By Donna Freedman | The Huffington Post
Start saving now!
Think you can’t save? Think again! Sure, it seems like there’s not much wiggle room in your budget, due to the rising costs of basic necessities—but that’s all the more reason to have a slush fund. Fortunately, there are plenty of painless ways to siphon cash from even a fixed income.
Start slowly, but do start; those money seeds will blossom into an extra layer of financial security. That sure beats wondering if you can really afford to put a $20 bill in a grandchild’s birthday card.
Easy does it
Start small with these basic tips:
1. Change in a jar. The old standby of saving all your change in a jar? It works. Sure, it might be only $10 a month, but that’s $120 a year that might otherwise have ended up in vending machines or those “take a penny, leave a penny” dishes.
2. Save your coupons. Many stores print “You saved X dollars” on the receipts. But it’s not savings unless you save it, so transfer that amount—immediately!—into your bank account.
3. Save your raise. If you’re still working and were lucky enough to get a pay increase, pretend you didn’t. Bank it instead.
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Once you’ve started taking little steps, you’ll be ready for more advanced strategies, as these challenges:
4. Dollar bill challenge. When you get home from work or running errands, put all the $1 bills from your wallet in a jar. (Some people do this with $5 bills, but that’s too rich for my blood.)
5. Random number challenge. Pick a number, then check your wallet nightly for bills whose serial numbers end in the digit you’ve chosen.
6. Weekly challenge. Actually, a monthly challenge: You put aside $1 the first week of the month, $2 the second week, and so on. You’ll end up with $10 to $15 per month. Not bad!
7. Calendar challenge. Put aside $52 in the first week of January. The next week, $51; the week after that, $50. And so on. This smarts at first, but keep your eyes on the prize: the $1,378 you’ll have amassed by the end of the year.
Use your bank
Use your bank’s services to turn hard-earned cash into even more money:
8. Automate your savings. The easiest thing ever: Set up an automatic transfer from checking to savings each month. Better yet, transfer from checking into an online savings account, since you can’t dip into on a whim.
9. Designate your dollars. Some banks let you set up sub-accounts and give them specific names. It might be the “Slush Fund” but it could also be more specific, such as “New Car” or “Reunion Trip.”
10. Keep the Change. This Bank of America program rounds debit-card purchases up to the next dollar and then transfers that amount from checking into savings. For example, if you pay $37.03 for groceries, 97 cents would go into savings. Easy, huh?
11. Password protection. Turn your PINs into reminders. For example, when you sign on to your favorite shopping sites, maybe having to type “jan92015”—the due date of your first grandchild—would remind you that setting up a college plan would be more rewarding than a new blouse.
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Access apps and websites
The internet is full of programs designed to help you save:
12. Get a cash rewards credit card. Use it to pay for everything you can – groceries, utilities, gym membership – and bank the cash rebates. Look for the best cards at sites like NerdWallet or CardRatings.com.
13. Save impulsively. Tempted by an unnecessary purchase? Talk yourself down, then enter the amount of money you might have spent into a free app called ImpulseSave. That money will be transferred into savings.
14. Take surveys. SonyaAnn, who blogs at A Mom, Money, and More, belongs to a few online opinion sites. Last year she earned $123, and also got some products to test. She does it waiting for the laundry to finish or watching TV with her husband.
15. Discount your purchases. Buy discounted gift cards on the secondary market for items you need most often. Suppose you buy a $50 Walgreens card for $44 and a $100 PetSmart card for $87. Immediately transfer $19 into savings and use the cards like cash. Discounted gift cards are available for just about anything you need; check GiftCardGranny for the best deals.
Play mind games
Break behaviors by fooling yourself:
16. Bill yourself. You meet your monthly obligations on schedule, right? Make “savings” a bill, then pay it. Tip: Use the “bill reminder” feature of a budgeting software site like Mint.com or PowerWallet.
17. Get a savings buddy. Suggest that a friend or relative join you in the slush-fund goal, then chat or e-mail each week about your progress. You might even make it a challenge, i.e., whoever saves the most has to buy lunch.
18. Symbolize your savings. Suppose you or a spouse will retire in 2016. Transfer $20.16 cents into savings every month (or every week). If that class reunion takes place in June 2017, set aside $23 (six plus 17) every month/week to help defray the cost of attending.