4 quirky ways to kick-start saving
Your friends might say 'You do what?!' when they hear about these saving strategies.
This post comes from Kentin Waits at partner blog Wise Bread.
Starting a savings plan can be fraught with stress and anxiety. People worry about not saving enough, not being consistent, giving in to spending temptations, and not knowing how to invest what they save. The whole enterprise is enough to leave some people stuck in a chronic state of analysis paralysis.
For beginners, the best approach is to make saving less work and more experimental. Dip your toes in the water by trying some unorthodox methods of spending less and saving more money. Granted, these ideas might not fully fund that retirement plan or turn your job into just a 9-to-5 hobby, but they might make saving more fun and pave the way to more serious strategies. (See also: "5 easy ways to add $50 to your pocket.")
Choose a denomination. How many quarters pass through our fingers in a year? How many $5 bills do we touch in a lifetime? What if we decided to eliminate one denomination of currency from our consumer lives and made a silent promise to never spend it?
Experiment with how this would work for quarters (no more quarters for vending machines, no more quarters for parking meters, only the nickel slots in Vegas, etc). Save them all in a big Mason jar and count how much money you accumulate each month. Or, go big. Make fives your target. Over time, those Lincolns would surely become synonymous with saving, and pocketing them would become second nature. (Post continues below.)
Impose a spending moratorium. I have enough shirts for two men. I have shirts for every season and nearly every occasion. I could, without a moment's discomfort, choose not to buy another shirt for two or three years. Try it yourself. Choose a category of spending and take a month off (or a quarter … or a year). How much could you save if you abandoned an entire category of spending like footwear or movies at the theater?
Decide to buy used. Similarly, consider creating or expanding entire categories of things you buy used. Buying secondhand shoes, for example, can sometimes creep people out. But choosing lightly worn, well-cared-for, and clean used shoes can be a real money saver. Try it; you might like the fit.
Or consider sourcing eBay, Amazon, your local thrift store, or garage sales for books (the old printed kind) and make the $14.99 new ones a thing of the past. As you score more great deals, expand your categories, and save more.
Create spending limits for common items. We all have certain financial boundaries or thresholds we typically don't cross. I'm out of my comfort zone if I pay more than $6,000 for a used car, and I get a little shaky if my share of a dinner out exceeds the $15 mark. But how much could we save (and how relatively painless would it be?) if we created hard-and-fast spending limits for things we buy every day?
Impose a Monday-through-Friday lunch limit of $3.50. Decide to never pay more than $20 for a pair of jeans. How much more could we sock away if we adjusted those limits downward every six months? Create a few spending limits and experiment with the lower end of your thresholds. Throttle back.
Deciding to spend less and save more doesn't have to be stressful, and you don't have to do it perfectly. Success lies in dedication to the experiment -- seeing what methods work for you, finding out what your spending triggers are, and deciding the best way to turn a few quirky ideas into a full-fledged savings strategy that fits your personality.
What novel ideas have you had about ways to spend less? Have any of your friends ever responded with "You do what?!" when they hear about your latest savings strategy?
More on Wise Bread and MSN Money:
"no more quarters for parking meters, only the nickel slots in Vegas..."
Talk about weeding out the wrong thing to boost your savings! Geez what a POS article!
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A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
Marilyn Lewis is an award-winning writer with a passion for getting readers clear, straight information that helps them stay out of financial trouble. A former reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, she works from her home in Port Townsend, Wash. Contact her at MarilynLewis@Outlook.com.
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