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10 Money Saving Strategies That Really Work

10 Money Saving Strategies That Really Work

When my family and I found ourselves in a nasty financial situation, we had to dig deep to discover how to take care of the family and still have fun on the cheap. We discovered it was not only possible to live cheaper, we even had fun doing it. We decided to keep doing it when times got better, because it made us feel smarter to save more. If you want to feel smart too, here are 10 money saving strategies that work.

1. Learn to Love the Library

I used to hate the smell of old books and the sounds of silence. When finances caused me to spend more time at our local library, I discovered how many things have changed. Libraries host free events for kids and families. They bring movie nights, magicians and musicians to families of all ages. You can use the internet for free, play online video games, check out movies or music, and, oh yeah, they let you get books for free too. Just remember to return things on time and this place can entertain you in amazing ways. Saving money at the library will become a habit you carry on for years. It’s just that fun.

2. Is It Big Screen Worthy?

If you’re a movie fan like me, you know you can plop down serious amounts of cash by just attending a few flicks a month. So, when you need to save some money it’s time to become a discerning viewer. Most movies make it to DVD within a few short months. They also land on Netflix or Amazon Prime or another venue fairly soon. You can catch that movie later for free or at least cheaper if you are willing to wait and if it’s worth it. The question you have to decide when it first arrives at theaters is this, “Is it big screen worthy?” If you can get just as much enjoyment out of it by watching it at home, then that movie may be worth the wait. You’ll find yourself spending much less money if this becomes your starting question.

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3. Shop at Garage Sales, Thrift Stores, and Consignment Stores

For those who enjoy Biltmore style living, this can be a difficult transition. Many communities, including the well-off ones, have regular garage sales. You might find that someone is moving and needs to unload an almost new vacuum. If that fits your need, you’ll save a hundred dollars and still get a product with great suction. When funds deplete, the mall is just too much of a temptation. It does require more hunting and planning, but garage sales, thrift stores and consignment stores will save you a bundle. As you stroll through the items at these places, you’ll find clothes, furniture and knickknacks that contain character and even make your world more fun. When you save money at these stores, you’ll wonder why you ever shopped elsewhere.

4. Choose Cheap and Save Big on Cell Phones

We know the names of the big cell phone companies but did you know that they make their lines available to other companies too. Walmart’s Straight Talk uses the Sprint network at a fraction of the cost. You pay less for the same phones and less on a month to month basis with no contract. You can also set up a pay-as-you-go system with Straight Talk as if you had a contract, but without the extra fees. Republic Wireless limits their phone choice but cuts the cost incredibly by using a hybrid system of WiFi and 3G or 4G. PC Magazine has recognized these companies in their Reader’s Choice Awards. None of the big companies even got a mention.

5. Learn to Cook

It may sound like something out of the 1920’s but when you cook for yourself, you save a ton of bread. This doesn’t mean you will save big by buying a frozen dinner and warming it at home, though you may save a little. If you learn to cook, you’ll find out how many restaurants and fast service overcharge for what they make. They have to do it because they have a bunch of employees to pay. You don’t. When you buy food and make it, you’ll be able to pack it into lunches or make great dinners. You could even branch out and get creative for breakfast. Not only will you save a bunch, you’ll also probably find yourself getting healthier.

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6. Learn the Difference between a Need and a Want

When you hear about a new gadget that can do 20 different things you never imagined, you may find yourself excited and itching to buy it. Then, ask yourself to consider if you need this item to survive or if you simply want it, because it caught your attention. The more you ponder the difference between the two, the more you’ll realize the things you don’t need to own. And, you’ll save money.

7. Practice Patience

Technology has been improving at an exponential rate. We get the annual iPhone updates and Samsung updates. New laptops come out each year, as do desktops. New software gets developed each year. It’s mind-blowing how much money you could spend if you made certain to purchase each new annual item. But, if you wait, that new product becomes an old one very quickly. Within one to two years prices often drop by almost 50%.This same approach applies to cars that have aged a couple of years. Consider how much you save if you wait for the new item to not be quite as new.

8. Make Your Own Coffee

Starbucks works hard on its product, but also on its environment. They create nice looking places with beautiful lighting and background music. It makes you feel like you’ve entered a fine dining restaurant when it’s actually caffeinated fast food. You plop down a few bucks for your favorite drink and feel absolutely extravagant. What if you could do it? Many people have figured out how to make them at home for less cost and all the joy. Personally, I love this Gingerbread Latte that I can make for myself at a much lower cost.

