When trying to save money, it is smart to utilize habits that are easy to implement and simple to maintain.
Whether or not we decide to utilize straightforward savings practices can mean the difference between fiscal security and financial vulnerability.
In other words, if it's easy to save, we save. If we make having a savings plan so complex that we shy away from it, then we have intimidated ourselves out of owning the confidence that an effective saving plan can offer.
One facile savings approach suggests this: Determine what you spend each month to maintain your current lifestyle and multiply that figure times the number of months' security you'd like to have in savings.
But even before determining your financial goals, you can implement some of the following easy savings tips now ...
No. 5: Review your spending habits
Go online to your bank account and look at your spending habits.
Many banks offer easy access to tools like pie charts and graphs for organizing this data. This will help you realize if you have any meaningful spending patterns that may require further contemplation.
You may realize that your penchant for power tools or designer handbags is not something you want to perpetuate.
The point of this exercise is not to make yourself feel guilty about what you're spending but to increase your awareness of it in case you want to alter it.
It is just a way of opening your eyes to what money you have and what you are willingly giving away. You should be able to see fairly quickly if there are aspects of your spending which you would like to refine.
No. 4: Keep coupons in your car
Paper coupons which you have clipped or printed should be kept in your car or wallet for easy access.
It makes it fun to collect and use your coupons if they are kept in a brightly colored coupon portfolio that is easy to store in the car or, if you prefer, in a fastidiously maintained mini-filing-cabinet in your trunk.
If a coupon looks good to you, but you never have it when it matters, then it's worthless. It makes sense for you to give yourself a better chance of actually using the coupon by putting it where it is easily accessed.
Actually following through on a coupon rather than letting it expire can be a highly rewarding experience and can help you save your hard-earned cash.
No. 3: Shop around for groceries
Be fickle about brands and do not become loyal to where you purchase them. It may sound harsh, but in these times it is better to comparatively shop than to just assume you are getting the best deal at one store or with one brand.
Even so-called discount chains will often cut the price on one item and raise the price on several others. It is best to see grocery shopping as an ongoing activity that might have to happen in several places.
If the little store close to your office sells milk cheaper than anywhere else, try to get it there. If you can find discounted frozen dinners at another retailer, go there. You will see right away that you can save quite a lot using this method.
Also, do not assume that if a retailer has cheaper prices today that they will always be cheaper.
No. 2: Use direct deposit
Have money taken directly from your paycheck and put into your savings account, IRA or 401(k).
Even if you cannot afford to put a lot of money in every pay period, the key is to at least begin the habit of doing so, no matter the amount.
If you are unsure of the amount to have deposited at first, just start with something small. If you find that you are not missing this money at all, you can always use your budget and your goals to come up with a more significant figure to have withdrawn.
The greatest thing about using direct deposit to savings is that once it is set up, you might not even miss this money. Also, it is smart to have money going into savings rather than checking, as the savings account typically offers a higher interest rate.
No. 1: Make a budget
Nothing will make you feel more money-smart than if you successfully plan and execute your own budget.
Calculating this can seem daunting at first, but if you take the data from your recent spending history -- say the last year or several months -- you will be able to see how much you need each month for all that you do and all that you want to plan for.
Once your budget is firmly created, it will be easy to say no to things you do not need.
Having a budget is also one way to make sure you get what you want. If your goal is to retire with a specific figure, adhering to a budget can make this a reality. If it's not in the budget, it's simply not in the budget and you don't need it.
Savoring financial security can become your reality once you've taken control of your savings.
By Cydne Washington, Contributing writer
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