21 painless ways to save
Some tips on tucking it away -- even if you think you can't -- just in time for America Saves Week.
One of the most common pieces of personal finance advice is to have some money in the bank, both for potential emergencies and future goals.
Sounds great. But the personal finance gurus don't always tell you how to do this on the money you have right now.
Maybe rising food and energy costs have a stranglehold on your wallet. Some months it seems that just paying your bills on time is a major achievement. How can you possibly save?
Sneakily, that's how. Just a little budget-tweaking, and maybe a few mind games, will boost your savings account.
Let's start with an oldie but goodie:
1. Save all your change in a jar. Once a month, count and deposit it. Sure, it might only add up to nine or 10 bucks at a clip. But in a year that's as much as $120 that might otherwise have ended up in the vending machine.
Kids tend to like wrapping coins, so invite them to help you. Your whole family will learn how small change literally adds up to financial freedom.
America Saves Week starts today and continues through Saturday. Why not make savings a priority this year?
Suppose you eventually add four more stealth savings tactics from the list below, and each contributes an additional $50 to $100 per year. Would you say "no thanks" if someone offered you $500 to put in savings? Me neither.
Remember: It's not savings unless you save it. Be vigilant about planting those money seeds into a separate account that isn't attached to checking. Making the cash a little harder to get at will keep you from tapping the fund unnecessarily.
Money you can't see
2. Automate it. The obvious choice -- if it's taken out of your paycheck in advance, you will have to learn to live with what's left. Try one hour of salary per week (or per month, if you're living close to the bone). Or how about adding up your children's ages and saving that amount? Keeping them in the forefront will remind you why you save.
3. Save your raise. If you were lucky enough to get even a 2% raise, figure out what that means and automate it into savings. (Or add it to your already-automated savings figure.)
4. Bank online. Since it takes three to five business days to get the money transferred to checking, you've got a built-in cooling-off period. If you really, really need the money once the funds are available then go ahead and use it -- but by then you may have found another solution. (If so, then transfer it back!)
5. Make coupons pay. Stores print coupon savings info on your receipt: "You saved $6.20!" Transfer that amount to savings, immediately.
6. Round up. Still use a checkbook, or at least balance your checking account with a paper register? That $42.27 you paid the gas company should be recorded as $43. Each month when you balance the register, transfer the difference into savings. Or you could . . .
7. Swipe a few bucks. The day before payday, look at your checking account. If there's $54 left, move $4 (or $14) over into savings.
8. Pay it forward. Finally finished paying off your daughter's braces? Keep writing that check, i.e., transfer that amount into savings every month. Not possible? Transfer half the amount.
More money mind games
9. Found money is fund money. Work bonus? A $20 bill in a birthday card? Manufacturer's rebate? Put it into savings.
10. Dollar bill challenge. Each night take at least one dollar bill from your wallet -- when possible, take all of them -- and stick them in a jar. Bank these bucks once a week to reduce the temptation to dip into your funds. Variations: The five-dollar-bill challenge, or the "save all bills whose serial numbers end in 3" challenge.
11. Save symbolically. Planning to buy a new car next year? Save $20.14 a week until then. If your 10th class reunion is in mid-September, save $10 a week starting now to pay for tickets, a new outfit or a babysitter.
12. Stamp out stamp use. Still writing checks to utility and credit card companies? Sign up for online bill pay, and put the money you once spent on postage into your savings jar. Assuming five bills per month, that's $27.60 per year added to your stash. On that subject…
13. Cut back on all mail. Why not use e-cards to mark Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries and new babies? Or write a heartfelt note instead of spending $3 for a card that says "Congratulations on your anniversary"? Bank what you would have spent on stamps and cards.
14. Find a savings buddy. Got a friend, sister or cousin who's also interested in saving? Talk once a week, by phone or in person, to share tips and tactics -- and successes. Or you could . . .
15. Start a savings challenge. If you're the competitive type, find a like-minded friend and set goals -- and a prize. For example, whoever saves the most in the next six months has to buy the other person his favorite craft beer, or watch her kids overnight.
16. Get a cash-rewards credit card. Sometimes it's only 1% in payback, but a dollar is a dollar, right? This is especially true if you can put big-ticket items like appliances, medical treatment or auto repairs on the card. Look for the best deals at sites like CardRatings.com or CreditCards.com.
(Spare) change you can believe in
17. Soft drink savings. Can't kick the mid-afternoon soda habit? Buy 12-packs on sale. Figure the cost difference between those cans and the ones in the vending machine. Save the difference. (Not a soda drinker? Pay yourself for bringing teabags or instant coffee from home.)
