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If You Want To Save More Money, Own These Money-Saving Items

If You Want To Save More Money, Own These Money-Saving Items

Did your latest savings campaign end slowly, dribbling to a halt as you realized you weren’t saving as much money as you wanted or needed to?

It happens to all of us – good intentions and determined willpower slowly fade as we fail to meet our savings objectives.  With the right tools, however, maintaining budget-friendly habits and systems is infinitely easier. Support your financial ambitions and save more money by stocking your home, workspace and vehicle with the money-saving items shared here.

Around the home:

Ceiling Fans

Running ceiling fans counterclockwise in the summer and clockwise in the winter can lower both your cooling and heating bills.  The rotation disperses cooled or heated air, meaning less energy is required to establish and maintain the desired temperature in the space.  During moderate heat, the increased air flow from a ceiling fan may mean that you don’t even need to run your air conditioner.  Your budget will thank you, as your utility bill takes a nose dive.  Don’t know how to change the direction on your fan? Get up on a ladder and take a look – most have a switch on the side – or call the manufacturer directly.

UV-blocking Curtains

UV-blocking curtains can drastically reduce both your heating and cooling bills. Now, energy-efficient curtains are available in a variety of colors and patterns, so you can find them to match any decor in local home goods or even hardware stores.  Live somewhere particularly frigid in the winter? Put up liners during cold months to lock heat in even more effectively.  No matter what kind of curtains you have, remember to keep them drawn during particularly warm spells.

Reduced-flow Shower heads

Look for a shower head that allows you to select the flow rate, or one that automatically adjusts.  While it can be a pain to try to rinse shampoo out of long hair with inadequate water, you simply don’t need a high rate of flow for most needs.  Families in particular can save hundreds of dollars each year by installing reduced-flow heads into each of their bathrooms.

Toilets with Options

Think it takes the same amount of water to flush #1 and #2?  You’re right – it doesn’t, and if you’ve never thought about it, time you should!  While graphic, the amount of water used in your toilets each year adds up on your bill.  For about $100, you can install toilets with dual flush options, which means you don’t have to use extra water unless you need it.

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Grocery and Shopping Bags

Regularly ponying up $10 for small trash can liners for bathrooms, laundry rooms, or guest rooms?  Use grocery bags instead.  They’re the perfect size, reusing them is good for the environment, and you already paid for them when you made your purchase.  Grocery bags can also be used to clean up after your pet at the park, or stock your car for emergency spills.

Rechargeable Batteries

Whether your home is full of kid’s toys that eat batteries alive, or you need to fuel flashlights, smoke detectors, appliances, and more, rechargeable batteries make a lot of sense.  While they may require frequent recharging, they will save you over the long run.  Bonus benefit: no more grunts of frustration when you realize that you are out of the type of battery you need.  Remember to unplug chargers when they are not in use; anything plugged in will use energy that you pay for.

Clothes drying rack

Your dryer requires electricity, which can raise your utility bill sky high. Keep the bill in check by doing a bit o’ good for the environment by drying your clothes on a rack or line. Folding drying racks can be found at any home goods or superstore.  Or, hang a rod and line with materials readily found at hardware stores.

In Your Kitchen:

Cooler

Heading out with friends this weekend? Instead of meeting at a restaurant, stock a cooler with items from the grocery store and picnic at a local beach, garden, or park. Coolers really pay off for families who stock them with food from home and bring them to local entertainment venues. Many zoos, aquariums and parks allow you to bring your own food.

Insulated lunch box

Brown-bagging it during the week is a whole lot more attractive (and safe) when cheeses, meats, sandwich materials, fruits, and vegetables are kept at an appetizing and safe temperature for lunch-time consumption.  Look for a soft shell bag that can be compressed to fit inside a large purse or briefcase post-lunch.  Keep your lunch box in your car when not in use, to make it easy to slide leftovers into when you grab dinner on the go.

Coffee Pot

Make the daily runs to Starbucks a thing of the past, and save hundreds, if not thousands, every year. Brewing that cup o’ joe at home in the company of friends could also provide a substitute for costly weekend brunches or catch-up coffees, as well.  For added convenience, select a model that allows you to set a brew time, and wake up to that coffee aroma you love.

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Insulated Beverage Container

Take your second (or third, or fourth) morning cups of coffee on the road with you in an insulated beverage container.  Bonus: that same container can hold smoothies, soups, and other items you prepare yourself to save money.

