We all wish that we could earn, win or find more money. We all wish that we could hold onto more of what we have and spend less of what we don’t. Unfortunately, all too often the story of our money is easy come, easy go.
If you’re committed to saving, adding a few habits to your monthly routine can help tip the scales in your favor:
- Plan for activities and outings. Yes, spontaneous can be fun. However, think about how much forgotten or on-demand items actually cost on the spot. Stores stock and price for impulse buys—everything from sunglasses and chargers to batteries and candy. Even gas can be a gouge point. Just five minutes of planning and careful packing could save you hundreds of dollars in the long run.
- Read what’s in your bills and statements. Determining how much you spend in certain areas could help you decide to switch to a credit card that rewards more for that type of spending. Make sure the card you use is optimal for your purchasing habits.
- Decide how much is enough in advance. Credit cards can leave us feeling like costs are open-ended and salespeople are pros at up-selling. If something that we need or want fits within our available credit, we think we can buy it. Instead, think in terms of cash because that’s how you will ultimately pay for whatever you buy. Even if you pay in credit, you are spending in cash.
- Pay credit card balances in full each month. Credit card companies profit from the interest they collect on purchases you make. If you monitor expenses so that you can pay your bill in full each month, you’re using your card to your advantage — as a free service that helps maintain your household's cash flow and, sometimes, even gives you cash back.
- Track your budget. We may think that we define our budget, but more often, our budget defines us. Tracking where your money goes can prove revealing when you discover that eating out claims half your paycheck or that your 24-hour 65-degree air-conditioning in July will leave you with a payment that’s way over budget. Even that daily $5 latte amounts to $100 or more a month.
- Manage time wisely. Time is money, especially when you have to pay someone else to do things you could have done yourself. Time is also money when you have to pay late fees or penalties because you missed important deadlines. If you know how to do something yourself, DIY and don't let costly fees and penalties absorb what could have been saved.
- Check balances daily, and balance your checkbook weekly. Electronic banking leads many people to think that an occasional online balance check is sufficient. However, electronic bill payments happen on specified dates, and transaction postings can be delayed. The balance you see as available may already be spoken for. Maintain a ledger of payments, and reconcile often. Most overdraft fees start at about $35.
- Use technology for financial savings. Apps are available for every problem, and finances are no exception. Set online balance alerts for your accounts through your financial institutions, and opt in for rewards. For budgeting apps, try one like Mint or Trim. For buying, check out Ibotta, SnipSnap or Honey. Whether you’re looking to save more or invest smarter, there’s an app for it.
- Save, but don’t touch. Don’t save to spend. Save to build. When you rob your savings, you steal from yourself twice. You surrender the money you’ve saved, and you also give up the additional money that amount would have earned you. Put savings in financial accounts allowing the best yields and terms, and don’t raid your nest egg. Even if you can’t put away much, put away something. You’ll be glad you did.
- Join a credit union like La Capitol. Our members enjoy dividends and interest rates that are better for saving and better for borrowing than anything conventional banks typically allow. Drop by one of our locations near you, or enroll online. Let us help you start saving right now.