18. The curse jar. Your children will love reminding you: "You said the S word! Put a quarter in the jar!" (Incidentally, the "jar" can be a piggy bank, a vase or the box your kid made out of Popsicle sticks. Just stash that cash.)
19. Modify a habit. That twice-a-week fancy coffee might be your only luxury. Still, could you cut it to once a week? You love a nice manicure, but how about getting together with a friend and doing each other's nails?
20. Pay yourself for laundry. Every time you do a load of wash at home, put at least $1 and preferably $2 into a jar. Oh, and any money you find in shirt or trouser pockets gets added to the fund.
21. Fight impulse buying. Suppose you're tempted to buy that oh-so-cute stuffed animal for your daughter, who already has enough critters to fill her own ark. Instead, type the toy's cost into the free ImpulseSave.com app and that amount will be instantly transferred into savings. (No smartphone? Access ImpulseSave from any computer.)
Obviously not all these tips will apply to everyone. Take what you can from the list -- but don't overdo it right away, lest you burn out on virtue.
Start slowly, but do start. These seeds will grow into the emergency fund of your dreams.
And speaking of dreams, you'll sleep a whole lot better knowing that you have some cash set aside the next time your car starts making a weird noise.
Readers: How do you save? Are your savings for emergencies or a financial goal such as a down payment on a someday home?
More on MSN Money:
I'm a waitess, at the end of my shift I take whatever doesn't make a $20 bill, might be $1 or $19! I put it in a gallon jug taped shut to keep me from being tempted! Save it for Christmas or emergency car repair! It adds up fast! This is just another idea to help people save, it works for me!
Here in metro Chicago many (most?) banks have FREE coin counting machines so I don't even have to roll my coins or use the machines at the grocery stores.
So if I get a 2% raise I'm supposed to put the extra into a savings account...what about when my bills go up 3%?
When I bring my own coffee to work I'm supposed to bank the $1 or $2 I "saved"?? I don't have the $2 to begin with, that's why I didn't stop at Starbucks.
I understand what the article is trying to say - take care of your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves, but you can't put into savings what you don't have to begin with.
....I am amused by some of this stuff....however, until we get the government to do likewise...it will always be hard to keep what we earn....like food and gas and taxes....
I have a cute bank that I put all my coins in. I am not allowed to open and roll it until it is so full I can't stuff another coin in, it takes me a couple years and has equalled over $600.
A friend of the family has one of those old glass water cooler bottles full of quarters, it is so stuffed you can get coins out!, one of these days I am going to "accidently" drop a hammer on it, forcing him to take them all to the bank.
I understand the point the writer of this article is trying to make, however, in my case I tried to simplify things by paying my utily bills on line and in my state ( Texas ) there is a charge in 2 out of 3 companies! I could pay with a check but I still have to order them , with a cost and buy a stamp.
Sometimes this advice works in some areas of our lives, sometimes it's just to make a point.
If you can't save here try to save there.
In my opinion.
P.S. I bring my lunch, don't drink Starbucks, don't like it and it's too expensive. I like Donkin Donuts coffee so much better!!! And you can get it at the grocery store! Or any discount store, as well as Starbucks, at Marshalls I believe. I bundle my errands to save gas , and continuously shop for better prices on cable, internet and telephone. So far I got the three of them for $85.00 I'm planning to get a cell phone plan for $45.00 I was paying $130.00 for cable, internet and telephone, so I'm getting there!!!
Good luck everyone, the start is having the thought in mind !!!
I started saving and just spending on necessitates 10 years ago when I put blinders on for my retirement. However, I wish I had done better. Now that I am retired I will continue spending only for necessities until such time that I start drawing down on my 401K which will be used for extras and vacations. I try to explain to young people how important it is for them to save for emergencies and the future. I wish someone had talked to me when I was younger so I could have started earlier to save.
Since I just retired I do not know what my budget will look like until maybe 6 months from now but I will have to make it work since I have no plans to return to work even part-time. I have planned for the day I would no longer have to get up at 3:00AM to go work. If it means eating rice and beans everyday, well be it.
I started doing a few of these tips this year after, for years, saying I couldn't save any money. Funny now knowing you are going to be shelling out an obscene amount of money for your child's upcoming college tuition will do that to you. But it worked. I started by using any "extra" money such as rebate checks, birthday gifts, anything I didn't fully expect. Now I'm even adding in the money I get back from my flexible spending account...and with one in braces w/ monthly payments, that adds up.
While I know this won't pay my son's tuition, it's a nice little fund I finally have going!
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