12 Tips to Stay in the Money Saving Mindset

If saving money isn’t your strong suit, don’t worry. Changing your money habits will have its challenges, but with a little effort, you can stop making so many unnecessary purchases and start building a sizable savings.

The first step is to think about your goals and priorities. Why do you want to save money? You might be looking for the security of an emergency fund, hoping to spend less time working, or preparing to buy a new car.

Whether your savings journey is just starting out or you’re already a saver and want to keep it that way, these 12 tips will help keep you from backsliding into poor money habits.

1. Remember why saving is important to you.

Think about why you want to save money, and take every opportunity to remind yourself. Talk about it out loud, or write it down.

2. Hold yourself accountable.

Budgets, spreadsheets, and shopping lists are enough to put the average consumer to sleep, but don’t be afraid to give this strategy a try. People who are already in the habit of jotting down notes or lists will likely be successful making strict shopping lists and sticking to them.

Once you make a reasonable budget, don’t stray from it. Check it over every once in a while and try to eliminate or reduce any expenses.

3. When you get a raise, don’t increase your spending.

After you get a raise it might seem natural to spend a little more. The problem is that a more expensive lifestyle could jeopardize your saving behavior. Think of a pay raise as an effortless way to speed up your savings.

4. Create a vision board.

It’s easier to reach a financial goal if you can see yourself accomplishing it. One way is to create a financial vision board. Cut out pictures of the financial goals you desire to reach and put them in a photo collage together.

5. Separate needs from wants.

You may fall out of the money saving mindset when you spend money on wants instead of needs. The two can be easily confused, especially if you really want something – you might become so invested in it that you convince yourself that it is a need and not a want. Prevent this by taking your time with purchasing decisions.

6. Learn why you spend.

It will be easier to save when you get to the bottom of why you spend. Do you buy a lot of clothes because you want to impress someone? Are you always spending money on eating out because you don’t set aside time to cook? If you’re more focused on impressing others or you haven’t established financial discipline, it is time to start figuring out these bad habits.

7. Address lingering money problems.

If you want to stay in the money saving mindset, you need to take care of any destructive money issues. Maybe you’re not used to having a lot of money, so you tend to save your money and then find an excuse to spend it. Consider consulting with a financial therapist or joining a financial support group.

8. Ask for Help.

No matter how hard it gets to save money, stay committed. If you find it hard to continue saving money, ask a friend or family member to help you stick to your goal. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

9. Make a game out of saving money.

Saving money doesn’t have to be a chore. Make a game out of it, so you can stay motivated. Invite your friends to join and try the 52-Week Money Challenge, which requires you to save a certain amount of money each week during the year.

10. Track your progress.

Don’t get too comfortable after reaching a big savings milestone. Once you’ve saved a certain amount of money, it’s easy to fall back into your old habits. Continue to keep an eye on how you are doing with your goals.

11. Keep educating yourself.

Continue to learn as much as you can about how to manage your finances. If you want to be a money success, it’s important for you to keep feeding on new financial information every day. The more you learn about money and how it works, the more you will commit to making savings a priority.

12. Celebrate successes.

Keep moving forward by giving yourself a pat on the back when you reach a goal. Every time you reach a savings milestone, celebrate – but don’t celebrate so much that you get yourself back into debt.

Article Source: Sheiresa Ngo for cheatsheet.com

 

4 Ways You Can Trick Yourself Into Becoming a Better Saver

bigstock-Closeup-of-hundred-dollar-bill-26175143For many people, the biggest hurdle to saving is creating the habit. While many financial advisers often recommend that clients take the work out of the process by having savings automatically deducted from each paycheck, plenty of people still struggle to get started. “We’re not seeing progress on the savings front,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com, which found in a survey that 22 percent of consumers have more debt than emergency savings. “And it’s desperately needed.” Without savings, he adds, some consumers may pile on more debt when emergencies happen.

