Sometimes the easiest ways to save money fall close to home. For so many, just the thought of changing a spending habit in order to save more money causes a cold sweat and heart palpitations. But if you get creative, saving money can be easier than you think.
Below a few of our AFC® certified professionals and candidates offer some easy tips for saving money on everyday expenses. You don’t have to take money away from what you value most—just find ways to free up funds that you didn’t know you had! The additional savings can go toward saving for education, retirement and being prepared for those unexpected life emergencies.
- Go through your closet—and storage before going shopping! “I knew I still had that shirt somewhere!” See what you already have on hand before hitting the stores!
~ Kate Mielitz, AFC®
- Thrift stores are a great way to save money on clothes. And then when you’re done, donate them right back!
~ Dana Chitwood, AFC® Certification candidate
- Struggling to make ends meet but still want the treats? Buy day old cakes and breads at discount and freeze them. Defrost slowly on the counter and they’ll be like fresh!
- There’s a 3 prong approach to grocery shopping in order to save:
- Grocery List: A grocery list reminds you of the item you need to purchase and it also will remind you that you need a coupon for that item, too.
- Coupons: Create an email account for your family (ie SmithFamilyCoupons@xxxxx.com) so you can receive coupons, rebates and discounts to that email account so you will have one main location for your coupons.
- Meal Planner: Use a meal planner to ensure you have accounted for all foods needed to create each meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks) that way you can ensure you’re purchased a variety of foods for the week and you won’t feel the need eat out as much.
~ Erica F. Drame, AFC®
- Make your own coffee (not with Keurig pods).
~ Jennifer Lear, AFC®
- Always always drink water. If a family of four eats out once a week and only drinks water, they will save enough money in a year to pay for a new set of tires!
- If the restaurant gives big portions, plan to bring home your leftovers for lunch, or split a dish. Sometimes it’s cheaper and fun to order several appetizers for the whole table to split and only eat these.
- Keep your car for at least 10 years.
~ Jennifer Lear, AFC®
- Buy used, or the previous year’s model, when purchasing a car.
~ Carlos Colon, AFC®
- Turn out the lights when you leave a room. Big draws on power are dryers, irons, hair dryers. With some attention, a large home can reduce the power bill to under $100 per month for a typical 3000 sq. ft. home.
- Often, the cable companies offer new customer incentives; but once the initial time is up, your rate rises. When this happens, call the company and ask if the cheaper rate can be reinstated. Many times, they will reduce the rate but you will have to call again every 6 months. This is only available to customers who always pay on time.
- Try to lock in a fixed rate for your gas bill out of season, when the rates can be lower. Also, check the setting on your water heater to ensure it is set at the appropriate temperature; and make sure you reduce the dial when you go out of town.
- Make your own Laundry Detergent and stain remover.
Homemade laundry detergent is a great way to increase savings at the grocery store. This recipe can also be found in a liquid version on the internet. It is safe to use in all machines.
A spray on spot remover that is safe for colors. Just spray, let sit and wash!
- 1 part Dawn dishwashing liquid
- 2 parts Hydrogen Peroxide
Think Outside the Box:
- Trade services with friends—I don’t sew, so if I want something fixed or hemmed, I’ll offer to babysit for a friend who does in exchange for sewing services.
- Need a deep clean on your house, but can’t afford a housekeeping service? Have a cleaning party and rotate houses once per month. Everyone who helps gets in on the cleaning rotation—cheaper, and a good time with friends!
What are some of your top thrifty tips for frugal living?
A primary focus of America Saves week is for organizations to promote good savings behavior among individuals nationwide, and a large aspect of this promotion is building awareness and providing education. In order for individuals to increase savings and begin to build a strong financial foundation we must first provide them with access to reliable tools and resources and train the professionals who help to educate and mold their financial foundation.
This is why we feel it’s important to bring attention to two organizations who are leading the charge in the field of financial literacy and financial education and the tools and resources that they provide.
AFCPE is a longtime partner and Board Member of the Jump$tart Coalition. Jump$tart has helped build the framework for financial education and financial literacy. The organization focuses on effectively introducing strong financial principles to our youth, in order to prepare our children for a brighter financial future.
