Tax hikes are going into effect as a result of the fiscal cliff deal, which means many people will be getting a smaller paycheck.
Now is a good time to talk about saving money, according to Tracy A. Fors, vice president of marketing and business development for Wright-Patt Credit Union in Fairborn.
“Saving money is a lot like a diet,” Fors said. “It starts with some awareness, a little self-discipline and a whole lot of desire. Because it’s so personal, the one topic most people seldom talk about is money and debt until something happens. It’s a taboo topic. To be successful, we need to debunk the myth that talking about ways to save, reduce debt and managing your money is not worth talking about. So, the fiscal cliff provides everyone with opportunity. If you’re married, start talking to each other about money. … If you’re single, talk to your family or a close friend.”
We asked Fors to offer ways that people can cut their monthly budget by $50 to $100. Here are her tips.
1. “Start a budget. A personal budget is the No. 1 way to financial success and saving money. A budget ensures you are in control of your money, instead of your money being in control of you. When you write down your finances, create a budget, and then stick to it by tracking what you spend you will save. In fact, you’ll find you can save more than $100 a month. When you count every nickel and dime you spend, it all adds up.”
2. “Set financial goals. Make sure they’re S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-oriented). Set savings goals. Setting a goal gives you something to work toward, and keeps you on track. Goals may be short-term — something you want to achieve within six months to a year; mid-term — something you wish to achieve within three to five years; or long-term — something you wish to achieve beyond five years.”
3. “Look for ways to cut back. When the bills start coming in, ask yourself the critical question: Is this a need or a want? A few examples where you can cut bills include cable TV or satellite radio. What about other monthly subscriptions, such as your Netflix account or the unused gym membership? Are you using it? If not, cut it.”
4. “Eliminate duplicates. Where possible, take a look at what you have and what is costing you money monthly. Do you need three cars with three monthly payments, monthly auto insurance and ongoing maintenance? You can also eliminate unnecessary features on your phones and television cable boxes. How many cable boxes and phones do you really need? Take a look at what can be eliminated or reduced.”
5. “Refinance your loans to lower interest rates. One of the best ways to save $50 to $100 a month is by refinancing your high-interest rate loans to lower interest rate loans. Loan rates are still at historic lows.”
6. “Pay off your small debts (such as a lingering doctor bill, or the holiday credit card). While your monthly payments may be small, when combined, the costs can add up. Once you’ve paid off one bill, roll the payment into another bill, or drop it into a savings account.”
7. “Eat in more. Eating out is expensive, whether it’s a lunch or dinner. When you cook at home, you pay less, and the food may last for two meals. To get organized, create a bi-weekly (or even monthly) meal plan, which can help you avoid eating out. Then, create your shopping list based off of the plan and the items needed. One of the best ways to save $50 to $100 a month is to go to the grocery store with this list and buy only what’s on the list. When you buy extra items that are not on the list, that’s where spending … comes in and how you can go over your budget.”
8. “Pack your lunch. On average, when you go out to lunch, it can cost $7.50 to $9. When you pack a lunch, the cost is more like $2.50. That’s well over a $100 each month.”
9. “Buy off-brand. Whether you’re shopping for clothes, hair-care products or food, buying off-brands costs significantly less and helps you keep more of your hard-earned money. In fact, you can save as much as $1 to $5 on a single item depending on the item. Those dollars add up with repeat weekly visits.”
10. “Use coupons. Shop weekly store specials for your meat, dairy and produce. Many of the best deals can be found on the outside of a particular store’s advertisement. Check out couponing sites like www.happyhomemakercindy.com where you can search for coupons and deals, as well as organize your efforts.”
11. “Make your own coffee. Buy a can of coffee, and prepare it at home. You could turn a $4 to $5 per day coffee purchase into a monthly deposit into a savings account and watch your money grow.”
Wright-Patt Credit Union, with the help of other local organizations produces an annual Savings Race, a competition in which five Miami Valley teams take steps to increase their savings and reduce their debt. Since the Savings Race began in 2008, 20 teams have improved their net worth by more than half a million dollars.
This year, the challenge has a new twist. It is called Savings Race 5 - College Bound Edition, and it started in October and will continue through May. Five teams are competing to reduce their debt, increase their savings, and learn how to get to, through and beyond college. The winning team’s competing student will receive a $10,000 grand prize scholarship to their college of choice. The other four competing students will receive a $2,000 scholarship to the college of their choice.
Find team blog updates, webcasts and more at SavingsRace.com and by “liking” Wright-Patt Credit Union’s Facebook page.
In addition, you can attend a series of free Savings Race University classes that will “prepare you to get to, through and beyond college the smart way,” according to WPCU. Classes will teach parents and students how to decrease debt, increase savings and get on the right path to a higher education. To find out the dates for each class and to register, go to SavingsRace.com, and click on “Savings Race University.”
To find more money-savings tips for college students, go to WPCU’s website, respectyourmoney.com, and click on “College.”