Some people need a bigger incentive, say the pressure of knowing someone else is counting on you or the chance to win money, to finally kick-start the habit. During America Saves Week, a campaign organized by nonprofit, government and private groups to encourage financial literacy, rounded up some creative ways to boost your savings. Here’s what they came up with…

1. Get your friends involved. If you struggle to have the self-discipline to save on your own, it might help to have some friends hold you accountable. Through so-called lending clubs, a group of people get together to pool their savings, giving the cash post to a different person each week. For example, say 10 people contribute $100 each for a total of $1,000. Over the course of 10 weeks, the cash pot goes to a different person each week until everyone has had a turn. For those early in the cycle, it can be like receiving a short-term loan, said Jonathan Morduch, economics professor at New York University’s Wagner school. For those who receive the cash toward the end of the cycle, it can feel like a forced savings program, he added.

In some cases, the pressure of knowing that other people are counting on you can be more effective than setting aside $100 a week into a savings account, said Morduch, who studied the approach as lead researcher for the U.S. Financial Diaries, a project that followed the weekly cash flow of 235 families for a year. “It’s different from the way we usually think about savings, as slow and steady,” he said. “This is something that works for a lot of folks.”

2. Make it a competition. Savings contests, such as the 52-week savings challenge, can make saving seem more approachable by breaking a larger goal down into small weekly sums. While it’s usually a system that’s talked about at the start of the year, the approach can work for any year-long period. Basically, consumers start small, saving $1 the first week, $2 the second week, and so on all the way to $52 for the last week. At the end of the challenge, the account should have $1,378. Starting the challenge with friends who remind one another to make contributions each week can help some people find the motivation to keep saving, even as the amounts grow.

3. Save your change. You can do this the old-fashioned way, where you throw the singles and coins left in your bag at the end of the day into a jar, McBride said. At the end of the week or month, you can take the cash and deposit it in a savings account, he said. But if you’re like the many people more prone to using plastic than cash these days, you might want to check whether your bank offers a way for you to do this digitally.

First Financial’s Save Your Change Auto Program will help you save for your next vehicle! Make purchases using your First Financial Debit Card and they’ll be rounded to the nearest dollar. The difference between your purchase amount and the nearest dollar (the “change”) is transferred into a designated account the same day the transaction posts to your account. Finally, the “change” that accumulates in your designated account is saved for when you are ready to purchase a vehicle – when every penny counts, we’re here to help you!

4. Have an app do it for you. New smartphone apps are making it easier for people to save by automating the process. One app, Acorns, makes it possible for people to set aside their spare change from everyday purchases. But instead of going into a low-interest savings account, the money is stored in a portfolio that invests in exchange-traded funds. Savers need to pay $1 a month in management fees for accounts smaller than $5,000 and a fee that adds up to 0.25 percent of assets for accounts $5,000 or larger. Another app, Digit, studies users’ cash flow and makes automatic transfers to a savings account two or three times a week. The program, which doesn’t charge fees, analyzes when a person is paid, what bills he has to pay and how he generally spends. Then it moves cash that could be extra, typically ranging from $5 to $50, into a separate account. “You don’t actually feel the money missing,” said Ethan Bloch, chief executive of Digit.

*Original article source courtesy of Jonnelle Marte of The Chicago Tribune.

10 Money Questions to Ask Yourself

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The first quarter of the year is a great time for reflection. And your money is no exception: Think about where it’s been, where it’s going, and, most important, where you want it to go. Whether your finances had a stellar year or took a hit, take a minute to check in and see where you want to go next. Here are 10 questions to get you started for a better financial year.

1. How much debt am I taking into 2016?
Tally up what you have left to pay on your student loans, any outstanding credit card balances, and your mortgage (if applicable). Take a long, hard look at this number. It’s better to know it than not know it. Make this number a key part of your action plan for next year.

2. How much did I save last year?
If you automate deposits into your savings account, this should be easy to calculate. (If not, here’s your incentive to do it.) Take a look at your savings account and consider what’s there: Could you have saved more? Did you plan to have more? What stopped you from meeting your goal? And if you don’t have a savings account — or a savings plan — make one.

