When it comes to saving, it looks like Americans have taken two steps forward and, more recently, one step backward.

After the recession folks held tight to their pennies. But according to the latest America Saves Personal Savings Index, the sense of urgency faded, and saving is again in decline. The survey found a decrease in the perceived interest (75 percent to 65 percent), effort (65 percent to 55 percent) and effectiveness (62 percent to 53 percent) of Americans to save money in the last year. The savings effort and effectiveness are at a three-year low.

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The savings rate in July was 5.7 percent of personal income after taxes, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, down from 11 percent in December 2012.

Few debate the need to save. The trouble is, people say there is not enough money to save, once bills are paid. That’s a fallacy. Saving doesn’t have to be giant lump sums. A penny bank over time can become $200.

Here’s how to get big results from small moves.

  • Use technology. “Use Acorns. The app automatically invests your change left over from purchases into an investing account. It builds until you have enough to make an investment. You save without realizing it,” says Michael Cirelli, a financial adviser with SAI Financial in Warrenville, Illinois. Acorns.com charges $1 a month, or 0.25 percent of assets per year for accounts of $5,000 or more. Some banks, including Bank of America, offer “keep the change” services as well.
  • Cut excess. Eat out less. Get a crock pot. A family of four that eats out regularly ($50 plus for the entire family) but swaps a slow-cooker meal (which costs $2 a person) for a trip to a restaurant just once a week can save more than $2,000 a year.
  • Automate. Avoid temptation. Have a set amount taken from each paycheck and deposited into a savings account.