You know an article must be good when your accountant forwards it to you. Mine sent me this list of 11 ways to jump-start your savings from Dana Bratch at MSN Money. Bratch writes:
The secret of successful savings borrows from the tale of the tortoise and the hare: Slow and steady wins the race. But while it may be a winning strategy, it’s difficult to get motivated when your savings balance is climbing that slowly. One way to keep your head in the game: Sock away extra money, especially in the beginning, so you can get enthused watching that balance really climb.
One key to successful money management is to make the most of psychological tricks. This is why the Debt Snowball is so successful. It’s also why a simple way to save is to simply avoid temptation — to avoid stores where you know you’re likely to spend.
Bratch offers eleven tips to help a person get started with savings and frugality. Each of these helps to shift your psychological perspective on money:
- Set a clear goal. If you save for a particular goal, you’re more motivated to stick to the plan. Recently, I’ve been using purpose-driven investing — it works like a charm.
- Use a jar. A jar for spare coins is a subtle ever-present reminder of your saving habit. When the jar is full, deposit the money into your savings account.
- Buy generic. Purchasing store brands will reduce your grocery bill, giving you more money to save.
- Do it yourself. Bratch mentions David Bach’s concept of the “latte factor”. Find a recurring indulgence that you can sacrifice — if only temporarily — in order to kickstart your savings. For some people, it’s a daily latte. For me, it’s comic books.
- Plan a garage sale. Get rid of that junk you’ve been accumulating in the attic. Purge those books you never read, those movies you never watch. Organize a garage sale. Sell your stuff on eBay. Learn to use craigslist.
- Pick up a pen. Write down a budget. Budgets aren’t for everyone (I’m not a budgeter), but for some they’re a powerful tool, giving an overview of their financial health. Even I write down a budget now and then, just to get an idea of where my money’s going.
- Cut your overhead. Call your utility providers to ask for lower rates. Or switch from the deluxe $80 cable package to $20 basic. Ask your credit card companies to lower your interest rate. Carpool. Turn down the thermostat. Eat out less often.
- Tax yourself. I love this idea — I’d never heard it before. “Every time you buy something nonessential, put 10% of the purchase price in an envelope,” writes Bratch. This is worth an entire entry on its own.
- Make saving a family priority. Teach your kids to save. Encourage them to save a certain portion of their allowance or income. To add an incentive, offer to match whatever your kids put into savings. Remember: compound returns favor the young.
- Automate as much as you can. Once you’ve found a portion of your income that can be put into savings, make it automatic. That’s the entire premise behind David Bach’s The Automatic Millionaire. Have money automatically withdrawn from your account and put into savings or into investments. That’s why I love Sharebuilder: I can set up an automatic investment plan that makes saving painless. (Ad: Buy Stocks for $4 at ShareBuilder.)
- Do something regularly to remind yourself why you’re saving. Make saving an emotional and psychological priority. Are you saving for a house? Make a screensaver out of a photo of your dream house. Is your money destined for a European vacation? Keep a travel guide on your nightstand.
These are basic activities on which sound personal finance is built. Each of them is small, almost inconsequential. But taken together, they can have a powerful impact on your financial life.
[MSN Money: 11 ways to jump-start your savings]
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