3. What’s my credit score?
First of all, know what goes into your credit score — and then check your number free online. Check your credit report, too, and make sure any debts you’ve accrued this year are accounted for and that no one has taken out lines of credit in your name. Remember: You get one free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus a year: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

4. Am I getting the most out of my credit cards?
Take stock of what your credit cards have given you this year, like great rewards, lower interest rates, or cash back. If your cards haven’t provided you with any of those perks, consider upgrading to a different card. If you have a card that’s dragging you down with high annual fees, think about closing it — provided you know the consequences of doing so. Make sure you know the best way to use your cards and that you aren’t inadvertently hurting your credit.

Transfer your high balance to First Financial’s Visa Platinum Credit Card today!* Enjoy great low rates, no balance transfer fees, no annual fees, and 10 day grace period.** Getting started is easy – click here to apply online, 24/7. 

5. How much money will I make this year? Can I make more?
Whether you’re a full-time employee or a one-lady business, consider whether there are ways you can grow your income. Is there some sort of side gig you can take on? Could you be a consultant? If you work a 9 to 5, would a switch to freelance be more lucrative? On the other hand, is it finally time to shut down professional projects that are draining your resources?

6. What do I want to save for in the next year? How will I accomplish that?
Set financial goals, like saving for a down payment on a home, paying off a certain amount of debt, or putting a specific amount in savings. Figure out what strategies you will put in place to save, such as making lifestyle changes or automating with apps.

7. Did I stick to my budget? If not, why not?
If you blew off your budget this year, take time to troubleshoot. Maybe your goals were unrealistic or you didn’t have a budget at all. Now’s the ideal time to make one, or get started with an app or two.

8. How will I budget this year?
Once you know what has (or hasn’t) been working for you, look ahead toward optimizing. Maybe you’re ready to switch from a simple pen and notebook to an app, or vice versa. Maybe you’ve learned that you perform better on a less stringent budget and or that you actually need more structure. If you’re newly partnered (or married), this may involve merging finances — or simply merging financial goals.

9. How much money is in my emergency fund?
You have no idea what the new year could bring: sudden health crises, unexpected layoffs, or a downturn in business. Make sure your emergency fund (about three to six months of living expenses) is robust enough to take care of you if need be. And if not, make it a priority to establish a healthy fund. If you need some incentive to save, make it fun with these hacks.

10. What are some poor money habits I can squash?
Think about some areas in your daily (or monthly) life where you can save — or stretch your dollar. If you’re living beyond your means, know where to rein it in. Eating out at work? Make lunch. Tempted to go buy new clothes? How about revamping your old ones instead? Know the red flags if you think you’re in financial trouble and decide to make a change.

*APR varies from 11.15% to 18% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fee. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Platinum Card. **No late fee will be charged if payment is received within 10 days from the payment due date.

Original article source courtesy of Koa Beck of Market Watch.

8 Simple Ways to Stretch a Dollar

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Living within your means is the foundation of financial health. But, that’s easier said than done. If you find yourself in the red at the end of too many months, you’re not alone. “Sticking to a budget” is the No. 1 financial challenge for Americans, according to a recent GOBankingRates survey.

To get the best savings advice, GOBankingRates turned to the smartest money experts out there — the finalists of our “Best Money Expert” competition, we asked them:

“What are the best ways to stretch a dollar?”

In response, these experts delivered strategies to save more, spend less and make room in your budget for what’s really important. Click through to read their tips.

1. Go on a Spending Freeze.

Nicole Lapin, a consumer expert and New York Times best-seller author, shared this advice for those looking to get more out of their budgets: “Go on a spending freeze with your partner, colleagues, or best friends.”

To put this spending freeze in action, Lapin suggested looking for everyday ways to spend less, like staying in with inexpensive bottles of wine over heading to the bar, or hosting a clothing swap with friends instead of going on a shopping spree.

Lapin is a big believer in the power of friends to support each other in creating better financial habits. “Create a support system, and help each other,” she said. For example, if you really want to buy something but you have a savings goal, “save with a friend,” Lapin suggested. “She likely has something on her wish list, too, and it’s easier to commit to saving long-term if you go in on it together.” You can even up the ante, and “create a friendly competition around who is doing best at cutting expenses — think ‘The Biggest Debt Loser,'” said Lapin.

