Saving Money

 

Set savings goals. For short-term goals, this is easy. If you want to buy a video game, find out how much it costs; if you want to buy a house, determine how much of a down payment you'll need. For long-term goals, such as retirement, you'll need to do a lot more planning (figuring out how much money you'll need to live comfortably for 20 or 30 years after you stop working), and you'll also need to figure out how investments will help you achieve your goals. Kill your debt first. Simply calculating how much you spend each month on your debts will illustrate that eliminating debt is the fastest way to free up money. Once the money is freed from debt payment, it can easily be re-purposed to savings.

Establish a time-frame. For example: "I want to be able to buy a house two years from today." Set a particular date for accomplishing shorter-term goals, and make sure the goal is attainable within that time period. If it's not attainable, you'll just get discouraged. Figure out how much you'll have to save per week, per month, or per paycheck to attain each of your savings goals. Take each thing you want to save for and figure out how much you need to start saving now. For most savings goals, it's best to save the same amount each period. For example, if you want to put a $20,000 down payment on a home in 36 months (three years), you'll need to save about $550 per month every month. But if your paychecks amount to $1000, it might not be a realistic goal, so adjust your time-frame until you come up with an approachable amount.

Keep a record of your expenses. What you save falls between two activities and their difference: how much you make and how much you spend. Since you have more control over how much you spend, it's wise to take a critical look at your expenses. Write down everything you spend your money on for a couple weeks or a month. Be as detailed as possible, and try not to leave out small purchases. Assign each purchase or expenditure a category such as: Rent, Car insurance, Car payments, Phone Bill, Cable Bill, Utilities, Gas, Food, Entertainment, etc.

Trim your expenses. Take a good, hard look at your spending records after a month or two have passed. You'll probably be surprised when you look back at your record of expenses: $300 on ice cream, $100 on parking tickets? You'll likely see some obvious cuts you can make. Depending on how much you need to save, however, you may need to make some difficult decisions. Think about your priorities, and make cuts you can live with. Calculate how much those cuts will save you per year, and you'll be much more motivated to pinch pennies.

Consider a move to a less expensive apartment or house or refinance your mortgage. Consolidate your debts so that you're not paying as much interest. Save money on gas, or give up a car altogether if your family has multiple cars. Get a better price on insurance by calling around and make sure you are getting the best price you can. Consider taking a higher deductible, too. Drop a land line and either only use your cell phone or save money by calling over the internet for free with services such as Skype Live without cable or satellite TV or cut down on your utility bills. Restrict eating out and buy food in bulk and start using coupons. Cook more at home as you might be able to save a lot of money on food.

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