savings

The Top 10 Ways to Save Money

Janet Bodnar shares her most practical and effective strategies for spending less and keeping more cash in your pocket.

I recently reached a milestone in my life on Twitter: The number of people following my tweets passed the 1,000 mark. I’m still a piker compared with champion Twitterers like Ashton Kutcher, but four figures sounds impressive to me. To thank everyone, I promised that I would tweet my top ten savings tips.

I’ve always believed that the trick to saving money is just that -- a trick. You don’t have to win the lottery, strike it rich on Wall Street or even earn a six-figure salary to build a comfortable savings cushion. You just have to play psychological tricks on yourself to stay focused on spending less and keeping more cash in your pocket.

Over the years, we’ve written about a lot of these strategies in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, and the promise I made on Twitter encouraged me to mentally cull through those tactics to choose the ones that I think are most practical and effective. And here they are, each in Twitter-ready form of 140 characters or less (with a bonus for visitors to Kiplinger.com).

1. Start right away. Don’t wait till you make more money. The more you make, the more you spend. For ideas on how to make a salary of any size go further, see our story on easy ways to stretch your paycheck.

2. Start small. It will add up to big piles of money over time. To see how fast your money will grow, plug in your numbers at our How much will my savings be worth? calculator.

3. Write down your goals. That makes them more real, and you’re more likely to achieve them.

Be specific. For instance, telling yourself to save for the future is admirable but vague. On the other hand, making a written pledge to save $2,000 for your vacation to Cancun next summer is likely to get you there.

4. Have your boss (or your bank) save for you by taking money off the top of your check for retirement or some other goal. You won’t miss it.

Once you start contributing to a 401(k) or other work-based retirement account, follow our advice on how to make the most of your plan.

5. Set up an account for each goal -- retirement, vacation, car, new computer -- so that you can track your progress.

This also works for large recurring expenses, such as insurance premiums. It was a favorite theme of Erin Burt, a former Kiplinger colleague who wrote the “Starting Out” column on Kiplinger.com. Let Erin tell you why multiple savings accounts pay off.

6. Deposit your paycheck into your savings account. You’ll think twice before you take out money.

Just be careful not to exceed the number of cash transfers you’re permitted in your account. But that, too, is an incentive to save. My college-age son, who discovered this strategy on his own, once told me that it was “painful” to have to withdraw money from savings.

7. Subtract your credit purchases from checking right away so that you’re not surprised when you get the bill.

My husband does this religiously, and he learned the trick from his brother. Sometimes, they each make the payment right away, too.

8. Toss spare change into a glass jar on your dresser and watch your money grow.

At my neighborhood Quiznos, I once struck up a conversation with another customer who had bent down to pick up a quarter. He told me that he makes it a habit to squirrel away spare change and found money, and his stash adds up to about $1,000 per year -- enough to buy his holiday gifts.

9. Give yourself an instant reward: Each time you pass up that latte, toss the money in your cash jar.

Saving becomes less of a chore if you can see the fruits of your labors.

10. After you pay off a loan or credit-card bill, keep writing the check and send it to a savings or investment account.

Once you’ve built up the momentum, it’s easy to keep going.

Now that you’re in a thrifty frame of mind, see our related links for more savings tips and how to find real values when you have to spend money.

Follow Janet’s updates at Twitter.com/JanetBodnar.

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