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How to Save Money

Personal_Finance / Money Saving Jul 06, 2008 - 02:08 AM GMT

By: wikiHow

Personal_Finance Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleSaving money is one of those tasks that's so much easier said than done. There's more to it than spending less money (although that part alone can be challenging). How much money will you save, where will you put it, and how can you make sure it stays there? Here's how to set realistic goals, keep your spending in check, and pay yourself first.


Steps

  1. Set savings goals. For short-term goals, this is easy. If you want to buy a video game, find out how much it costs; if you want to buy a house, determine how much of a down payment you’ll need. For long-term goals, such as retirement, you’ll need to do a lot more planning (figuring out how much money you’ll need to live comfortably for 20 or 30 years after you stop working), and you’ll also need to figure out how investments will help you achieve your goals.
    • Kill your debt first. Simply calculating how much you spend each month on your debts will illustrate that eliminating debt is the fastest way to free up money. Once the money is freed from debt payment, it can easily be re-purposed to savings.
  2. Establish a timeframe. For example: "I want to be able to buy a house two years from today." Set a particular date for accomplishing shorter-term goals, and make sure the goal is attainable within that time period. If it’s not attainable, you’ll just get discouraged.
  3. Figure out how much you’ll have to save per week, per month, or per paycheck to attain each of your savings goals. Take each thing you want to save for and figure out how much you need to start saving now. For most savings goals, it’s best to save the same amount each period. For example, if you want to put a $20,000 down payment on a home in 36 months (three years), you’ll need to save about $550 per month every month. But if your paychecks amount to $1000, it might not be a realistic goal, so adjust your timeframe until you come up with an approachable amount.
  4. Keep a record of your expenses. What you save falls between two activities and their difference: how much you make and how much you spend. Since you have more control over how much you spend, it's wise to take a critical look at your expenses. Write down everything you spend your money on for a couple weeks or a month. Be as detailed as possible, and try not to leave out small purchases. Assign each purchase or expenditure a category such as: Rent, Car insurance, Car payments, Phone Bill, Cable Bill, Utilities, Gas, Food, Entertainment, etc.
    • Keep a small notebook with you at all times. Get in the habit of recording every expense and saving the receipts.
    • Sit down once a week with your small notebook and receipts. Record your expenses in a larger notebook or a spreadsheet program.
  5. Trim your expenses. Take a good, hard look at your spending records after a month or two have passed. You’ll probably be surprised when you look back at your record of expenses: $300 on ice cream, $100 on parking tickets? You’ll likely see some obvious cuts you can make. Depending on how much you need to save, however, you may need to make some difficult decisions. Think about your priorities, and make cuts you can live with. Calculate how much those cuts will save you per year, and you'll be much more motivated to pinch pennies.
    • Can you move to a less expensive apartment or house? Can you refinance your mortgage?
    • Can you consolidate your debts so that you're not paying as much interest?
    • Can you save money on gas, or give up a car altogether? If your family has multiple cars, can you bring it down to one?
    • Can you drop a land line and only use your cell phone?
    • Can you live without cable or satellite TV?
    • Can you cut down on your utility bills?
    • Can you restrict eating out? Buy food in bulk? Cook more at home? You might be able to save a lot of money on food.
  6. Reassess your savings goals. Subtract your expenses (the ones you can't live without) from your take-home income (i.e. after taxes have been taken out). What is the difference? And does it match up with your savings goals? Let's say you've decided you can definitely get by on $1500 per month, and your paychecks amount to $2300 per month. That leaves you with $800 to save. If there’s absolutely no way you can fit all your savings goals into your budget, take a look at what you’re saving for and cut the less important things or adjust the timeframe. Maybe you need to put off buying a new car for another year, or maybe you don’t really need a big-screen TV that badly.
  7. Make a budget. Once you’ve managed to balance your earnings with your savings goals and spending, write down a budget so you’ll know each month or each paycheck how much you can spend on any given thing or category of things. This is especially important for expenses which tend to fluctuate, or which you know you're going to have a particularly hard time restricting. (E.g. "I will only spend $30 a month on movies/chocolate/coffee/etc.")
  8. Stop using credit cards. Pay for everything with cash or money orders. Don't even use checks. It's easier to overspend when you're pulling from a bank or credit account because you don't know exactly how much is in there. If you have cash, you can see your supply running low. You can even bundle up the predetermined amount of cash allocated for each expense with a label or keep separate jars for each expense (e.g. a bundle/jar for coffee, another for gas, another for miscellaneous). As you pull money from a jar for that particular expense, you'll see how much remains and you'll also be reminded of your limit.
    • If you need to have credit cards but you don't want the temptation of having them available to use day-to-day, restrict that section of your wallet with a note or picture reminding you of your savings goals.
    • Credit cards are not inherently evil; it's all about your self control. If you use them responsibly (i.e. completely pay them off every month), you can benefit from them. But the reason most credit card companies make money, however, is because people end up spending money that they don't have. Unless you are one of the people who can religiously pay off the balance in full every month, you're better off foregoing the promotions that credit card companies use to lure you in (cash back, introductory APR, airline miles, and so on).
  9. Open an interest-bearing savings account. It’s a lot easier to keep track of your savings if you have them separate from your spending money. You can also usually get better interest on savings accounts than on checking accounts (if you get interest on your checking account at all). Consider higher-interest options such as CDs or money-market accounts for longer savings goals.
  10. Know where your money is. And how much of it, too. If you accidentally overdraw your bank account, you will incur hefty bank fees; worse yet, the place you paid with that check may slap a bounced check fee on top of that, and send the check in again, resulting in a second overdraft fee from the bank! So just a few cents missing to cover that check could result in over $100 in fees. To avoid that, you should always know how much money you've got in your account(s), so you never cut a check for more than what you have.
  11. Pay yourself first. Savings should be your priority, so don’t just say that you’ll save whatever’s left over at the end of the month. Deposit savings into an account (or your piggybank) as soon as you get paid. An easy, effective way to start saving is to simply deposit 10% of every check in a savings account. If you get a check or sum of cash, say 710.68, move the decimal point one place to the left and deposit that amount: 71.07. This works well and requires little thought; over several years, you've a tidy sum in savings. Over decades, you'll be a millionaire.
    • You can set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account.
    • Many employers allow you to deduct savings from your paycheck. The money is directly deposited in your savings account so you never even see it on your paycheck.
    • You can also have investments for retirement taken directly out of your pay, and the taxes may be deferred with this option.

