Our neighborhood wildlife madly plants nuts to prepare for leaner times, but people don't have to pop holes in their yard to "squirrel away" a little something for the future. Here are my favorite savings tricks.
Take it off the top, not the bottom. Whether you write a savings category into your budget first, have an automatic deposit taken from your paycheck before you earmark the rest, or use a "Christmas Club" option at your bank, the benefit works the same. Just determine that cash isn't there for everyday expenses, and make sure you have a separate, adequate line item in your plan for emergencies.
At year end, when you normally rearrange your budget, act as if that C.O.L.A. or merit raise never came through. If you're really aggressive, go back two budgets. You will figure ways of making it work even when inflation is factored in. This option has the side benefits of simplifying your budget revision process, and automatically setting you up to "live below your means." The only category amounts you'll change are "savings" and "taxes."
Remember when you were a kid and kept a penny jar in your room? Go retro and dump each day's change into a clear jar to physically see your money grow. For some old fashioned kicks, tape a picture on the jar to remind you of what you're saving towards.
Work related extras, such as bonuses, overtime pay, tips, or year-end employee gifts, usually evaporate into thin air. Consciously nail those dollars down. If it helps, put them immediately into a timed account with no minimum balance, like a CD, or in small denomination U.S. savings bonds, to make the cash less accessible. Out of sight, out of mind.
Some states set up redemption systems for soda bottles and cans. A nickel or dime apiece adds up over time. Even in places without a redemption option, aluminum cans bring a decent return at scrap metal dealers. Rinse the cans out, squash them flat, bag them, and when you get a car load, drag them in.
Odd ball money generating ventures, like yard sales, survey cash earnings, credit card cash rewards, and product purchase rebates, usually sneak under our financial radar. But gather them together over time and they add up. Even a squirrel's uneaten plantings grow into trees.
Collect the bits and pieces from these six methods into a single savings category, or earmark each method's earnings towards its own specific goal. Either way, your savings benefit without a whole lot of digging.
Olivia Fox is a sculptor's daughter, who doggedly seeks out creative ways of doing more for less. Her personal musings on life and finances are found at frugalbohemian.blogspot.com.
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