: Sunflour Baking Company is just down the street and one of their tasty breakfast sandwiches will only run you around $6.
Here’s a quick breakdown of some different types of savings accounts and what they are great for.
Not quite sure where to stash your savings? Check out a Rewards Savings Account at Bank of America.￼
The QC has a lot to offer and luckily, if you’re trying to save money, there are some free (or really inexpensive) ways to have fun and explore.
Take a stroll/bike on the greenway
Locations: Various. Find your closest greenway here.
The city’s greenway system is extensive and exploring it is a great way to get out and enjoy some nature. Grab some friends and take a walk or opt for a bike ride.
Explore local museums for free
Locations: The Mint Museum (Uptown and Randolph), Levine Museum of the New South, The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture.
If you’re a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch cardholder, you can get into select museums around the country for free the first weekend of each month.
Do yoga at a brewery
Location: Breweries around Charlotte
Many popular breweries around the city host free (or very cheap) yoga classes certain days of the week. Olde Meck offers Yoga on Tap for free every Tuesday at 6:30pm and NC Yoga Bar hosts classes at Sycamore and Sugar Creek for a small fee.
Go on a public art walking tour
The Arts & Science Council created a self-guided public art walking tour complete with a map and an optional 45-minute podcast download. It’s a great way to see art and enjoy the city without spending any money.
See wildlife at Carolina Raptor Center
Location: 6000 Sample Road, Huntersville NC 28078
Spend an afternoon checking out eagles, owls and other birds of prey. Take a walk on the outdoor nature trail and even catch special raptor presentations on Saturdays and Sundays.
Play arcade games at Palmer Street Game Bar
Cost: Free arcade games, 50 cent pinball games
Location: 412 W Palmer St, Charlotte, NC 28203
This new South End arcade bar is pretty legit. They offer a ton of freeplay games, which is cool if you are trying to cut back on your spending. If you are dying to play pinball, the games are only 50 cents. Pro tip: order one of their pizza pretzels.
And for the holidays, here’s a quick guide on saving during the most wonderful time of the year
Check out our favorite tips from Better Money Habits on how to keep your holiday spending on budget:
- Value your relationships. Write down everyone you plan to give gifts to—from your nearest and dearest to your in-laws and the mail carrier. Then put a dollar figure next to each name. Setting price limits helps you keep your holiday budget on track.
- Buy last year’s electronics. For many people, the latest and greatest features aren’t important. You’re likely to save big by gifting an older version of a device that was the latest and greatest just a few months ago.
- Try to avoid shopping sprees. Retailers are really good at enticing people to buy. Everything from display placement to lighting and music is designed to trigger impulse purchases. Researchers have dubbed this the “shopping momentum effect,” noting we’re more likely to keep spending once we’ve gotten started. You can counteract the phenomenon by sticking to your shopping list and leaving the store for a few minutes when you’re tempted to make off-list purchases.
- Factor in shipping. It’s not unusual for an online item to appear cheaper than its in-store counterpart—until you add in shipping costs. Take note of any delivery or service fees, as well. Keep in mind, many retailers offer shipping coupons or free shipping days to attract customers, so do some research before you click “buy.”
Ready to save?
Apply for an account here and start stashing that $$$.
(This content was co-created with Bank of America.)