What makes Jump$tart unique is their ability to effectively bring together organizations from the business, financial, non-profit, association, academic, government and other sectors to collaboratively deliver one common mission – to educate and prepare our nation’s youth for life-long financial success. Jump$tart encourages inclusion and partnership to deliver more effective financial outreach and education.
Jump$tart was the original supporter of April as Financial Literacy Month and is entering its 7th year of hosting the National Educator Conference, which focuses on training, motivating and supporting classroom teachers.
One of the most valuable tools that Jump$tart offers is its online library of financial education resources, the Jump$tart Clearinghouse. The Clearinghouse is the nation’s most comprehensive collection of financial education resources suitable for students in pre-kindergarten through college. All materials listed in the Clearinghouse meet the National Standards of K-12 Personal Finance Education. The library is not only geared towards educators, but also parents, caregivers and anyone committed to financial smarts for students.
To learn more about Jump$tarts resources, visit http://www.jumpstart.org/resources.html.
NEFE is passionate about “serving the underserved,” and they have devoted themselves to the public good for more than a quarter-century. As a non-profit organization, NEFE provides financial education and information to people at all financial stages. They believe that more financially informed individuals are better able to take control of their circumstances, improve their quality of life and ensure a more stable future for themselves and their families. Most importantly, they believe this is true regardless of background or income level.
Not only does NEFE provide financial literacy resources at no cost to consumers, they are also leaders in financial literacy and behavioral research and engaged in national public policy efforts. This past year, AFCPE was proud to have NEFE’s Director of Education, Billy J. Hensley, Ph.D., serve as a keynote speaker at the 2014 AFCPE Research & Training Symposium. Dr. Hensley, who directs the grant-making, innovative thinking, research, college, and adult education programs for the foundation, spoke on the current state of financial education. The talk was centered on a NEFE research project titled “Examining Financial Education: How Literacy and Interventions Affect Financial Behaviors.”
NEFE provides a number of valuable tools and resources for consumers, educators and researchers. Some of our favorites include:
Smart About Money A user friendly website that provides consumers with a wide range of financial tools and topics that empower them to make educated financial decisions to reach their financial goals.
Financial Workshop Kits Financial Workshop Kits provide financial professionals, social service professionals, community vounteers, financial educators or human resource professionals with a number of tools and resources to effectively deliver financial education information based on the audience that they are serving.
NEFE Research As an organization founded upon and rooted in research, AFCPE believes in the importance of research. Research is vital for shaping and informing the education and counseling that our professionals provide. NEFE helps provide funds to support financial education research efforts that directly inform the work of our field – providing needed and requested insight to both financial professionals and the public.
Dr. Rita Green understands the importance of savings and the positive impact it has on families. “Saving money is an important element in the financial security of families,” Rita notes. “Savings provides a firm foundation that can help families weather the financial storms that occur due to job loss or unexpected expenses.”
As the Family Financial Management State Specialist for Mississippi State University Extension Service, Dr. Rita Green provides leadership in personal financial education under the broad categories of basic money management, credit control, fraud and identity theft, youth financial literacy, and homebuyer education. In 2013, Rita secured funding from the Bank of America Charitable Trust through the Consumer Federation of America to develop the TV segment, Your Money Minute.
Your Money Minute consists of brief, one-minute segments designed to air during America Saves Week. It first aired in 2013 on two Mississippi Delta-based stations and has run in consecutive years as part of the Mississippi Saves campaign. At this past year’s AFCPE Research & Training Symposium, Dr. Green was awarded the 2014 Outstanding Consumer Information Award for her work developing the series.
According to a recent report from the Corporation for Enterprise Development, only about 49 percent of Mississippians have savings accounts. Mississippi also has the highest concentration of payday lenders in the country. Your Money Minute airs on a station that reaches a population of over 1 million people in what is essentially one of the most economically vulnerable areas of the state.
The segments are designed to be brief. The brevity of the sessions increases the likelihood that viewers will listen to, and learn from, the important savings advice being offered. Not only do they air during America Saves Week, but also during the vulnerable tax season. During this time, many commercials are encouraging consumers to utilize predatory products for their refund checks. Your Money Minute offers a valuable message during a critical time. The segments replace the messages of predatory products with important advice on saving.
