Eight Great Ways to Save Money
If you are constantly on a shoestring budget and are always out of cash, take a good look at your spending and lifestyle habits. You will find that by making a few minor changes, you can both fatten your wallet and have a savings account to fall back on.
Saving money is not difficult. It’s just a matter of commitment. Even if you think you have no money to save, you will be surprised at the ways money is thrown out the window.
1. Watch Your Spending
Just because it’s on sale, doesn’t mean you can afford it. Spending less means having more. Identifying those items you really need versus those items that are just nice to have is difficult for most people. Stay away from sales unless you have a specific reason to purchase. Try to identify and eliminate unnecessary extras, such as subscribing to newspapers that collect dust in your house. Curbing spending is key to saving money.
2. Eat At Home
Don’t go shopping on an empty stomach. Buying snacks on-the-run and impulsive supermarket purchases can increase your food bill by as much as 20% or more. It can also increase your waistline. If you work away from home, pack your lunch. It takes the same amount of time to prepare lunch at home as it does to stand in line at the food court or cafeteria. You’ll be surprised at how much extra cash will be in your wallet at the end of the week. If you make nutritional choices, your health will improve, as well.
3. Beware of the ATM
Withdrawing money from an ATM machine is a fast and convenient way to get cash, and they’re everywhere. However, frequent visits to the ATM machine and using an ATM that is not owned by your bank can be an expensive habit. Make sure you really need the cash before you make the withdrawal. If you must use an ATM, make sure your bank owns it. If not, you will likely get hit with two transaction fees, one from each bank. Taking out a fast $20 at an ATM that is not owned by your bank could cost you $25 or more. Check with your local branch to find out exact transaction fee amounts.
4. Establish Automatic Savings
Setting up a monthly scheduled transfer of a fixed amount from your checking account into a savings account can be a fast way to build a small cushion of cash for later use. Start small enough so that you’re not tempted to make frequent withdrawals. When you can afford more, gradually increase the amount. Before you know it, you’ll have a savings account that you can rely upon for a rainy day.
5. Involve Your Partner
Many times one partner in a relationship will be more careless with money than the other. Discuss your money-saving goal with your partner and involve him or her in your new spending habits. Try to negotiate purchases and plan ahead when spending is foreseen. Frequently, the simple task of making a person aware of their spending habits is all it takes to create change. If you are met with resistance, try keeping a separate account and begin your savings alone. Eventually, when you demonstrate how easy it is to put a few dollars away, your partner might just come around.
6. Reduce Your Debt
It’s not as difficult as it seems. Make it a goal to get rid of your credit cards, student loans, and car payments. Find out how much interest you are paying by either looking at your monthly statement, coupon book, or by calling the creditor. Then, make a list of each debt, including name, interest rate, and monthly minimum amount due. Pay the most each month to the creditor with the highest interest rate. Before you know it, you will greatly reduce your outstanding debt and have even more money to save.
7. Pay Down Your Mortgage
Making one extra mortgage payment each year can save you thousands of dollars in interest. If you cannot afford to make an extra payment at one time, divide your mortgage payment amount by 12 and add that to your monthly payments. Make sure you include a note with your payment that instructs the lending institution to apply the overage to principal. Increasing the payments on your mortgage not only saves you money but increases the equity in your home, as well.
There are many ways to save your money. Opening up an IRA, contributing to the 401(k) plan at work, buying a Certificate of Deposit (CD), and investing in Money Market or Mutual Funds are just a few ways to put your cash in a safe place for future use. The interest rates and tax benefits on these investments are greater than the average savings account. Plus, since your money cannot be withdrawn for a period of time without penalty, it greatly reduces the temptation of dipping into the account.
© 2008 AmericanCreditFoundation.org®. Michael G. Peterson is a co-founder and Spokesman of American Credit Foundation, an IRS 501 (c)(3) non-profit consumer credit counseling organization that has assisted thousands of individuals and families with their financial situations through seminars, education, counseling services, and, debt management plans. For more information, and free consumer resources visit www.americancreditfoundation.org
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