Saving money has always been my Achille’s heel when it comes to personal finance management. I just like to shop. The rule of thumb is to have three months’ living expenses tucked away in a savings account that you can reach easily (without penalty) for an emergency.
Add to that savings for things like vacations, Christmas spending, and insurance deductibles, and it makes you wonder if there’s any portion of your paycheck that you can spend. But saving money doesn’t have to be difficult, if you look for easy ways to tuck a little away here and there.
Of course, always set aside 10 percent of your pre-tax income (either in a 401K, IRA or another savings plan). And then add this additional savings on to your 10 percent to really see your bank account grow.
1. Round It Up
Bank of America’s popular Keep the Change program let customers “round up” their debit card purchases. That additional amount was then transferred into their savings account.
The program yielded dozens of similar promotions in smaller banks and credit unions across the country. Banks like First Clover Leaf Bank take it one step further, matching customers’ savings up to $200.
2. Treat & Save
We all know about the dreaded latte habit. You could suffer and give up your latte’s all together, buy a Keurig and make your own strong brews, or only drink “designer” coffee as a reward (for doing something like paying off a credit card.) But if you really can’t kick the habit, and it’s not adversely affecting your finances too much, consider this: Every time you want to make a “frivolous” purchase … fast food, coffee, another pair of shoes … deposit an equal amount in your savings account, too. That $4 latte is now costing you $8, so you’ll consider the purchase a bit more carefully. And if you decide you really, really want it anyway, at least you’re building a good financial habit by saving money, too.
3. Max Out Your 401K
If you are not maxing out your 401K, this may be the year to do it. The government has lifted the pre-tax contribution limit to $17,500 in 2013, up $500 from last year. Additionally, you can earn up to $1,500 more this year and still qualify for the saver’s credit, a credit for low-to-middle income individuals and families who contribute to a pre-tax retirement account.
4. Make Your Hobby Income Stream
Turn your hobby into an income stream, and save all the money you earn. Do you enjoy making crafts or jewelry? Knitting? Shopping estate sales and selling your finds on eBay? Many people have full-fledged, full-time businesses doing these things, but others view it as a hobby.
If you have a hobby that you could use to make money, why not start today? Then put all this “found money” into a savings account. This could be your “fun money” savings, for a family vacation, or the way you ultimately get out of debt. The best way to ensure you won’t touch the money is to transfer it straight from your Paypal or Google Wallet account into an online savings account … you may also get better interest rates than at a conventional bank.
5. Save Your Change
I was surprised when I wrapped all the quarters that had been collecting in an old Arizona Ice Tea gallon jug in my room. I had saved hundreds of dollars in the past three years! There’s no math involved and, as savings goes, this is as low-tech as it gets. Just pick a bank that makes you feel happy when you look at it, so you’ll want to drop your change in at the end of the night.
If you want to ramp up your savings, you can make a concerted effort to break larger bills in order to get change at stores. But you’d be surprised how fast the coins accumulate with no extra effort on your part at all.
6. Look For Bonuses… And Save Them
If you spend time on the Internet, you’ll see ways to make money everywhere you turn. From affiliate programs for promoting your favorite apps to taking surveys for extra cash, there are lots of ways you can earn extra money in your free time.
You can also look for ways to get extra cash in real life. For instance, does your bank offer a bonus when you refer a new customer? What about your cable company or Internet provider?
The great thing about looking for ways to pick up extra money is that, the more you look, the more you find. Soon, it will feel as if people are handing you money every day. Save it all and you’ll achieve your savings goals in no time.