This week, Your Money Minute will air once again on television stations across the state. The series schedule includes:
Monday – Importance of Saving Money
Tuesday- SMART Goals
Wednesday-Identifying Sources of Money to Save
Thursday -Methods or Ways of Saving Money
Friday – Review of the Week’s topics
We applaud Rita, the innovative approach she developed to deliver important savings advice to consumers, and the good work she continues to do in the field. If you are a Mississippi resident, be sure to take the pledge to save at www.mississippisaves.org and tune in to Your Money Minute airing February 23 – 27!
Rational explanations for not saving typically follow expressions like: “I’d like to save, but…”, or “I think saving is important, but…” Intuitively, we know we should save. The importance of saving is often passed down through scripture, or through fables, and learned at an early age. Yet saving largely remains an abstract imperative. Why? How can we make saving a more consistent practice? First, we must understand three things:
Saving is hard. Saving money is much harder than most people like to admit, financial professionals included. Saving is especially hard when we feel like we cannot meet basic living standards, or live up to social expectations. While saving may be impossible when we cannot fulfill our basic needs, when our basic needs are met, opportunities for saving arise.
Saving requires deferring to our future selves. We live in the present, and are culturally trained to desire instant gratification. Saving contradicts this conditioning. As with any other financial management strategy we decide to pursue, saving must be directly guided by our goals. When we know where we are going, what we are trying to achieve, then identifying what we need in order to do so becomes an easier task. In other words, by clarifying for ourselves – and for those whom we hold close – what our goals are, we create a brighter contrast between our needs and our wants. This facilitates daily decision making that keeps us on track. It allows us to keep our eyes on what we achieve rather than on what we are giving up. Managing trade-offs becomes easier when we focus on what we gain.
Saving can be more than putting some of our discretionary income aside into a savings account. If we feel unsuccessful as savers, perhaps we have viewed the process somewhat monolithically. Saving can involve multiple aspects surrounding our personal finances.
The following list is intended to help broaden our concept of saving and the strategies we might choose to pursue in this endeavor.
- Identify your goals: What motivates you?
- Identify what you are saving for. Be specific.
- Use a spending plan (budget), and be intentional about your cash flow system.
- Seek strategies that facilitate productive behaviors, and that reduce or eliminate unproductive habits.
- Pay yourself first – Treat savings like another bill.
- Automate savings
- Include your family in the financial planning process.
- Eliminate unnecessary fees, or payments. Examine your bills and account statements.
- Identify what benefits you’re eligible for, and what resources are available to you in your community.
- Manage your taxes:
- Seek help in managing your taxes (denverabc.org).
- Use calculator on IRS website to determine appropriate tax withholdings from paycheck
- Maintain or improve your credit standing.
- Reduce debt strategically.
- Credit cards are not emergency funds, use them strategically: avoid using more than 25% of your credit limit, and pay off your balance every month.
- Pay more than the minimum on your credit card: you’ll save on interest and reduce your debt burden faster.
- Manage student loan debt: you may be able to reduce your monthly payments, or in some cases, have your loans forgiven or discharged.
- Buy used, or the previous year’s model, when purchasing a car.
- Factor being able to make an extra payment a year on your mortgage as part of a house’s affordability.
- Practice frugal living:
- Car pool
- Reduce utility consumption
- Practice comparison shopping
- Actually save money “saved” when purchasing items on sale, otherwise we may spend less on a particular item, but we are not actually saving, since it will be spent elsewhere.
- … (How else do you practice frugal living?)
- Shop for insurance regularly (especially when there is an improvement in credit scores).
- Consider a spending fast.
- If you’re not banked, get banked. Consider joining a credit union.
- Seek support. You don’t need to engage your finances alone. Consider seeking neutral professional assistance.
This list is not exhaustive. Please comment and share other strategies you have put in place in order to save.
Guest Contributor: Carlos A. Colón, AFC®
As financial counselors and educators, we are well-versed in the value of savings and we share that information in a variety of ways to our clients and students. A Financial Educator may offer advice through a community course on budgeting. Financial Counselors work with clients to develop a tailored savings plan to meeting their unique needs. Financial Researchers study savings habits and implications and use those results to directly impact the work happening in the field. But despite the professional role, one common mission is shared among all financial professionals –to help individuals and families meet their financial goals.
This week is America Saves Week. America Saves is a campaign managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America, seeking to motivate, encourage and support low- to moderate-income households to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. The week is an annual opportunity for financial professionals and organizations to promote good savings behavior; and it also offers individuals the chance to assess their own savings situation and recommit to saving for the future!