Tips

  • Have a hobby? Match your funds. One important habit for saving is if you have a hobby, such as model airplanes, scrapbooking, dirt biking, scuba diving, etc., set a hard and fast rule that whatever you allow yourself to spend on your hobby, you match those funds to your savings. For example, if you buy yourself a $45 pair of riding gloves, another $45 goes to your savings. Serious about saving? Try doubling your matched funds! These savings plans will do two things: Save money regularly and quickly, and really show you how much you are spending on your hobby, when it costs you twice as much.
  • If you receive unexpected cash, put all or most of it into your savings, but continue to set aside your regularly scheduled amount as well. You’ll reach your savings goals sooner.
  • Make purchases with paper money, not exact change, and always save the change. Use a piggy bank or jar for your coins. Coins and change may look insignificant but when accumulated over time they can help you save. Some banks now offer free coin counting machines. When you redeem your coins, ask to be paid by check so you won't be tempted to spend your newfound cash.
  • If you are small, try buying children's clothes rather than adult's as they are usually cheaper. A small slim woman could quite easily fit into an age 14 pair of trousers, for instance, although do try to make sure you always look age/situation appropriate. If you see a more expensive item of clothing that you like, only buy it if you know you will get plenty of wear out of it. It might hurt leaving that beautiful dress in the shop, but you would feel worse if you spent a lot of money but hardly ever wore it!

Warnings

  • Do not go out "window shopping" with any money on you. You will only be tempted to spend money you cannot afford to lose. Only shop with a predetermined shopping list.
  • After a long week of working, you may want to indulge in some luxury, telling yourself, "I deserve this". Remember that the things you buy are not gifts to yourself; they are trades, products for money. Say, "Of course I deserve this, but can I afford it? If I can't afford it, I'm still a worthy person, and I still deserve to meet my savings goals!"
  • Unless you're in truly desperate financial straits (like 10 seconds from eviction and your three children are starving) don't try to cut corners connected to health. Basic preventative care for yourself, your family, and your pets might cost you a $60 office visit or a $30 heartworm pill today, but the skipping it will contribute to expensive problems and heartache down the road.

Article provided by wikiHow, a collaborative writing project to build the world's largest, highest quality how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Save Money. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

© 2008 Copyright wikihow - All Rights Reserved
Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

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Comments

john
16 Jul 08, 15:02
stock/bond market blues

Currently, I have a well diversified, stock/bond portfolio.

However, this past June, and , until now, which is the second half of July, I have dropped over $60K in my portfolio.

My advisor assures me that will go back up, as the Market has seemed to have done in past times of "blue periods."

What scares me is that, if my portfolio continues to plummet as fast as it did this past month,by next year, I feel as if I will be homeless.

I am retired with a perminent disability.

What actions can I do to "fight" the everyday domestic finanacil war that is happening in the US?

I have worked many years with a nice "nest egg". This year, the "rats" have been eating lots of my eggs!!!

Any advise?

Thanks for your prompt attention on this crucial matter.

Very truly yours, John


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6 Critical Money Making Rules