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How-To Geek

Tips and Advice on Saving Money Today

Money is tight for most of us and I am constantly challenged by the idea of saving more. How?!@ Don’t you need to make more in order to save more? Most of us contribute to our 401k and that’s about it. It’s hard to save when companies are freezing salaries and our living expenses remain the same or climb even higher. However, that age old saying “where there is a will, there is a way” applies. There are ways to save more, really… but it will require a change in mind set and in spending habit.

Before you plunge into your plan of action to save, you need to set a savings goal for yourself. It may be a large goal (e.g. down payment for a new home or car) or a smaller goal (e.g. in 3 months I will save $XXX and pay off my credit card), but you need to set a goal. I think it’s easier when you set a series of short term goals. So with that goal in mind, consider the following when establishing your savings plan.

Allowance please~! Remember getting allowance from your parents when you were a kid? Agree to give yourself a weekly allowance in cash each Sunday for your spending during upcoming week. The key is not using your credit card or debit card during the week. That said, you can agree to certain specific exceptions, such as filling up on gas. It will be tough the first few weeks, but if you commit, you will definitely see a difference.

Stop eating out so much! Pack your lunch or stash frozen foods in your office fridge and eat in a few times a week. This is really hard for some people, but just tabulate how much you spend eating out for lunch in a month and you’ll see that you are spending too much! If you need another incentive, why not use your lunch time to burn off a few calories and rather than eating a big lunch, snack throughout the day? If your office has a gym, then no excuses for you! If not, what’s wrong with enjoying the outdoors for 30 minutes mid-day? This is totally doable and you actually get a lot more energy throughout the day.

Carpool anyone? If you can, carpool with co-workers a few times a week. If not, for whatever reason, then check out erideshare.com , carpoolconnect.com or find a Park & Ride near you. Even if it’s just a few times a week or even a few times a month, you will end up saving a lot of cash in the long run.

Table 1- Monthly Commute Cost for Driving Alone vs. Sharing the Ride (Based on AAA “Your Driving Costs 2008″)

Plan your weekly meals and use those coupons! Plan your weekly dinner meals in advance and shop once a week for your groceries. Otherwise, you find yourself at the grocery store 2-3 times a week, buying and spending more than you need to. Also if you plan ahead, you can make better use of coupons and weekly deals at your local food mart. And apply for and use, use, use your Safeway, Harris Teeter, Giant, etc. club card for instant savings.

Go with the generic brand. Seriously, there is nothing wrong with buying the generic brand. I am not advocating that you buy generic for everything… but what’s wrong with buying the unmarked apple or orange over the Granny Smith apple or Sunkist orange? I don’t feel bad about paying ½ less for groceries by choosing the generic or grocery store brand over the brand named products.

Keep track of your spending. Keep track of your expenses and spending habits. Knowing is half the battle. If you keep good records of your spending, then you will find areas where you can cut and start saving.

There’s no better time than now to grow your savings. And despite what people may say, I don’t agree that saving money is an easy thing. It takes a concerted effort and persistent will, but it is absolutely doable. Good luck~!

  • Published 01/7/10

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