Practical Ways to Save MoneyMichelle M. Haas-Dosher, CCUFC / February 8th, 2016
When you’re on a mission to save money it might seem like it will take forever for savings to grow. Saving money often starts with changing “spending” habits. Here are some ideas that can help:
Get cooperation from partner first
Controlling spending starts with you but, if you have a spouse or children, it’s essential to have buy-in from family members to make it work.
Talk with your partner first, then involve your kids in age-appropriate ways. Discuss money management as a couple—get organized, put goals and details in writing, and schedule a money management meeting. Also:
- Develop a spending plan together.
- Agree who will take responsibility for what.
- Learn more about your finances. Honesty is key. Know details so you know what you’re dealing with.
- Set SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, and have set time periods.
Involve your kids
Once you and your partner are on the same path, involve your children:
- Make it fun—Have a weekly contest to see who can save the most. When grocery shopping, see who can find the best deal on a certain item.
- Be consistent—Make sure you and your partner agree on what you’ll teach your kids about money management and how you’ll do this.
- Stay flexible—Realize that life happens. If you can’t save as much one week or month, that’s OK. Get back on track as soon as you can.
- Be a role model—What you do in front of kids makes more of an impression than what you say.
- Separate wants and needs—Maybe your family would like to take a vacation, but you also need a different car. You don’t have to go without everything, and you can make adjustments to plans. For example, consider a “staycation” where you take day trips around town instead of scheduling a longer family road trip this year.
- Pay bills together—Let your children watch as you pay bills online or write checks.
Control living expenses
We often accept expenses as they are without trying to change them. Here are some areas where, with just a little work, you might be able to reduce your bills:
- TV, Internet, and phone—Check with providers to make sure you’re getting the lowest rates. Contact providers before the promotional periods end to find out what future rates will be. Don’t hesitate to contact providers at any time to ask for the best deal. Find out if bundling services can help you save.
- Insurance—Compare polices. Check the National Association of Insurance Commissioners website for price comparisons and Insurance Information Institute for advice about picking reputable companies. Consider raising deductibles. Ask about discounts for kids away at college and not using vehicles, and about good student discounts for kids in high school.
- Food—If you fall into the routine of going out for dinner or picking up takeout, try cutting back. Stop at the grocery store and buy ingredients for a fun meal—have a taco night or make your own stir fry. Bring leftovers to work or have healthy options at home to use for lunch. Use coupons when grocery shopping. If you don't get the newspaper, consider downloading the flipp app to your phone or tablet. The app allows you to browse ad flyers for stores in your area and highlights the top deals.
Your credit union can help
The professionals at your credit union can help you—and your family—get on track with saving:
- Use direct deposit and automatic transfers from checking into savings. Chances are, once you set up transfers to savings you won’t even miss the income—and you’ll establish a great habit.
- Automate anything you can by using online or mobile bill pay and reminders. This will help you make consistent progress on financial goals, and help you avoid late fees.
- Refinance your mortgage or car loans to take advantage of lower rates, if you qualify. Talk to a credit union loan officer about options to reduce your debt load or to retire debts faster.
Give yourself credit for your progress and accept that reducing spending and increasing savings will be a lifelong effort. But it also pays lifelong dividends.