It is America Saves week. A poll commissioned by America Saves and the American Savings Education Council, shows that 49% are “very concerned” about how the recession will affect their financial status, up from 43% in a similar poll conducted one year ago.Saving money on a regular basis and not after we hit a snag is the only way to weather difficult times.
Tips to save money that won’t affect your budget
- Save money from your tax return : I am not going to debate whether getting a tax refund is good or bad. It is personal preference. Some people don’t want to give Uncle Sam a tax free loan, some people see it as a forced saving. If you are in the latter category and you will be receiving a good amount as a refund, consider another level of forced saving – use your Income Tax Refund to buy Series I U.S. Savings Bonds. In addition to buying savings bonds for yourself, you can purchase bonds for others, including your children and grandchildren. You can indicate this while filing for your taxes.
- Check your employee benefits : Not just the usual suspects (insurance, 401k, etc.), take time to read through your benefits package and see if there are any perks from the insurance company, the investment company that manages your 401k or even any perks from your employer. For example, some employers are offering a reimbursement of part of the health insurance cost if the employee meets certain exercise requirements or a lot of insurance companies now have some kind of discount arrangement with chain fitness centers. If you are already a member you might save some money without doing anything. Your 401k provider might offer free investment seminars in your area. Make use of all the perks that are available to you.
- Seal to save (and get the work done for free) : Poor insulation and sealing is a serious energy sucker; it lets out the air you’re paying to heat or cool. You can do an energy audit mostly for free or very cheap by requesting it from your utility company. They will do a detailed audit and recommend a few changes. Even sealing the doors and windows to reduce air leaks will cut quite a bit of your household’s energy bill.
- Use the local asset building programs : If you are eligible, there are programs like Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) that will match your savings for home, education or business. You will have to attend financial education sessions and agree to save regularly. They will match your contribution, typically $2 for every $1 you save.
- Conduct a “What the heck was I thinking?” Audit: Whenever I clear out my closet to fill the donation bin, there are always clothes or shoes or some other things that make me think – “What was I thinking?”, when I purchased them. And it is good to make a note of these or have a picture of this somewhere. The next time I feel like making an impulse purchase this will remind me to rethink that so that I won’t add anything new to that list.
And two more tried and two reminders to make sure you are prepared for whatever the future brings.
- Bill yourself : If you are telling yourself that “you will start saving from the next paycheck”, consider billing yourself. In addition to your regular bills, add yourself as a biller and pay that bill. You won’t put off any other bills right? So why stiff yourself?
- Save for Emergencies : Whether you are starting out or already have a house, car and everything, building an emergency fund should be a top priority. Some people are comfortable with $1000, some people want to have a rainy day fund of 1 year and others in between. Whatever your comfort level is, have enough money set aside to sail through tough times depending on your job security and life situation.
We don’t have to wait until we can allot a lot of money from our budget to start saving (like I did!). Even $25 a month or whatever you can spare is a better start than waiting.