Trying to save money on your own can be difficult, especially if you don’t have a solid support system, or the tools to help with your personal finance success. Read on for four money saving strategies that can jump start your financial freedom.
The Buddy System
Sticking to a budget can be problematic when your friends are less-than-thrifty. One solid way of saving money is to get a friend on board so that you’re both working toward a common goal. Say a friend of yours needs to save $1,000 to attend his sister’s wedding 6 months from now. And perhaps you’re working on cutting out impulse spending in order to save enough to put new tires on your car before winter. Hold one another accountable, touch base on your savings goals – and use each other for support. If you feel that spending urge coming on, text or call up your friend talk through it.
The Envelope System
The envelope system is based on a simple method for paying all your bills and expenses each month in cash, and not touching what you’ve budgeted for savings or annual expenses like car insurance. First step: create a budget and write down exactly what you have to spend on each living expense line item, bill or payment. Take one regular letter-sized envelope for each expense you’ve defined on your personal budget and write on the front of the envelope “Groceries” “Medical Bills” “Fuel” and so on. Be sure to include an envelope for entertainment or “Fun” if you do spend money on things other than paying bills (Come on… don’t we all?) Each payday you will take out only as much cash as the total of all the envelopes. Fill each with the allotted amount, and pay your expenses from there. When the money’s gone, it’s gone. Note: it may not be convenient to pay major bills like the mortgage payment or car payment in cash – but you can set these items up as automatic withdrawals and plan around it.
Keeping a ghost account or a “cushion” in your checking account is one way some people save money – by acting as if the funds in those accounts just don’t exist. A ghost account can work really well if you have automatic deposit for your paycheck, and you send a pre-specified amount to the ghost account each month, before it can be spent elsewhere. Most people find that keeping the checkbook for this account – or account card, debit card, ATM card – in a lock box or stashed away somewhere is the best way to go so that you’re not tempted to spend the funds in the account. The “cushion” concept can work as well – as long as you’re able to completely ignore the accumulated funds … and as long as you make the commitment to continually upping the amount of your cushion. Gradually adding any extra to the cushion amount is important.
Personal Finance Software
Online personal finance sites like Mint.com and Adaptu and Money Strands have made it easy to create your budget for free – and stick to it every day using your Smart phone or via computer. The apps for these services can tie directly to your bank account, or even a PayPal account, and are consistently updated so that you can track exactly where you stand. There are user forums and articles from the pro’s to help you stay on target and have a solid support system. Trusted sources like CNET also maintain a wide variety of personal finance freeware, spreadsheets and the like. Paid versions of software for your computer like Quicken and QuickBooks are great if you’re looking to manage your finances with all the bells and whistles… without an internet connection. These programs can be used as standalone budgeting applications, or go online to sync with bank accounts and investment accounts.
Overall, knowing where your financial weaknesses are can be the first step in successful money management. Coming up with a budget and a success strategy for your family is easy – especially with so many options to help you stay on track.
What strategies do you use to track your finances and stay on track with your budget?