You have probably 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 are 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 are young and still end up with more cash than someone who waits. For example, if you start saving or investing when you are 25 and saves $100 a month for ten years, then let the money sit, your stash will grow to $174,928 by the time you turn 65 (assuming an 8% annual return). But if you wait until age 35 to start saving, and sock away the same $100 a month for the next 30 years, you will have only $135,940 by 65.
Think you don’t have enough money to save? There is a list of the best tips to find extra money in your budget to sock away. These strategies won’t require you to take a vow of poverty. Rather, they are small and simple cost-cutters that will help you get started saving as soon as possible.
1. Do Not Shop on an Empty Stomach!
The cardinal sin of grocery shopping, hitting the store when you’re hungry, will put you over budget faster than you can say “junk food.” If you have no choice but to go to the store without a meal, buy an apple and some nuts (or another snack rich in protein and/or fiber) to munch on while you’re shopping.
At the very least, make a list before you shop. At the very best, plan your weekly menu or list a few main dishes that you can eat throughout the week. This will save you not only money on your grocery bill by preventing you from buy (and possibly pitching) food you don’t need, but also time and fuel savings, from fewer trips to the store for essential ingredients.
3. Buy Generic!
Held to the same standards as name-brand versions, store-brand products are usually just as good, and less expensive. Generic products are available for nearly every product you can think of, so be on the lookout for them (and watch your savings add up).
4. Shop Alone!
Sometimes this just isn’t possible, but if you can shop solo, you’ll be able to focus on finding the best deals and taking as much time as you need to make it through the store. In addition, no one else will be begging for items that aren’t on your list.
5. Use Coupon Codes!
One way to find out about deals is to visit the forums of your favorite coupons sites (such as http://www.couponchief.com). There is a lot of great information on the boards, but you must act fast. You could purchase a couple of printers, two scanners, an executive office chair, a wireless mouse and keyboard for under $60, by watching the forums, and finding applicable coupon codes and links and then following up with the rebates.
6. Bring Your Calculator!
Sometimes the largest container of, say, tomato sauce, isn’t actually the best deal. Unless you like to do long division in your head, consider toting a pocket calculator when you head to the supermarket. It’ll make figuring out the real prices for items a lot easier. As long as you can afford it at the time, buy the brand and size of a product that has the lowest per-unit (per pound, ounce, etc) price to get more for your money.
7. 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%.
8. Bundle Up!
You may be able to save by getting a package of phone, Internet and cable from one provider.
9. Grow Your Own Food!
Plants are cheap, and seeds are even cheaper. You can grow your own fruits and vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, squash, garlic, onions, broccoli, herbs, and many more delicious crops) right in your very own backyard (or in containers on your balcony) with a minimal amount of effort. They will save you money and taste far better than store-bought. If you would like some instant gratification, consider sprouting, which you can do in a few days right on your kitchen countertop. Alfalfa, sunflower, broccoli or bean sprouts add a nutritious crunch to sandwiches, wraps, and salads.
10. 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.