Saving money is something everyone works on but few can really master, so I put together a few tips everyone can abide by to make your savings account a little healthier than it is right now.
1. Pretend to have a vice. Addictions are real money wasters, anyone who has one will ruefully look down as they tell you. Whether it be cigarettes and alcohol or gum and chocolate, even the most innocent habits make a dent in the budget.
Keep a jar on the bookshelf and label it with your imaginary habit, or even one you're trying to give up. Feed into it as if you need to buy the object of your indulgence. I have never smoked in my life, and drink sparingly. I keep a jar on the kitchen counter for alcohol and one by the door for cigarettes. I drop all of my spare change and the occasional fiver in there to feed my non-existent habit and at end of the month I've got enough for a real treat. Keeping them going for the whole year can give you a holiday. Cigarettes are almost $20 a pack, and most smokers have more than one pack in a week so even if you're not going a pack a day you'll still save hundreds, maybe thousands in the year.
And if you are trying to kick that chocolate habit, seeing the money you're saving pile up will really motivate you to never pick it up again.
2. Account for extra children. We all know that children can be a serious hamper on financial plans. But a child can be the most important lesson your banking ever learns.
If you have one child, save for two, If you have two, save for three, and so on. If you're childless like me, just put aside a few dollars that you would spend on that whimsical ice-cream your fictional child would have.
I'm not talking school fees here, or the wardrobe updates they need as they grow older. Just a toy, a chocolate or the cost of an extra meal when you go out. It's amazing how it adds up and great practice just in case a child is added to your life.
3. Substitute. Going out probably accounts for most of the budget after bills and groceries. But do you really need it? Do you need to go to the cinema or could you rent a movie? Even borrow one from friends. And anything you make for yourself to munch on is bound to be not only healthier, but more in tune with your particular craving.
Will you really be missing out if you don't go to that concert? Sitting at the back of a concert hall and squinting, or worse, on grass getting eaten by bugs. If you're not going backstage, just buy the album and play it really loud.
Romantic dinners are even more romantic when they're candlelit and home cooked. It's cheaper and easier, and you can wear your lingerie to the table.
4. Save the world, and your money.
Reducing your power and water bills will make a pretty big difference in the long run, even by only a few dollars each time. This really speaks for itself, the less you use your utilities, the less you pay for them. And your carbon footprint is reduced too, so it's win-win.
I've put together some ways to save energy and water over here if you want to get inventive.
5. Over do it.
Forward payments. I can't say enough about these beauties, they've saved me thousands. Put in a little more towards rent, mortgage repayments, utility bills.
If you give the utilities a little more money, they'll put it as credit on your next bill. Do this coming in to the heat of summer to save on your air-conditioning, and in the lead up to the depths of winter to save on your heating bills. In some cases I've had an entire bill covered and therefore a month's reprieve.
Over-paying on mortgage repayments means giving that little bit more, I find it good to round up to the nearest fifty, or even hundred dollar mark. When you're tight on cash you can relax and know that the payment isn't going to knock you down, and every time you add to it, the overall interest goes down, saving you thousands over the term of your mortgage.
If you're renting, adding a little more to your rent means your landlord thinks you're the best tenant they've ever had, and you're covered if you get snowed under, or if you go on holiday and don't want to pay for it when you're not there.
It's hard to save hundreds, but it's not hard to save that extra dollar, and a little really does add up.
I've also put together a list of the wild and wonderful ways to scrimp, save and swindle when you're strapped for cash or in the tightest of spots here
Don't go to concerts - really? Do you have a life? We are here for a good time NOT a long time. I still remember the Art Garfunkel concert I went to in 1997 as if it were yesterday - best concert I have ever been to and to think you say just buy the record. I would have missed out on an amazing concert and would still be missing out as my memories are priceless. By all means save where you can, but remember to still LIVE!