By Kathleen Forsyth, MBA
I spend a lot of my time thinking of ways to save money. You may be surprised at what you can save without feeling like you are doing without.
The envelope system for saving. One of the monthly budget destroyers is one I like to call the unexpected, expected expense. It’s not that it’s unexpected; it’s just that we haven’t saved up for it. A perfect example is car expenses: maintenance, new tires, vehicle fees. Take a moment to add up all these items, and then divide by 12. At the beginning of each month, put the 1/12 amount, in cash, in an envelope labeled “CAR.” Hide it somewhere. When you need it, there it is. Do this for a vacation expense, Christmas savings, birthday gifts, the choices are unlimited. And best yet: the money will be there when you need it. And you know you’re going to need it.
Save money on eating out. Subscribe to a savings site, like restaurant.com. If you’re going to eat out, then be as economical as possible. One great way is to buy discount certificates from this website. They have a wide variety of restaurants in all kinds of price ranges. Take advantage and save some money.
Put aside 1 percent of your salary. Let’s do the math: If you’re making $30/hour, that’s $.30. Every two weeks: $.30×80 hours = $24. Set up a savings account at your bank, direct deposit that amount to your savings account. Now here’s the trick on this one: DON’T TOUCH IT! After you’ve learned to live without that $24 every two weeks, increase it. Watch it grow. Feel happy with yourself.
Invest as much as you can in your 401(k) account. If your employer matches, invest at least that amount. They are giving you a gift, take advantage of it. When you change jobs, roll the balance over to another 401(k) at your new employer, or into an IRA. Unless the circumstances are dire, never, never, never ever touch that money. It’s for when you’re 65. It’s not a savings account; it’s an investment in your future.
Never buy retail. If it’s not on sale, don’t buy it. Before you head to full retail, look for that much needed item at Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, Kohls, Stein Mart, the Home Store and outlet malls. Check for the sales.
Final tip: Create a memory, not an expense. Avoid unnecessary spending. Retail therapy has its place, but not if it’s destroying your finances. Take a walk, enjoy nature, play with your kids, watch your favorite TV show, surf the internet or call a friend. Substitute a coffee and a book for a run to the mall. These are the things you will remember.