People with modest incomes sometimes save more than others who earn considerably more, says Carol Young, Kansas State University Research and Extension family financial management specialist. How do they manage to do it?
“Paying down debt and building savings need not be a dream. The trick is learning to use what you have wisely,” says Young, who offered this example: A father enjoyed taking his three children to a convenience store on Saturday mornings for chocolate milk and cinnamon rolls. The outings cost about $15 each week — or $60 a month — and the family began coming up short.
In reviewing their expenses with a financial counselor, the family decided to enjoy chocolate milk and cinnamon rolls at home purchased for a lower cost at a supermarket. Doing so saved them about $40 a month (or $480 a year), but still allowed the children special time with their father.
“People neglect saving because they don’t think they have much to put away,” Young said. “Putting away $10 a month or saving your change every Friday can add up. Skipping just one $1 trip to the vending machine every week can save $52. Doing it every day, five days a week, 52 weeks a year will yield a savings of $260.”
It’s been my experience that even people who say they can’t save money usually can save something,” says Young, who suggests these ways to save.
Stop shopping just for recreation, or when you’re feeling lonely or bored. Resolve to shop only when you have a specific need.
Shop with a list
Make a list and stick to it. Spend as little time as possible in the store — wandering around can increase the temptation to make unnecessary purchases.
Ditch the credit cards
Leave credit cards at home and carry a small amount of cash. “People who shop with a credit card can be tempted to spend more,” said Young, who suggested a debit card that offers the convenience of plastic, but limits spending to money in the account.
Make saving a habit
Check to see if your employer offers an automatic payroll deduction to a savings account. “If you don’t see it, you won’t be likely to spend it,” Young says.
Set aside money for an emergency fund
Sooner or later, everyone is likely to experience unexpected medical bills, a plumbing problem, a car repair or job loss. To meet such expenses, creating an emergency fund by saving the equivalent of six months’ salary is recommended. “That may seem an unattainable goal. Start now to set aside funds to meet unexpected expenses,” she says. “Earmarking tax refunds can jumpstart an emergency fund.”
We also suggest these other ways to save money. You’ll be surprised how fast the savings add up.
Pack a lunch
Kids aren’t the only ones who should be packing their lunch. If Mom and Dad pack their lunch to take to work too, you’ll save considerable cash over the course of a year. Packing a lunch is also a great way to make sure you use all your leftovers.
Cancel your gym membership
You don’t really need a gym membership to stay fit. Jogging around the neighborhood and hiking at local parks is free. You can also bike and swim to stay fit. Investing in weights and other exercise equipment to use at home can be cheaper than a gym membership in the long run as well.
Make your own coffee
If you pick up coffee at the coffee shop every morning, you are probably wasting $3 to $5 or more every day that could be going to something more practical. Make your coffee at home for just pennies instead. You can still add flavored creamer and even whipped cream, if that’s what you crave.
Check your refrigerator often
Most of us waste a lot of money by letting produce, dairy products and other food go bad before we eat them. Check your refrigerator often and know which food items are getting close to expiring or spoiling so that you can use them quickly.
Eat out only on special occasions
Make it a habit to cook at home as often as possible instead of eating out. It’s cheaper and healthier too. Try to only eat out on special occasions. If that’s too drastic for your family, make it a rule to only eat out on the weekends instead.