You might think of saving and spending as complete opposites. Money either comes into or out of your account. But when managed the right way, one can end up being the yin to the other’s yang. To get your saving and spending habits to complement each other, you only have to look as far as your checking account.
Richard D. Quinn, founder of personal finance blog Quinnscommentary, says the majority of Americans think they don’t have enough money to save—even when they do. “Virtually everyone can find money to save, and it’s not necessary to go through complicated budget calculations,” he says.
You can avoid the tricky number crunching and find ways to save money with your checking account by evaluating how you spend and taking advantage of features that can help you grow your savings.
What are the best ways to save while using a checking account? Try these tips to save money with your checking account to build a cash cushion:
1. Pick the right checking account
Checking accounts aren’t created equal. If you’re looking for ways to save money with your checking account and are a frequent debit card user, consider picking an account that rewards you for your purchases.
Discover Cashback Debit, for example, allows you to earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in qualifying debit card purchases each month.1 Maxing out your cashback earnings monthly could yield $360 in rewards annually. Deposit that cash into a high-yield savings account, and you’ve accelerated your savings just through smart spending.
If you’re all about rewards, one of the biggest tips to save money with your checking account is knowing the guidelines before you open your account.
“You need to understand your rewards program,” says Dave Rathmanner, vice president of content for LendEDU. “You need to know what the rewards are for, whether there are limits on the amount of rewards you can earn and how those rewards are earned.”
“Think of your ability to earn cash back solely as a way to generate savings. Don’t allow yourself to spend your cashback.”– Dan Wesley, founder of CreditLoan.com
2. Sweep rewards to savings
When determining how to save money with a checking account, spend time upfront planning how—and when—you’ll use your rewards. Letting your cashback linger in your checking account could tempt you to spend or splurge, even if saving is your true goal.
“Think of your ability to earn cash back solely as a way to generate savings,” says Dan Wesley, founder of CreditLoan.com, a consumer finance education site and personal loan matching service. “Don’t allow yourself to spend your cashback.”
Easier said than done? Not if you set up an automatic transfer of your rewards from checking to savings as a way to save money with your checking account. Knowing how often cash rewards are credited to your account can help you put your savings on autopilot.
3. Double up on cashback
If you’re looking for a tip to save money with your checking account and your finances are combined with your significant other’s, encourage your partner to open a rewards checking account of his or her own. It can be an easy way to rack up more rewards—and more savings.
For added rewards earning power, you could consider using a cashback rewards credit card to cover purchases once you hit your checking account rewards earning limit for the month. Just remember, if you’re using credit to earn cash back, charge only what you can afford to pay off in full to avoid paying interest.
4. Match reward spending to your budget
Earning cash back on debit card purchases can jump-start your savings, but you still have to be mindful of what you’re spending if you want to learn how to save money with a checking account.
“You need to consider whether what you have to do to earn rewards will be financially worth it in the long run,” Rathmanner says. “There’s no point in spending an extra $100 at the grocery store to earn cash back if you aren’t actually going to use everything you’re buying.”
5. Pay yourself the way you pay your bills
One of the secrets of how to save money with a checking account is to create a budget for how you’ll spend your income each month. While your budget should include room for your regular expenses—rent, bills, food and transportation—it should also include a line item for the cash you want to save. Otherwise, you may find the months come and go with everything in your checking account spent.
“If you pay it like a bill, saving becomes much easier,” Wesley says. “And if you don’t spend as much as you budgeted for, avoid splurging with the extra cash and just save it instead.”
6. Automate your savings
Quinn says the key to saving is sticking to it and avoiding excuses for not saving. That’s why automating your finances is one of the best ways to save money with your checking account, he adds. With automation, you don’t have to remember to move money over to savings, nor will you be tempted by untouched funds that are sitting around in your checking account.
Start automating your finances by linking your checking account to your savings account and scheduling a recurring transfer each payday.
You can also set up automatic transfers from checking to other types of savings vehicles, like an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), certificate of deposit (CD) or 529 college savings plan.
7. Start a savings challenge
Budgeting and automating are straightforward ways to save money with your checking account, but you could also boost your savings by challenging yourself with a little creativity. Mentally round up debit card transactions to the next ten-dollar increment, for example, and roll the difference into savings. If you spend $42.38 with your debit card on groceries, round up to $50.00 and put the other $7.62 into savings.