If you didn’t make a New Year’s resolution this year to start saving money, it’s not too late. In fact, it’s never too late to start saving money. The problem for most people is that they don’t understand the not-so-secret secrets for saving money. While deciding to stick 10% of your earnings into a savings account is a good start, here are some of the other things you need to know to do a better job of saving money.
Secret #1: Work to eliminate debt ruthlessly
This is probably the biggest not-so-secret secret of all. If you do only one thing this year work ruthlessly to eliminate your debts. Debt by itself is bad enough but when you start paying interest on it that’s a sure path to debt hell. One good way to do this is by moving your high-interest debt such as credit card debt to a personal loan or line of credit. You could then put the money you save on interest towards paying down the principal.
Secret #2: Learn where your money goes
Smart generals never go to war without having a good knowledge of the battlefield. To win the savings war you need to know your battlefield – or where your money goes. One easy way to do this is through a website like mint.com or one of the many smart phone apps available. For example, with mint.com you can connect all your credit cards, bank accounts and loans so that you will be able to track everything on one screen and in real time. In addition, mint.com will analyze all of your expenses and then show you areas where you may be wasting money.
Secret #3: Take advantage of timing
Smart timing can be a real friend. As an example of this car dealers often discount their inventory to free up space shortly before next year’s models arrive. So, if you’re in the market for a new car that would be a good time to strike. The big-box retailers such as Sears, Macy’s and Best Buy usually have semi-annual sales where you could get a nice discount on electronics, appliances and home goods. The not-so-secret secret here is to wait for one of these events and not give in to the urge for instant gratification.
Secret #4: Always read the fine print
There’s an old saying in the advertising world that the big print giveth and the small print taketh away. Most people would be shocked to learn how much money they’re throwing away on things like convenience fees, annual dues and service charges that have been carefully hidden in their financial contracts. As an example of this if you have a low interest credit card that requires a $99 annual fee, do the math. You might find out it’s not that great a deal. Do you have a checking account that charges a monthly fee and makes you pay for your checks? Then get out of it. Many banks offer free checking and will even give you your checks free. And if you have a credit card that has an annual fee and you don’t use it very often, ask that the fee be waived or just cancel it.
Secret #5: Keep a careful eye on interest rates
While you should be able to pay off most of your debts there’s one that will probably still be there — your home mortgage. This is the reason you need to keep a careful eye on interest rates. Today, the interest rates on both fixed and variable-rate mortgages are at an almost all time low. This means now would be an excellent time to refinance assuming you’re in a position to do so. Then be sure to take the money you save each month and sock it away in your savings account.
Secret #6: Use technology to score deals for saving money
The Internet is a terrific way to find free activities that you and your family can do on weekends, school breaks and holidays. Then there are sites such as Living Social and Groupon that will send you deals on goods and services right to your inbox. If you do much shopping online be sure to get the Browser extension called Honey. It will automatically search for and then apply any coupons available for the items you’re thinking of purchasing.
Secret #7: There’s money just lying around your house
You might be shocked at how much money is just lying around your house in the form of books. You could put those you’ve already read on Cash4Books or amazon.com and you’d not only make extra money but also de-clutter your house. Ditto those old mobile devices, tablets and phones that you could sell to companies such as gazelle.com.
If you really want to get rid of the clutter in your home have a garage or yard sale. Do you have an old comic book collection, a bunch of model cars or a dozen antique plates you inherited from your great aunt Emma? This is all stuff you could put on eBay and possibly earn some serious cash.
If you haven’t had much experience selling on eBay, here’s a video on how to sell effectively and make the most money.
Secret #8: Be sure to prioritize your retirement savings
We understand it’s hard to save money you won’t be using for 30 or 40 years but the time will come when you will need money to cover your golden years. If you don’t want those years to be leaden instead of golden you need to make saving for retirement a priority. The good news is that there are many years between now and when you will be ready to retire so that a small amount saved now can go a long way. And there is an easy way to do this. Just earmark a percentage of every saved dollar for your retirement. For example, if you’re saving $200 a month take 20% ($40) and stick it in your retirement fund. This is actually a fairly painless and easy way to create a long-term savings fund.