AARP Eye Center
Everybody has advice about how you can cut expenses and build wealth, but which of these tactics are truly helpful? To find out, we asked more than 20 certified financial planners, authors and frugality bloggers to rate 34 common savings tips on a scale of 1 ("Don't bother!") to 10 ("Really useful!"). Then, based on the experts’ votes, we've ranked these money moves — both daily habits and occasional fixes — in order of their effectiveness. Start at the top to set your financial priorities and build yourself a comfortable retirement stash.
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(minimum average score: 7.5 out of 10)
9.7 - Increase the percentage of your salary you save each time you get a raise at work.
"Here's how to think about this: Each time the current you gets a raise, make sure the future you gets a raise.” —Dana Anspach, financial planner, Scottsdale, Arizona; author of Control Your Retirement Destiny (All judges scored this tip 9 or higher!)
9.2 - Exercise 30 minutes a day at least five days a week for better health and lower medical expenses.
"One of the largest costs you're going to face in retirement is health care. One of the surest ways to reduce it is to stay as fit as you can.” —Skip Fleming, financial planner, Colorado Springs, Colorado
9.2 - Identify a savings goal, create a separate savings account for it and set up automatic withdrawals from your paycheck.
"Separate, automate and watch the savings pile up.” —David Mullins, financial planner, Richlands, Virginia
9.2 - Make a list of all your recurring subscriptions and cancel whatever you don't use frequently.
"Review your credit card statement carefully! Many of us look carefully at only larger purchases, so recurring subscription payments of $9.99 go unnoticed for years.” —Carol Fabbri, financial planner, Denver
8.9 - Move your cash into a high-yield savings account.
"Always smart, unless you prefer keeping all your accounts under one roof.” —J. Money, blogger for Budgets Are Sexy, Washington, D.C.
8.1 - Stop smoking.
"Future health costs alone make it a 10.” —Mullins
8.0 - Every year, shop fresh or renegotiate all your service contracts (phone, internet, health club and insurance).
"I call my internet provider frequently to ask for a better deal. They never disappoint.” —Maggie Kirchhoff, financial planner, Denver
7.9 - Meet friends for a walk, rather than for a drink or a meal.
"Extra points if you pay yourself in a retirement or investment account what you would have spent.” —Mullins
7.7 - Declutter, and sell your unwanted stuff.
"Simplify, simplify, simplify!” —Nate Wenner, financial planner, Minneapolis
7.6 - Plan a week's worth of menus before you do your grocery shopping, and eat more homemade meals.
"Wait for midweek ads and plan meals around what's on sale and fresh in season.” —Jan G. Valecka, financial planner, Dallas
7.6 - Get a library card so you can borrow all your books and movies.
"I get all my audiobooks for free by linking my library card to an app on my phone. I love it!” —Kirchhoff