7 Strategies to Help You Start Saving Money Today
Saving money doesn't have to be difficult, whether you aim to save a little or a lot at a time. Save a small amount by setting aside a little each day or by making minor changes to your habits, and watch as your savings accumulate over time to create big savings. Save a lot in a short period of time, and you can set higher goals for large purchases or major milestones. No matter how you approach it, these seven strategies will help you start saving money today.
Save Your Change
Have you ever thought about how much change you go through in a single day? You might not put a lot of stock in the coins that rattle around in your pocket or in your change purse, but they can add up quickly. Whether they're pennies or quarters, coins have a measurable value. Save them and make them work for you.
Start a new savings routine that focuses on setting aside these coins. When you make a cash purchase, never spend your coins. Make a point of only paying with bills. When you receive coins as change, simply hold on to them until the end of the day. When you return home, empty your pockets or your coin purse. Put any coins, no matter the value, into a jar. Enjoy seeing your coin jar grow each day, and watch the value increase.
Once the jar is full, resist temptation to spend the money or count it with a commercial coin machine, which will charge you a percentage of the funds. Instead, take the coin jar to your bank or credit union for sorting. Deposit the funds directly into your savings account to contribute to your savings goals.
This kind of savings plan is easy to implement for families, too. If your family wants to purchase a big-ticket item or set aside a certain amount for a summer vacation, start a group coin jar. Encourage everyone to participate, and make saving a family goal with a fun and worthwhile payoff.
Save a Dollar a Day
If saving money doesn't come naturally to you, it might be easiest to start small. Create manageable goals for yourself by establishing an amount to save each day or each week. Setting aside a dollar each day for a month or for a year is one of the simplest ways to start a regular savings plan. By saving small, you'll have about $30 set aside at the end of a month and $365 saved at the end of a year. Regularly deposit your daily, weekly, or monthly goal in a savings account, so you won't be tempted to spend it.
If your savings goals are higher than a few hundred dollars per year, try raising the amount you save each day by a certain increment. For instance, try setting aside one dollar on day one, two dollars on day two, and so on. At the end of a month, you'll have saved over $450. Do this each month, resetting your dollar amount to zero with the start of each new month. After a year, you will have saved thousands of dollars and made a big difference in your savings account over time.
Depending on your goals, these savings plans are easy to customize. Save two dollars each day or increase your daily increment to five dollars in order to multiply your total savings. For a family plan, have each member contribute a dollar a day to reach a group goal.
Stop Buying Things New
Do you buy everything, from gadgets to clothing, brand new? If so, you're paying top dollar for every purchase. Not only are you paying full price for the item itself, but you're also paying for all of the extras, like advertising and marketing, that come along with the object. You're even paying more to be the first person to own the item.
Instead of buying new, consider buying certain items in a gently used state. If you aren't tied to the idea of having the newest version of every gadget, find the best time to buy the electronics that you want secondhand. Research the timing for new releases, and pick up new-to-you tech gear when the gearheads replace their good-as-new gadgets with the latest ones.
If you have designer tastes on a discount store budget, bypass the mall and browse at a consignment shop instead. Find carefully selected, high quality designer labels at a fraction of the cost. They are usually a season old, but you'll save enough to make the time difference worthwhile.
When buying housewares or children's items, yard sales can prove gold mines for you and your family. Not only can you find a variety of surprises at these sales, but you might also find sellers eager to bargain. Buy carefully, with an eye on quality and condition. You and your family should still be able to get as much enjoyment and functionality out of slightly used items as you would out of new ones.
Avoid the Doctor
If you're like many Americans, you approach your health from a diagnostic care standpoint. That is, you only take action in regard to your health when you're sick, when you have an accident, or when something appears wrong. Unfortunately, this approach can cost you. Health insurance and medical care is expensive, especially when addressing urgent health situations. A series of avoidable issues over a period of time can really add up.
Instead of relying on your doctor to address emergency situations, take your health into your own hands. Do your best to prevent health problems in the first place. Make a point of eating right and consuming a balanced diet. Cook whole foods, including vegetables, proteins, and fresh produce, for yourself and for your family. Be sure to cook and eat at home more often than you go out.
