The holidays are over. Do you find yourself looking for ways to stretch every dollar?
You are not alone! After enjoying time with family and friends, many people are now looking to the future in this new year. If you find yourself worrying about how to make ends meet or how you will ever reach your financial goals, please read on.
You, YES YOU can grow your savings!
Not everyone has the luxury of simply setting aside hundreds of dollars each month for savings. If you do - great! You can still benefit from the ideas below. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, you may be amazed that you can still eek out a savings. Once we realize that seemingly small savings do add up, the light appears at the end of the tunnel. If your dream includes saving for a home of your own, or even just paying your bills or getting a little bit ahead, the five strategies outlined below can help. See how many apply to you, and experiment to see what works best in your situation. If you have outstanding debts weighing on your shoulders, you can use these same strategies first to pay off your debt and then to begin saving. Remember, even a small dent in your debt or savings is better than doing nothing. Sometimes, the situation can seem hopeless, but I assure you that it will certainly not change until you decide to do something. This is definitely a situation where doing something, no matter how small it may seem, is better than doing nothing.
5 Saving Strategies to help you get that new home or anything else you want to save for!
1. See Where you stand!
Many savings strategies out there seem to apply only to those who already have plenty extra coming in to their households. No matter what your income level, knowing where you stand is the most important step to finding your path to change. My favorite budget tool is the simple "Money In/Money Out" list. Make 2 columns on a page of notebook paper, one labeled "Money In" and the other "Money Out." Hang this list on your refrigerator, or any convenient and prominent location. For at least one month, record every penny that comes in under the "Money In" column, and every penny that you spend under the "Money Out" column. Make sure that all members of the household participate. At the end of each month, total each column, and then add together like items in categories (ex. groceries, food-eating out, gas, rent/mortgage, car ins, etc.) We can't save unless we can see where our money goes each month. Many times, this simple task can be enough for some to see that they have an imbalance of unnecessary spending. Hold a family meeting and brainstorm ideas for areas of your spending that can be cut back. Make a plan for your savings and decide how you will reward yourselves for reaching goals along the way to your final goal.
2. Open a Special Savings Account
Most banks or credit unions will allow you to open an additional savings account for special items. Take advantage of this and make a special place for your new home savings to go. This sets the tone for your goal and gives your savings an important place in your life. Keep your new home savings separate from your regular savings. Be sure to set aside some of the money you save to keep on hand for emergencies or items that may come up. This will reduce the chance that you will dip into your new home savings for other items.
3. Cook Your Way To A New Home!
Even with rising food prices, the home food budget is one of the biggest areas open to changes that will result in savings. For those of you who eat out frequently, purchase coffee on the way to work each day, or eat lunches out, you have the greatest opportunity for incredible monthly savings. Invest in a travel mug or thermos and bring your own coffee each day. This creates a $10-25 savings per week! Bringing your own lunch can save you another $15-$50 per week. If your office has a microwave and fridge, get creative! You don't have to relegate yourself to Bologna sandwiches. Meals at home can be a great savings. Avoid the pre-packaged meal items, search for sale items at your local stores and stock up. Even if you only have enough money to take advantage of one sale item and purchase in bulk, this will add up in the coming weeks as a savings. Do you have a local farmers market or vegetable store? Many times, they offer significant savings. Search for store brands. Often times, the store brand is still cheaper than the name brand item even if you have a coupon.
Plan a weekly menu, and allow yourself the freedom to change it as necessary during the week. Try to group things together that may provide for multiple meals. Cook a whole chicken on Monday, Boil the bones with some carrots and celery to make stock for chicken soup another night, use the left over chicken to make chicken enchiladas for yet another meal. You get the idea. Check out http://www.stretcher.com/stories/03/03mar17c.cfm for additional ideas for using leftovers.
Use powdered milk when cooking, you will not be able to tell the difference. Or extend your milk by adding a third powdered milk or more to the gallon. Once you start thinking about your food budget, you may get hooked on the idea of providing great meals at a savings.
4. Insulate and Save!
With the ever rising cost of energy, insulation is the key to trying to tame this expense! If you do not have the funds to buy rolls of insulation, start with the simple and less expensive options. 4 four foot tubes of pipe insulation can be purchased for $2-$5 and are super easy to install yourself. Start with your hot water pipes! Most local hardware stores can answer any questions you may have about these. Here in Maine, the inexpensive window kits that use a plastic film are also a great idea. Caulking is another inexpensive way to help to seal out the cold weather. Rather than staring at the zillions of different kinds of caulking available, grab an employee at your local hardware store for advice on which type suits your application. If you cannot afford to add insulation to your whole home, start with one roll, and add on when you can afford it.
5. Catch the Frugal Bug!
Start to check out your local thrift stores and discount stores. Many of you may already do this and know the incredible savings to be had. Gone are the days of the dirty, dimly lit thrift stores that put off so many and came with the negative stigma we remember. Today's thrift stores offer so much to those looking to save. You may have to search around a bit for one that you prefer, but it will be well worth your time. $50 may buy one item of clothing at a regular department store, but it can buy 10 or more items at a thrift store! Don't be afraid to shop at several different stores for what you need. Buying everything at one large "Superstore" may seem like a good idea with the high cost of fuel, but take a moment to evaluate your situation. If you have several options relatively nearby, you may choose to rotate and go to one of them each week for the best prices.
I hope these 5 ideas have gotten you started thinking about how you can be more frugal and create savings for yourself. For additional ideas, search the web (there is a huge amount of information out there) or check out http://www.livingonadime.com/ for more information. I found the websites included in this article with a simple search. See what else you can find and happy savings!
As always, feel free to contact us if you have any Maine Real Estate questions or concerns or would just like to share your savings success stories. We'd love to hear from you.
The Tanya Busch Team, Keller Williams Realty Mid Maine
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