You’ll see big results as you work to curb overspending, but a strong support system is key. “As money issues become more intense, a like-minded community will keep you sane and moving in the right direction,” Lapin said.

2. Stop Mindless Spending.

Tony Robbins, a business and life strategist and bestselling author of “MONEY: Master the Game,” said that stretching the value of a dollar means spending it on what will add the most value to your life.

“Focus instead on the returns you’ll reap tomorrow,” Robbins said. “Often you can have the same level of enjoyment, if not more, by doing something simple.” For instance, if you’re getting together with friends, why not skip the $50 restaurant meal and “order in a couple pizzas and beers and split the cost among your group?” Robbins suggested. “Trade one good time for another, save yourself about $40 each time out, and you’ll be way ahead of the game.”

While saving $40 at a time doesn’t sound like much, this kind of mindfulness adds up. “[Save $40] once a week, and put those savings to work, and you could take years off your retirement time horizon,” Robbins said. That $40 a week adds up to $2,000 a year, which you can use “to harness the power of compounding and help you to realize big, big gains over time.”

“How big? How about $500,000 big?” Robbins said. “That’s right, a half million dollars. How? With the power of compounding at 8 percent over 40 years, that $40 weekly savings — $2,080 per year — will net you $581,944.

3. Always Be on the Lookout for Savings.

“Always look for a way to save, and don’t let saving opportunities pass you by,” said Jeanette Pavini, a finance reporter and spokesperson for Coupons.com. Pavini makes it her mission to help readers find easy and simple ways to save a little everywhere they shop. “There are so many opportunities to save out there, and it typically only takes a nominal amount of effort to take advantage of them.”

“In fact, I almost never make a purchase without applying some type of savings,” Pavini continued. “For example, buy a box of cereal on sale, apply a coupon from Coupons.com, get 2 percent back in credit card rewards, clip the box top so 10 cents goes to my child’s school, and use my grocery store loyalty card so I get points toward gas saving. One box of cereal — five different savings strategies.”

4. Try Envelope Budgeting.

For those who have trouble sticking to a budget, “I recommend that on payday, you take out the dollar amount you need until the next pay period and split it up among your envelopes,” said Clark Howard, host of popular nationally syndicated radio program “The Clark Howard Show.” “When one envelope empties, you either take money from another envelope or you do without until next payday.”

Moving to a cash-only system can help you cut spending and get in the habit of more carefully considering purchases. “Debit cards and credit cards can be the Bermuda Triangle of your wallet because it’s so easy to lose track of finances when you use them,” Howard said.

If you’re more high-tech, Howard said you can try a method invented by his executive producer, Christa. “She hit on the idea of putting money into different accounts for different purposes,” Howard said. “Today, she has three checking accounts and one savings account.”

5. Stack Discounts to Lower Your Grocery Bill.

Kyle Taylor, founder of popular personal finance blog ThePennyHoarder.com, gave this personal finance tip to families looking to stretch their dollars: “Groceries are often one of the largest expenses for families, so it makes sense to start here when you’re looking for ways to cut back.”

For true savings, Taylor’s advice is to look beyond the obvious. “We all know about couponing, but saving money is way easier when you know how to stack discounts.” Instead of settling for using just a coupon to save, you can combine that coupon with other savings strategies to cut your grocery budget down. “Utilizing an all-of-the-above strategy has helped me reduce my grocery bill by more than half,” Taylor said.

A favorite tip that Taylor uses is buying discounted gift cards from sites like Raise.com, which includes cards from grocers like Kroger, Whole Foods and Target. “These gift cards are sold for 1-25 percent below face value, meaning that I’ve saved money before ever stepping into the grocery store,” Taylor said. “I stack those savings on top of my regular coupons and then combine it with grocery rebates from apps like Ibotta and Checkout51.

6. Get More Money Flowing In.

Of course, the advice to “spend less than you earn” is an equation that has two parts — how much you spend and how much you earn. Entrepreneur and performance coach Josh Felber has made it his mission to help people achieve success by following their passions, and in his view the best way to approach the “spend less than you earn” equation is to focus on the second part.

