8 Creative Ways to Save Money You Haven’t Thought of Before
A clever way to build your savings account is to pretend you never had some of your money in the first place. Use these painless strategies to increase your cash stash.
Find your hidden savings accounts
Take your savings wherever you find them, even if they aren't in the bank. "You can definitely start with the change in the middle console of your car," said Sheldon Crow, branch manager at Bellco Credit Union in Arvada, Colorado. "If it works for you, that is a savings account." Guys who toss their pocket change each night into a jar or drawer may be astonished at how much they've piled up in quarters and dimes. Do you have gift cards lingering in your wallet, a pile of tips you haven't bothered to deposit, store credit, a cash-back account you're ignoring, or a reloadable charge card you forgot you reloaded? Maybe you let your PayPal account balance increase whenever you sell something on eBay or a friend pays you back for a night out. Honour your cash-stashing habits as creative ways to save money, whatever they are.
Pick an inconvenient bank
It's great to do all your banking in one place, especially if you bank online. But when the money you saved is just a few keystrokes away, even determined savers can give in to the temptation to make a quick transfer to cover a bill, or withdraw savings from the ATM "just this once." So make it a challenge to access that money. Deposit savings in a different institution from your everyday accounts. Shred the ATM card so you have to bank in person. Pick one that's far away from your home or work, with inconvenient hours. Choose a bank that charges big fees for withdrawals or a brokerage that makes you wait 48 hours for a transfer.
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Pay it off—but keep paying in
If you're finally making your last car payment, or paying off a credit card or a student loan, avoid the temptation to bump up your spending or accrue new debt. Instead, divert into savings the same amount you've been paying all these months. Such creative money-saving tips don't change your standard of living, so you won't notice any difference in your budget, but you'll be paying yourself instead of a creditor.
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Set aside a portion of every windfall
Congrats, you got a bonus (or a big tax refund or a check from a relative). Good for you! Use this rule of thirds: Put one-third into savings, one-third to reduce debt, and the final third to spend on something wonderful for yourself. Don't save the whole amount, which will make you feel virtuous, but deprived. This plan gives you balance—you allocate some of your unexpected cash to the past (paying off debt), some to the future (saving), and the rest on a present for yourself.
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Open a roundup savings account
Understanding that people need encouragement to save, the financial industry came up with a clever and painless way to do it: automatic savings. Every time you use your debit card to make a purchase or pay a bill, these accounts round up the purchase amount to the nearest dollar, transfer the difference from checking to savings, and keep track of how much you're putting away. It's just like your change jar, only virtual.
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Turn it into a game
Here's a fun project to do with kids: Put a nickel in a jar today. Tomorrow, put in a dime, then 15 cents the next day, 20 the day after that... you get the idea. If you carry on for a full year, the most you'll have to deposit in the jar on a single day, on Day 365, is $18.25, and you'll have stashed away $3,339.75. A less regimented, but more lucrative, money-saving tip goes like this: Every time you get a $5 bill, put it aside. College professor Marie Franklin says she's banked $40,000 in 13 years, one five-spot at a time. Talk about creative ways to save money!
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Don't get shortchanged at the coin-counting machine
Some banks still count coins for free, and almost all provide paper coin wrappers. The ubiquitous CoinStar kiosks do a speedy job of transforming your pile of quarters and dimes into cash, donations, or gift vouchers, but be careful—the machines in grocery stores charge a fee (which may vary by location) for cash redemption. Your bank or credit union may have a no-fee coin-counting machine available for customers.
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Reduce your recurring expenses to save money
Skip the search beneath your couch cushions, and instead cut dollars from your budget by examining your monthly bank and credit card statements for recurring charges that you don't want or need anymore. A quick review will unearth the gym membership you never use, monthly charitable deductions, and subscriptions to magazines or music streaming services you can do without. Then take a few hours to call your insurance, cable, Internet, and mobile-phone providers. If you've been a longtime customer, your rates may have crept up without you noticing. Communications companies and insurers know it costs much more to lure a new customer than to keep an old one, so a few minutes on the phone asking—nicely—for discounts can reset your rates and save hundreds.
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