The Best Way to Save $100, $1,000, and $10,000

One of our seven rules for money management is to set realistic goals. In fact, when Robert J. Handy founded (what’s now) Inspirus back in 1936, it was his first rule. But a goal isn’t realistic if it’s not S.M.A.R.T.—specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. That means it’s not enough to say “I want to save money”—you have to say, “I want to save X amount of money in X amount of time.” Today, we’re breaking down the best ways to save $100, $1,000, and $10,000 so you can meet your goals, whether it’s treating yourself to a nice dinner out, paying off your car, or investing in your kids’ college funds.

First, start with the basics and check out our steps to smarter saving for a crash course in, well, saving smarter. Read it? Great. Let’s explore even more ideas that’ll help you save better.

Best Ways to Save $100

There’s a terrible saying that goes something like this: there’s more than one way to skin a cat. We’ll let you dig into the origin of that one on your own time, but the meaning is simple: there’s more than one way to achieve a goal—for instance, saving $100.

The first thing to do, no matter how much you want to save, is to set a realistic timeline. If your goal is vague—spoiler alert!—you’re probably not going to hit it—at least not in a timely manner. If you’re strapped for extra cash, maybe saving $100 over 60 days is a realistic timeline. But if your week is full of dinners out and trips to Target for toothpaste that end with no toothpaste and, instead, a gazillion things you didn’t need, saving $100 in seven days is definitely doable. Find the sweet spot between something attainable and a good challenge, and you’ll feel deservedly proud and accomplished once you’ve reached it.

When it comes to saving, there are tons of methods you could employ. You can trim the fat—do you really need to grab a Starbucks breakfast sandwich every morning? You can make one at home for a fraction of the cost, saving you double-digits each week. If you carry cash (a good idea if you’re trying to save—it helps to see and feel the money you’re spending), physically hide away any loose change or single bills leftover at the end of the day for a month or two. If you save $11.03 on your weekly grocery run thanks to your super-saver card, transfer it to your savings. Saving $100 can be easy if you’re willing to be strategic and make small sacrifices.

Find the sweet spot between something attainable and a good challenge, and you’ll feel deservedly proud and accomplished once you’ve reached it.

Best Ways to Save $1,000

Saving $1,000 is obviously a little harder than saving $100. When it comes to timeline, you’ll likely have to push it back a bit—maybe three months is a good fit, or maybe it’s a year. Here are some ways to consider pocketing up to a few hundred dollars each month so you can book that trip or have an emergency fund on-hand:

  • Designate no-spend days. It’s easy to head out the door without homemade coffee or lunch and join your coworkers at happy hour later in the day. But that’ll cost you $20 daily, if not more. Challenge yourself to a few no-spend days a week, and watch as your bank account rewards you.
  • Cut back on nights out. Dinner, drinks, and a movie for two can easily cost $100—not to mention the added expense of a babysitter if you need one. Reconsider what an evening of entertainment looks like for a month or two.
  • Cut unnecessary bills and refinance. Have a loan? An insurance bill? A spendy phone plan? Cable? Shop around for rates and see if you can find a better deal on those bigger monthly expenses.

Best Ways to Save $10,000

This can feel like a lofty goal, but it’s attainable—even in a year!

  • Save bonus cash. If you got a raise or raked in some extra money thanks to a freelance gig like dog-walking or Airbnb, pretend like you didn’t. Transfer that money to your savings, and watch as the number climbs over time.
  • Sell your car. Depending on where you live, a vehicle might not be a necessity. Public transportation, ride-sharing, carpooling, and your own two feet are great ways to get around. Absolutely need a vehicle? Consider trading yours for something older or smaller, and put away the difference.
  • Keep “paying a bill” you no longer have. Maybe you used to put $750 toward now-paid student loans every month—act like that payment still exists, just pay yourself instead. Automatic deposits are easy to forget about. While cutting those forgotten ones is usually one of our first steps to smarter saving, forgetting you’re paying yourself can work to your advantage here.

Whether you have your eyes on $100, $1,000, or $10,000, there are tons of ways to achieve your goal—like most things, the key to it all is discipline and patience.