Instead of trying to stretch dollars, “always have a consistent flow so you don’t have to stretch,” Felber said. There’s a limit on how far you can cut your spending — everyone needs to cover the basics. But if you focus and invest in earning more, there’s no limit on how much your income can grow.

7. Put Your Money to Work.

Another “Best Money Expert” finalist, Robert Kiyosaki, emphasized the importance of getting more out of your money. “Invest it,” said the entrepreneur and author of “Rich Dad Poor Dad,” the self-proclaimed No. 1 personal finance book in the world.

Investing is the key to achieving true financial freedom. “Put your money to work for you … instead of working for money all your life,” Kiyosaki said.

8. Negotiate.

To truly stretch a dollar, never accept an initial price or offer. Whitney Johnson, an investor, innovator and author of bestselling book “Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work,” said that you should “negotiate, even when you think you shouldn’t.”

Negotiating is one of the best ways to make sure you’re getting the most value for your time, money or other resources. Johnson suggested following this advice, or “else you will earn too little or spend too much.” Fail to negotiate, and you’ll lose out on dollars you could have saved or bigger paychecks you could have earned.

*Original article by Elyssa of Kirkham of GOBankingRates.

6 Ways You Can Save More Money in 2016

Save-Save-SaveDid you close out 2015 with a little less in your bank account than you would’ve liked? If you’re like a lot of people, you might be disappointed in how much you managed to set aside.

Saving more was the biggest financial priority for 29% of young people, as revealed in a recent survey by Bankrate. The only money issue millennials were more concerned about was paying bills.

Knowing you need to save more and being able to do it are two different things, however. How can you set aside more money when you’re stretched thin as it is? Thankfully, saving a little extra each month isn’t as hard as it may seem. Here are a few suggestions.

1. Pay yourself first. One of the hardest parts of saving money is doing it consistently. You can make it easier on yourself by automating the process.

“Pay yourself first by setting up automatic savings through payroll deduction in your work retirement plan or through automatic transfers through your bank account,” Antonio Morello, the chief investment officer at McMahon Financial Advisors, said. Aim to save 10% to 15% of your salary every year, including contributions to your retirement plan. As an added bonus, those deductible retirement contributions will also save you money come tax time.

2. Spend less on food. Frequent delivery orders and dinners out with friends add up quickly. Save yourself some money by being smarter about how you eat.

“Plan your meals for the week to avoid last minute take-out orders,” Willie Schuette, a financial coach with The JL Smith Group, said. You can also save by buying in bulk and saving leftovers for later rather than tossing them in the trash, Schuette suggested.

3. Cancel subscriptions you don’t use. Do you have a gym membership you barely use or a monthly box subscription you don’t really need? Cancel those recurring charges and funnel the extra money into your savings or to pay down debt. You could end up with a few hundred extra dollars in your pocket at the end of the year.

Have trouble keeping track of which subscriptions you’ve signed up for? There’s an app to help you out. Trim will comb through your credit card statements and bank accounts, find the recurring payments, and ask if you want to cancel the service. It’s free to use, though there’s currently a waiting list.

4. Donate to charity. “Donating to charity is a great way to boost your deductions while helping others,” said Don Chamberlin, a Saint-Louis-based financial advisor and president of The Chamberlin Group.

Donations can come in the form of cash, stock, and even big-ticket items like cars, but you’ll need to itemize and keep accurate records to get the tax breaks.

5. Keep an eye on your credit. Don’t pay more than you have to the next time you need to borrow cash. Maintaining a good credit score “can save you money when it comes to buying a car or anything else on credit, car insurance, or buying a home,” Herb White, a financial planner and president of Life Certain Wealth Strategies, said.

Credit scores above 700 show lenders that you do a good job of managing the money you borrow, according to Experian. You can boost you credit score by paying bills on time, not running up balances on your credit cards, and reducing your debt.

