Wednesday, March 23, 2005

10 easy ways to stash away thousands

Readers share their secret ploys to save cash throughout the year. These clever ideas make saving money easy and painless.

By Liz Pulliam Weston

Money guru Jean Chatzky knows her latest book, “Pay It Down: From Debt to Wealth on $10 a Day,” centers on a gimmick.

The thing is, gimmicks work -- at least when it comes to our often-irrational relationship with money.

Chatzky promises financial freedom for anyone who can scrounge up an extra tenner each day -- what you might spend on lunch, a car wash, a movie ticket. Someone who might feel hopeless at the prospect of paying off $8,000 in credit card debt can embrace this one-day-at-a-time approach, which makes debt repayment seem not only possible, but almost easy.

“It’s a hook, kind of like ‘no carbs’ is a hook,” says Chatzky, financial editor for NBC’s Today Show. “This is a problem we need to get our hands around. . . . (We need) some sort of mental game we can play with ourselves that will help us solve the problem.”

If we were entirely logical, of course, we wouldn’t need hooks or gimmicks or any of the little self-delusions that in reality can be so helpful in giving ourselves a financial cushion.

Since we’re not Mr. Spock, though, savings tricks can prove mighty helpful. Here are some of the things MSN Money readers say they do to get themselves to put aside a little extra:

Pad your accounts. If you use personal finance software, you can just enter a check to yourself for $300 -- or $500, or $1,000, or whatever you want your pad to be. The check needn’t actually exist or ever be cashed, but the software will treat it as an outstanding obligation and deduct it from your balance.

You can do something similar even if you still balance your checkbook by hand.

“What I have done is to add $300 to my checking account, but not include it into the balance,” wrote Gregory Hannon, a utilities administrator for the city of Longview, Wash. “Basically, the money is hidden. . . . This is my way of making sure that should it happen that I write a check without the funds (according to the checking account balance), then I know I am covered.”

Cull your bills. Here’s a twist on the classic savings tip of dumping your change in a jar: set aside certain denominations, such as fives or tens, whenever they make their way into your wallet.

Kirstiepie99 wrote on the Your Money message board that she and her husband decided to put any of the new, colorful $20 bills they received into a jar beside their bed.

“A new $20 bill can slip into your hands at any time, so it's like Russian roulette every time you go to the ATM,” she wrote. “We did it for about seven or eight months, and it funded a trip to Latvia for a month (except for the airfare). It makes saving fun!”

Institute a family tax. Dawnna76’s family has a Garfield piggy bank into which each family member deposits $1 a day. The bank can be raided for the occasional movie or latte, but mostly the money funds their Christmas shopping.

“We have around $1,000 each year in there and we only pay cash for Christmas presents,” Dawnna76 wrote. “The nice thing is we usually never spend (all) the money on presents and what’s left, we take a trip with.”

Save your reimbursements. Employers can take weeks or months to pay you back for the expenses you incurred traveling or entertaining clients. By then, you may have already paid the bill. Instead of cashing the check, consider saving it instead.

Kirstiepie99 says she’s saved $400 so far by depositing expense reimbursement checks from her job into a separate savings account.

Realize your rebates. Several posters recommended saving the money you get from rebates, shopping sales or using coupons and club cards at grocery stores.

Grocery stores tend to make this easy; they often print on the receipt exactly how much you saved. You can transfer that exact amount to a savings account or, if you still write checks, you can make one out for the amount of the savings and deposit that -- or simply round up.

“If the items ring up to the tune of $33.45 for example, I write a check for $35,” wrote summerbreeze 98387. “When I get home, the change goes into the kitty (dollars and change both).”

Round it up -- or down. Another popular ploy, for those who balance their checkbooks by hand, is adding or subtracting a few bucks from each transaction.

MadWomanM says she never records the full amount of her deposit to her checking account and adds a dollar or five to any checks she writes.

“If I put in $105.38, I just write in $100,” she wrote, “and I always subtract to the nearest dollar or sometimes, up to five dollars. I end up (with) a surplus almost every payday, which is handy.”

Fee yourself. WryWit uses a slightly different method that also could work for folks who use personal finance software.

“I started imposing fees on myself,” WryWit wrote. “In my checkbook register, there is a little column for fees. I use a check mark for $10 and a dash for $1. So for every $100 deposited I'll short $10, and every outgoing transaction I add a dollar. When the page is full I add them up and keep a running total at the bottom of the page. This makes it easy to reconcile the balance at any time, and when it gets up to a certain point, I transfer it into savings.”

Saving raises. Some posters save all or part of every raise they get. Sweetnepenthe has lived on the same amount of take-home pay for the past eight years, dedicating every raise to increased retirement contributions and, when those are maxed out, to savings.

ImproperFraction saves half of each raise, noting that it doesn’t feel like deprivation.

“Inflation is a gradual erosion of my dollar's buying power that I endure and make spending adjustments for throughout the year,” the poster wrote. “But my pay raises don’t creep up; rather they are sudden events. . . . So I'll save half of this sudden jump in income and add the rest to my spending funds.

“This has worked quite well for me throughout my working years; I am now in the position where the amount of money I save exceeds the amount of money I spend.”

Divide and conquer your paycheck. Other posters save an amount equal to an hour’s pay each day, or each week if they’re just getting started.

“I have an automated transaction to pull $26.18 out of my account every week,” wrote MusketeersPlus2, a union worker whose raises are known in advance. “I've even already set it up to change to $27.10" when his next pay hike kicks in.

Pay yourself last. The usual (and excellent) money tip is to pay yourself first by making sure a certain amount of your paycheck is deposited into savings or investment accounts. But Carolina Girl also pays herself last.

“I keep a pretty close check on monthly expenses,” she posted. “If we have extra money due to less expenses (received a raise or bonus, gas bill goes down in the summer, less entertainment due to busy schedules, etc.), the extra is transferred to a savings account. I don't change my spending just because there's extra money.”
MSN Money - 10 easy ways to stash away thousands

1 comment:

Envoy-ette said...

Thanks Marc...those are some great ideas!