The National Association of State Treasurers Foundation presents:
Tomorrow's Money for Today's Woman
10 Simple Steps to Start Saving Money Now
Develop a simple, easy to implement plan with Tomorrow's Money “Personal Savings Schedule”. Click here to link directly to the site’s Personal Savings Schedule
Figure out how much you could put toward paying off your credit card balance(s). Trim a little from your monthly miscellaneous expenses and begin paying more than your monthly minimum payment on each card as quickly as possible. Remember, paying off your credit card balance can be one of the highest-paying investments you can make.
Check to see if your company offers an employer-sponsored retirement plan – otherwise known as a “401(k) plan” (or “403(b) plan” if you work for a public agency or a nonprofit organization.) When you sign up to participate your employer will automatically deduct a certain amount of money (determined by you) from your regular paycheck and funnel it to this retirement plan (often you are able to choose which fund or funds the money is invested in.) The four biggest benefits to employer-sponsored retirement plans are:
the company does all the legwork for you;
it's an automatic payroll deduction so it forces you to save;
most companies will match a certain percentage of their employees' contributions, and
at least a portion of your contribution will be “pretax” so it will help lower your tax burden at the end of the year.
Sign up, even if it's just contributing the minimum amount.
Open up an individual retirement account (“IRA”) through a local bank, credit union or brokerage fund. You can contribute up to a maximum amount per year and the contribution, for many people, is tax deductible. So you save in two ways – you're putting money away toward your retirement, and you'll pay less in taxes at the end of the year.
Make one extra mortgage payment per year. Write “to principal” in the memo portion of the check so your bank will know you want to apply the entire amount to your principal. By lowering your principal, you're also lowering the amount of interest you owe on your mortgage…which can lead to substantial savings and can cut years off your mortgage.
Keep a strict record of expenses for one month. Write down everything. Then at the end of the month review your list. Categorize your spending and you'll begin to see where you could cut back. You might be surprised by how much you can begin to save once you really know where your money is going!
Transfer your credit card debt to a card that charges a lower interest rate. When checking for a new card, make sure that you'll get the lower rate you want for at least 6 months. Read the fine print in the application. You may find that the bright red “7% offer!” on the envelope is what's known as a “teaser” and only lasts for a few months, when they'll jack the rate back up to 18, 20, or 22 percent, often without you noticing. If you have a good history of timely payments with your own credit card company, call and ask them to lower your interest rate and lower or waive some of the fees in return for your continued use of their card. Many companies are willing to do so. You can also log on to www.bankrate.com or check to see if your local library carries “Bank Rate Monitor” (BRM) newsletter to get a list of the best rates for credit card deals both in your state and nationwide. You can contact any of the banks listed for an application and transfer your balance. If you belong to a credit union you should check with them to take advantage of lower interest rates. If you're interested in comparing costs and services of your local bank with a credit union in your area you can contact the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) by logging on to their website or calling (800) 358-5710.
Have you checked out your utility bills lately? Taking even a few simple steps can add up to hundreds of dollars in savings. For example, lower your hot water heater to 120 degree (which is recommended for families with small children anyway) and you can save 10-15%. Check with your electric or gas company to see what peak hours are. You'll save money by doing your laundry or dishwashing at non-peak times. And yes, it may be painful to hear, but your father was right...you don't need to leave the lights on in every room. Flipping the switch can help save money. These are small, easy steps to take to save money that even your kids can do. Many energy companies will send you, free of charge, a list of energy-efficiency (read: money-saving) tips, or will even come to your home to do a free evaluation at your request.
Review your next phone bill to see how much you're paying for services that you don't really need. Your phone company can let you know of a calling plan that will give you better rates for the calls you typically make and services you use or need. Often phone companies will reduce your rates if you call to say you're considering switching to a cheaper plan offered by their competitor. Or consider letting go of your landline completely and just using your cell phone to save money.
Review your insurance policies. Are you paying for more coverage than you need? By visiting websites like www.quotesmith.com you can comparison shop for virtually any type of insurance policies including life insurance, homeowners insurance, disability, dental, even small business coverage. It's worth a few minutes of research to determine if you could lower your monthly insurance rates and still receive the coverage you and your family need.