If you lead a busy life that doesn't leave much time for cooking, maximize the time that you do have. Cook large batches at once, with the goal of making enough food for an entire week. Freeze individual portions, and take these home-cooked meals to work, school, and other commitments. Watch the savings add up as you eat healthy, inexpensive meals instead of paying for the convenience of eating out.
Be sure to exercise regularly too, fitting in at least the minimum recommended amount of active time. If you prefer exercising at a gym, shop around for a discounted gym membership. If you work out better in groups, find a workout buddy to motivate you.
If gyms and workout routines aren't for you, try adding extra activity into your regular day. Walk or bike instead of driving to work or school, in order to burn a few extra calories and save money on gas or public transportation. You'll find that you feel better and save more overall.
Do It Yourself
Do you typically pay someone else to fix broken things or to do your regular home? If so, you're probably paying way too much. Most home maintenance is easy to undertake yourself, especially when you have unlimited online resources at your fingertips. For painting and minor repairs, you can easily purchase supplies and tools at any local home improvement store. If you're unsure about the best possible methods, do a little online research to pick up a few expert tips and tricks.
For more complicated maintenance and repairs, size up the issue. If you know you can't take it on yourself, reach out to friends and family. Chances are a handy family member or acquaintance will be willing to solve your problem for a low price or a simple trade, in order to spare you from paying an expensive expert to complete a simple job.
Of course, you should prepare to bargain. If you're an accomplished baker, a fantastic knitter, or an eager dogsitter, you may easily be able to trade your own goods and services for those of your friends and family. Just be sure to value your time appropriately, and that any bargain you strike will actually save you money.
Look Over Your Credit Report
How often do you look over your credit report? Have you ever read it over? If you only think about your credit score once a year or less, you might be missing out. Make a point of getting a free copy of your credit report once a month, and keep an eye out for wrong or inaccurate information. Over 70 percent of credit reports include errors that have negative results. If you see errors, don't worry. Each major credit bureau has a process through which you can dispute bad information.
Accounts that remain unpaid for extended periods of time appear as collections items on your credit report and contribute negatively to your report. If your report includes collections items, address these right away. Contact the creditor to negotiate having them removed from your record altogether. You may be able to strike a deal and pay a percentage of the total debt. Otherwise, simply pay the collection in full in order to make this line item less negative.
Even if your credit report doesn't include collections items or inaccuracies, there are still ways you can improve on it. Your payment history for credit cards, loans, and other accounts makes up a large portion of your overall credit score. Be sure to make all payments by their due dates, and easily keep portion of your credit score will be as high as possible.
Another way to keep your score as high as possible is to keep all of your credit card balances as low as possible. If any of your balances extend over 30 percent of the limit for your credit card, your score will have adverse effects. Keep your balances under that mark, and watch your credit score slowly increase.
Whatever you do, don't close old accounts or unnecessarily open new ones. Keeping older accounts open, even if you don't use the credit cards anymore, will make your overall utilization percentage better and will increase your age of accounts. Opening new accounts will decrease that overall age and will add new inquiries to your account, which will temporarily decrease your credit score.
Having an accurate credit report and a high credit score will save you money in the long run. You'll find that a high score makes you look like a financially healthy consumer and grants you access to lower interest rates. When you're making a large purchase, like a home or a car, a lower interest rate can save you thousands of dollars.
Address Your Debts
Take a long, hard look at your credit card debt, car loan, mortgage, student loans, and any other significant source of debt. Since each monthly payment includes just a small percentage of interest, it is sometimes easy to ignore just how much extra you're paying over time. Use a debt calculator to add up what you're really paying for each loan over time.
While loan payments tend to be predictable each month, credit card payments can fluctuate wildly from month to month, depending on your spending patterns. If you maintain a large credit card balance from month to month, your payment likely includes large interest payments that only increase over time. If you can afford to pay more than your monthly minimum payment, this can do wonders for saving money over time.
Make financial goals for yourself, involving a financial professional if necessary, and make sure that you achieve them. Taking care of your financial health and maintaining debts and reasonable rates and balances will only save you money over time.
There are countless ways to save money, but these seven strategies are easy to adapt to your individual goals. They will help you save a little or a lot over time, and they will help you to meet both minor and major financial goals you've set for yourself. Put them to work, and start saving today.