As a supporter of America Saves Week, and its sister campaign, Military Saves Week, we asked our professionals to share some of their top tips to build savings and plan for the future. Although we had too many submissions to share them all here, below are a few of our favorites. Follow us on social media and the AFCPE Blog for more tips throughout the week.
“Consider everything you pick up to buy, especially the small stuff, as a want or a need.
If it is not an absolute need, put it down! Put that money you would have spent in a jar or piggy bank”
~ Anthony C. Pope, AFC®
“Pay Yourself First.
When you earn a pay raise put 50% to some sort of investment. You were used to living without that money prior to the raise, so you can live without it after the raise. Even if it’s only a 2% raise, that’s 1% more towards your future that you weren’t saving before! Set yourself up for future Financial Security!”
~ Kimberly Bottema, AFC® Certification Candidate
“Just Start! Whether its $1, $5 or $500, a day, per week, or per month, just get started. The only way to become a saver is by actually saving. Start small, stick with your plan and watch your savings grow. Once you start to see the results, then you can challenge yourself to save even more as time goes on. No matter the amount, the biggest and most important step you’ll take is the first one. So just get started!”
~ Arianne Mockabee, AFC® Certification Candidate
“Figure out the pattern.
Think about the times you’ve regretted the way you spent money this past year. Is there a pattern of who you were with, where you were, how you were feeling or the situation you were in? If so, think about how you can prepare yourself for the next time…and there will be a next time! Can you avoid the situation? Can you be ready to say something differently, like let’s get separate checks or I need some time to think about this before I buy this? Can you force yourself to limit spending by only carrying cash and not keeping a credit card on you or automatically having money withdrawn from your paycheck and put into a savings account? Predicting times you are vulnerable to overspending can help you avoid or minimize the damage.”
~ Syble Solomon, AFCPE® Member
“Start with an amount that you know you won’t necessarily miss to develop the savings habit, and then increase it every 3 months.
You can also commit a percentage of bonuses and raises to it. Painless savings!”
~ Susan Bross, AFC®
“Make it automatic!
Depending upon when the funds would be needed start with emergency savings, then a CD or savings bonds, an employer’s 401K, and lastly investments you understand that should grow in value over time.”
~ Madeleine Greene AFC®
KISS – Keep it Simple & SMART
“Savings should be DOABLE. We want to set ourselves up for SUCCESS whenever possible. Make simple goals, write them down, and keep them SMART!
Specific – Write it Down!
Measureable – Your goal should be measureable in a dollar amount and by a specific date
(i.e. I want to save $1000 by February 25, 2016.)
Action-Oriented – What steps will you take to reach your goal—write these steps down too!
(i.e. In order to do so, I will save $83.33 per month in an interest-bearing savings account)
Realistic – Set a goal that is Realistic. Figure out your necessary expenses each month (before fun), factor in some fun (you know you’ll spend it, so plan on it). What’s left over?
Timely- Break it down. $1000 / 12 months = $83.33 PLUS $.04…and don’t forget to use an interest-bearing savings account!”
~ Kate Mielitz, AFC®
“Round up! Okay this is my crazy savings plan (but it works!) When we enter expenditures and deposits into our checkbook, we always round up for expenses and down for deposits. It might be a few cents or a few dollars – but it adds up. We call it our “secret money.” It ensures we never get too low of a balance, and if we don’t see the money in our balance, we don’t think about it. Last time my husband did this, when he closed his account to move, he had over $2,000 in “secret money.” Pretty sweet surprise!”
~ Mary Howard, AFC®
“Keep that loose change. Clean your purse at the end of the week. All loose
‘change’ goes into a large container. The accumulated funds become vacation or Christmas gift funds. One year I had almost $500.”
~ Celvia Stovall, AFCPE® Member
“Use different savings accounts for different types of savings. Some credit unions offer free “sub accounts” (additional savings accounts within the same main account), so that a member can separate savings by its purpose, and give each account a NAME!”
~ Kathryn Greiner, AFC®
Join the campaign – commit to your own savings and share your advice through the many events happening this week! Use the hashtags: #ASW2015 and #MSW2015 on twitter to follow the chatter. What are some more of your favorite savings tips?