Saving money is something we all recognize as being important, but it's also something that's hard to really commit to. That's not to say most of us tend to spend money at random or act flippantly with our income, but many of us have trouble staying diligent with specific savings efforts on a day-to-day basis. Really, though, there are a lot of pretty easy steps that can be taken in this regard, and adding them all up can ultimately amount to some very real savings. So below, we've gathered a few easy-to-follow guidelines and ideas to help out.
Use A Budgeting App This gets back to a recent article posted at Darling about great budgeting apps for your mobile devices, so most of the information is there already. The four apps detailed in that article—Mint, Homebudget with Sync, Mvelopes, and You Need a Budget—can completely revolutionize how you view your own daily financial transactions. Getting a better handle on what you spend and how often you spend it can help you realize where you might be able to cut lifestyle costs with ease, and thus pocket a little bit more cash.
Save Where You Spend For plenty of us, a few stores usually come to mind as the places we spend the most money. For a lot of people, it's the closest Starbucks or café; for others, it might be a favorite clothing storel. Whatever it may be, in many cases there are actually ways to save money specifically because you shop so frequently at a given spot. Getting back to one of those examples, a write-up on ways to save money at Starbucks illustrates this point quite well. From 10-cent discounts for bringing your own mug to free drinks earned through using a Starbucks card, there are numerous ways to cut back on café expenses. For a conscientious customer who's familiar with the store and its app, it really isn't a stretch to save about $5 a week, or more. That won't exactly pay your mortgage, but at the same time why turn down close to $250 a year that you don't need to spend? That's a plane ticket for a New Year's vacation! Starbucks is only one example, but these days most popular stores at least offer rewards programs and regular coupons for members. If we pay close attention, we can all cut costs at our favorite spots.
Learn To Invest Wisely We all have to face facts eventually: storing up whatever cash we can generates savings, but it doesn't maximize them. The truth is that there are multiple ways of setting your savings aside in a way that helps them to grow over time, so that the extra $5 or $10 you save here or there through strategic budgeting can actually go to work for you. The only trick is, it takes some investment savvy to make it happen. For a lot of individuals who don't already make a living or at least conduct regular business in the stock market, the simplest way to start generating increased savings through investment is to buy into a mutual fund. However, it's not all that difficult to learn some of the basics of the process and give it a shot on your own. These basic tips for successful trading can help to give you an idea of what to expect, but to summarize: if we spend some time educating ourselves, start with a small amount, and invest with discipline, we can help our savings to stretch a lot further.
Pay Your Debts First While it's not specifically about generating savings, it has a lot to do with maintaining them. Many of us, when facing debts, start trying to conserve as much cash as possible so as to be able to pay them off in one fell swoop. This is a natural instinct; the desire to take care of a problem all at once. But most debt doesn't work that way, and a lot of it even comes with increasing interest rates, meaning the longer you wait, the more you'll owe. For this reason, it's vital that those of us looking to be financially responsible take care of debts before setting aside savings that amount to much more than an emergency fund. Saving before getting out of debt is simply delaying an expense. In a way, such savings aren't even real, because they'll eventually be headed toward debt payments. So whenever possible, it's best to pay debts first and save second.