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9. Exercise Outdoors

Before our finances took a dive I belonged to our local gym. It cost me several dollars each month to ride a stationary bike or walk on a treadmill. When I started seeking to save money, it occurred to me that I could do those things outside on my own. You can too. Many communities provide opportunities to play basketball, run, walk or ride a bike. You can get outside and move rather than pay to remain indoors. Once you start doing it you may never go back to the gym even if you’ve got plenty of money to spend.

10. Learn to Be Content

Often we find ourselves driven to feel happy, happy, happy. Unfortunately, we look to people who make millions of dollars and believe they’ve found it. We want more and more stuff. It’s like we assume that the more things we buy, the better our lives will be. If you’ve read the news lately, you probably also know that people with money have their own dreams dashed to pieces, too. Even people who have got tons of cash still want more.

Maybe we’re hunting for the wrong thing. Instead of seeking happiness, maybe we need to find a deep and complete sense of contentment. There are people who are content with their lives. They appreciate each day because of its innate beauty,not because of what it gives them. Those people value themselves and their lives even without fancy vacations or expensive technology.

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The Bible makes a reference to a man who had people try to kill him several times. He had to run from towns and got placed in jail regularly. This same man stated that he had learned to be content in any and every situation. I’ve discovered how valuable contentment really is. It helps me to not need many of the things that cost a fortune and deplete my bankbook. If you seek to learn the secret of being content, you could find yourself saving too.

Featured photo credit: One and Two Half Dollars/Eric Gjerde via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 2, 2020

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Personal finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. That’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways to set financial goals and actually meet them with ease.

4 Steps to Setting Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task, if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps to get you started.

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream, and this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore, if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it’s for. It could be anything, including your child’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car, etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives that you foresee in the future and put a value to each.

2. Keep Goals Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a Pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going beyond what you can realistically achieve will definitely hurt your chances of making meaningful progress.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic, as it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said: “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman.” This quote sums up what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore, account for inflation[1] whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far into the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years from now, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is a mere 3%. Always account for this to avoid falling short of your goals.

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4. Short Term Vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach to achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It’s important to bifurcate goals into short-term and long-term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal that is due in next 3 years should be termed as a short-term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long-term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short-term vs long-term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

By now, you should be ready with your list of financial goals. Now, it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

How to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a two-step process:

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self-realization is the best form of realization, and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your spending. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you will be surprised by how small expenses add up to a sizable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different buckets so that you know which bucket is eating most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pumping up your savings rate.

If you’re not sure where to start when tracking expenses, this article may be able to help.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classic mistake when setting financial goals. We pay ourselves last!

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Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world, i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement this is to put the savings on automatic mode, i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will help release some control and compel us to manage what’s left, increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick With It

Learning to create a budget is the best way to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be organized

Nowadays, several money management apps can help you do this automatically.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely, but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options, and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that, in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counterintuitive to many, there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

  • Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Weekends are more expensive.
  • If you are a travel buff, try to travel during off-season. You’ll spend significantly less.
  • If you go shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

The key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice, which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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5. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission.

Therefore, in order to stay the course, surround yourself with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

6. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

If you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energized to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot easier for you to track your progress.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However, savings, when invested wisely, can do wonders.

1. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investment doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it’s wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings, and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

2. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about the common ones, like a savings account, Roth IRA, and others.

Just like “no one is born a criminal,” no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference[2].

As a general rule, for all your short-term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature, for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds, etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less compared to equity instruments.

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3. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding:

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.”

Use compound interest when setting financial goals

    Make friends with this wonder kid. The sooner you become friends with it, the quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

    Start saving early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

    4. Measure, Measure, Measure

    All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments and taking stock of how our investments are doing.

    If we don’t measure progress at the right times, we are shooting in the dark. We won’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not, whether the financial advisor is doing a decent job, or whether we are moving closer to our target.

    Measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

    The Bottom Line

    Managing your extra money to achieve your short and long-term financial goals

    and live a debt-free life is doable for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. Use the tips above to get you started on your path to setting financial goals.

    More Tips on Financial Goals

    Featured photo credit: Micheile Henderson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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