6. Check your withholding. A big tax refund sounds pretty awesome. That is, until you realize that the government is really just paying back the interest-free loan you gave them.

“If you got a big tax refund it means you are having too much taken out of your paycheck every pay period,” Schuette said. File a new W-4 with your employer so that you get more of your money when you actually earn it. Then, shift that extra cash to savings or use it to meet another financial goal.

*Original article source courtesy of Megan Elliot of Money & Career Cheat Sheet.

How to Save Money Even When It Feels Impossible

When living paycheck to paycheck, it’s hard to set aside any money at all, let alone start saving substantially for things like retirement and emergencies. You get a paycheck, you immediately use it for rent, student loan payments, utilities and more, and all of a sudden you’re left with just barely enough to get by. So how can you even think about saving?

Well, the truth is, you can and you should, because the last thing you want is to be stuck with an emergency room bill or totaled car and have absolutely no money. In fact, most financial experts agree that everyone should have at least $1,000 in savings for those types of financial emergencies. To that end, here’s how to save money– even when it feels impossible:

Get in the Right Mindset.

Saving money is more than just a habitual practice– it’s a mindset.  Like starting a new workout regimen, saving money must be a lifestyle you’re completely committed to in order to be effective. So, the first step to saving money is making the decision to do so. That way, when you’re enticed by that sale at the mall or a nice dinner, you’ll have a clearly defined reason to say “no.”

Start Small – Very Small.

Saving money doesn’t have to mean putting 10% of every paycheck away. You’ve likely heard it before, but every dollar counts. At first, save more like 2% or even just $20 per month. OK, maybe that won’t make you rich as fast as saving a more substantial amount, but the important thing is it’s a start. For weeks or months that you don’t spend quite as much, put a bit more in savings than you normally do. Just commit to saving something,no matter how small the amount.

Make it Automatic.

When many people first start learning how to save money, they find it’s easiest when it isn’t a conscious decision. In other words, if you have your bank automatically transfer money into your savings account every time a paycheck is deposited, you won’t even see that money for long enough to consider spending it. If auto-transfers make you feel a bit out of control, take on that responsibility yourself.

Deny Yourself Access.

One of the hardest parts about saving money is seeing it accrue and knowing you could use it if you wanted to. If that sounds like a feeling you’re familiar with, do yourself a favor by setting up an account that’s a bit harder to access. For instance, ask your bank if they can add an account that can only be accessed by physically walking into a bank to make a withdrawal or using an ATM card. If you don’t have a debit card attached to it, you’ll be less likely to swipe first and regret later.

Keep Careful Track of Your Spending.

It goes without saying, but how much you spend has a direct impact on how much you’ll be able to save. If you know you have some spending problem areas (like eating out a lot or buying an unnecessary amount of upscale sneakers), focus on reducing those however you can. The best way to spend less (and save more) is to know where every dollar is going– then you can pull back in certain areas. If you can’t do this without a bit of help, try using budgeting apps like Mint, Mvelopes, or BillGuard to track your spending and come up with a financial plan.

Cut a Few Expenses (At Least for Now).

As you start keeping better track of your spending, look for certain regular expenses that you may be able to do away with completely. Are you still paying for cable that you rarely watch, a magazine subscription that goes unread more often than not, or a gym membership you could replace with free workouts in your apartment? Get creative, and know that you don’t have to give these things up forever. Even just cancelling for a few months can allow you some wiggle room to save more money faster.

You can also look at refinancing options for certain expenses, like car payments and student loans. See if you can spend less each month on those- at least for now while you’re working on building a savings account.

Find Ways to Earn More.

If you have some extra time on your schedule (even if you work a 9-to-5 office job it’s likely that you do), consider finding ways to earn some more money each month. Pick up dog walking or babysitting gigs, or even do some freelance work on the side. This is beneficial for two reasons: One, you’ll be making more money. And two, you may find yourself spending a bit less if you’re, say, babysitting on a Friday night instead of going out.

If you’re trying to figure out how to save money, remember: It’s doable, you just have to be committed, organized, and focused on an end goal. You can do it!

*Original article source courtesy of Forbes.com.