Blender

Make your own smoothies, juices, baby foods, and more with a heavy-duty blender. Not only will you save money, but you can ensure you get that flavor you like exactly right, every time.  Earn extra savings points by only blending with in-season fruits and vegetables to lower your grocery bill even further.

Crockpot

Think you don’t have time to cook? Toss meat and vegetables in the pot in the morning, turn it to low, and have a delicious meal waiting when you get back from work.  Extras can be frozen for another day, meaning yet another meal you won’t have to cook for.

Glass Food Storage Containers

Available in a variety of sizes, glass storage containers are the healthiest way to store leftovers. Anytime you cook at home, cook extra – not only will you have plenty to toss in that fancy lunchbox the next day, but preparing food in larger quantities means you can buy it in larger volume and take advantage of bulk discounts.

Deep Freezer, or refrigerator with large freezer capacity

Having hefty freezing capabilities means you can buy and cook in bulk, then freeze.  Can’t see yourself ever using pounds of meat or gallons of soup? Split bulk-buying costs with a friend, and ask them to chip in a few dollars to use your freezer.

Chalkboard

Create a grocery list as you run out of items, as well as any other items you need to stock up.  Stick to the list during weekly errands to minimize impulse spending; numerous studies show that shopping with a list can drastically cut your bill.

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In Your Office:

File Folder, Envelope, Paper Clips, Binder

… or whatever is most useful to you in tracking and logging receipts for all purchases and expenditures.  You can’t save more effectively, if you don’t know where your money is going in the first place.  Analyze your spending habits at several points during the month to allow for time to correct for any wayward expenditures.  At the end of each month, scrutinize ways to improve your savings rate even more.

Internet at Home

Shop online retailers, or the online warehouses of your favorite stores, for virtual discounts and deals.  Don’t want to shell out more for wireless? Talk to your phone provider – many smartphones can be used as a hub, within the limits of your data plan.

“Smart” Power Strips

If you use a computer at home, or run multiple devices like a laptop, printer, stereo, and so on from your desk, this item is a “must have.” The power strip focuses power usage on the devices you’re actually using, reducing the energy sent to the others and negating “phantom charge.” While some consider unplugging energy from gadgets you’re not actually using to be a waste of time, consider that the charges aren’t so “phantom” when they show up on your bill.

In Your Living Room:

In-Home Entertainment Subscription

Regularly shelling out $25 to see the latest movie on the big screen? For far less, you can have unlimited entertainment at home through Netflix or similar entertainment options.  At-home entertainment can also be a great option for a date night or fun evening in with friends that saves you all money.

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In Your Garage and Yard:

Patio or In-Ground Garden

Whether it’s a single planter with basic herbs on a windowsill, pots of tomatoes on your porch, or an extensive in-ground plot, gardening will cut your produce bill.  Having plants around may also reduce stress and improve the overall quality of your living environment, cutting doctor’s bills and the need for that stress-busters class you pay for each week.

Loose Change Jar

Every penny you lose is a penny that could be spent reducing debt, contributed to an emergency fund, or otherwise constructively employed. Keep track of them and give yourself a visually encouraging boost with a loose change jar in an easily accessible location.  Decide how you’ll use the money before you toss in the coins, and delight at how quickly it adds up.

In Your Wallet:

Library Card

Make Barnes & Noble (and their expensive, tempting coffee bar) a thing of the past by checking out books at your local library.  Many libraries also maintain subscriptions to popular magazines.  While you may not be able to check them out, you can enjoy them at the library.

Membership to a Warehouse or Bulk Discount Club

If you turn up your nose at the thought of bulk shopping, it might be high time to check out your nearest Costco or Sam’s Club.  These retailers often carry organics, clothing, household goods, furniture, and office supplies.  If you truly can’t use anything in bulk, or lack room to store it, split the membership with a friend and buy items you both use, together.

Bonus Savings if You Have:

A Friend or Co-Worker Willing to Ride Share

Always drive yourself? Consider teaming up with a friend during weekend outings, or better yet, find a coworker who can help your commute.  You’ll save money in gas, mileage-based insurance and, over time, vehicle maintenance.

Thirsty for more tips and tricks? Check out these 55 Practical Ways to Save Money Efficiently.

Featured photo credit: Kristina Zuidema 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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