20 Small Ways to Save Big
20 Small Ways to Save Big
Think you don't have enough money to start saving? Even little deposits add up to big bucks -- especially when you start young.
March 1, 2007
By Jessica Anderson
You've heard of the savings crisis in America. You've probably even thought, 'yeah, I should probably save more.' But eking out an existence is tough on a starting salary and sometimes comfort takes precedence over cutting corners. Besides, if you can only save $50 or $100 a month, is it really worth it? The answer: absolutely.
By starting to save now, you're giving your money -- however little it is -- time to grow on its own. The magic of compound interest means that you can contribute less money for fewer years if you start when you're young and still end up with more cash than someone who waits.
For example, if Natasha starts saving or investing when she's 25 and saves $100 a month for ten years then lets the money sit, her stash will grow to $174,928 by the time she turns 65 (assuming an 8% annual return). If Anna waits to until age 35 to start saving, and socks away the same $100 a month for the next 30 years, she'll have only $135,940 by 65. Anna will have contributed three times as much as Natasha, but will end up with nearly $39,000 less.
This week is America Saves Week, and it makes as good a time as any to get started. Think you don't have enough money to save? We've compiled a list of our best tips to find extra money in your budget to sock away. These strategies won't require you to take a vow of poverty -- we know money's tight already. Rather, they're small and simple cost-cutters that'll help you get started saving as soon as possible.
1. Give yourself a raise and bank it. Boost your take-home pay by adjusting your tax-withholding and have the difference in pay automatically transferred to an online savings account. Kiplinger's tax-withholding calculator can help you revise your W-4.
2. Open a 401(k). If your employee offers a 50-cent match for every dollar you contribute, even adding $60 a month will net you over a grand a year. Plus, you defer paying taxes on your contributions, giving you a bigger paycheck now.
3. Raise your car insurance deductible. Upping your out-of-pocket outlay from $250 to $1,000 can save you 15% or more off your premium.
4. Pay off your credit card. Carrying a $1,000 balance at 18% blows $180 every year on interest that you could put to better use elsewhere.
5. Go green. Control energy costs with a programmable thermostat. Prices start around $50, but you'll cut your heating-and-cooling bill by 10-20%.
6. Bundle up. Getting a package of phone, Internet and cable from one provider can save you about $50 a month.
7. Use your employer's FSA. Flexible spending accounts let you pay healthcare costs with pre-tax dollars. If your company offers them, take advantage and save 33% or more.
8. Get a credit card with rewards. Spending $80 a week on gas and groceries? Putting it on a card with 5% cash rebates will earn you nearly $200 a year.
9. Kick the habit. Smoking is hard on your health and the wallet. Three packs a week averages $50 a month. Learn more about how getting in shape can fatten your wallet.
10. Brown bag it. Instead of spending $8 on takeout every day at work, bring a bagged lunch for $5. You'll save $60 a month and $720 a year. Do your own calculation at FeedThePig.com.
11. Negotiate your rate. Instead of paying an APR of 18% on your credit card, call your issuer and ask for a lower rate. If you have good credit, your lender might consider it and if you can provide examples of offers you've gotten from other companies, it'll strengthen your case. For more help, see Tame Your Credit Card Debt.
12. Travel on the cheap. Bypass the old trifecta of travel search engines (Travelocity, Expedia and Orbitz) and head straight for Sidestep.com, which will search them all -- saving you money and time. For last minute deals, try Lastminute.com. And see our list of the 25 Best Travel Sites for more cost-cutting resources.
13. Insure yourself. Even if your company has a health plan, you may be able to do better for yourself. Pairing a high-deductible medical policy with a health savings account -- which lets you put away pre-tax dollars for out-of-pocket medical expenses -- can save money on premiums. Shop around at www.ehealthinsurance.com.
14. Make media free. Dust off your library card and enjoy DVDs and books for free. If you'd normally rent a movie a week and buy a book a month, you can cut costs by $30.
15. Change your calling plan. The average wireless-phone user spends about $60 a month, including taxes and fees. If you talk for 200 or fewer minutes per month, switching to a prepaid plan where minutes cost 25 cents a minute could save you $10 a month. Compare plans at www.myrateplan.com.
17. Ditch your gym. Forget the $40/month gym membership that'll cost you almost $500 a year and check out community centers in your area. Some may be free or charge a minimal fee such as $100 a year. Or buy a good pair of running shoes and work out the old-fashioned way.
18. Reshop your auto insurance. Using a comparison site like InsWeb can help you determine if you've got the best deal.
19. Learn to cook. Cooking at home saves on your food budget and it could even improve your dating prospects -- who isn't impressed by someone who can prepare a great meal? Check out Nine Ways to Get Ahead for more practical financial advice.
20. Keep track of your money. The best way to save is to know what you spend. It might not be pretty, but detail every expense for a month to get an idea of where you can cut back. Nearly everyone has some fat they can trim from their spending to put toward a savings goal. See Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck to learn more.
Primary Press Contact
The Consumer Federation of America
Attn: America Saves Campaign
1620 Eye St NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20006
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