Money Monthlies: May – Making Your Savings Bloom!

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More than anything else, May is the month where everything starts to really bloom. If you’ve been following us since the New Year, you’ve been learning to budget in your tax return, lower your credit card debts, and stretch your dollar on the road. In honor of the flowers of late spring, let’s talk about making the bud of your savings really blossom into something beautiful.

Growing your bank account.
Most write ups on how to grow your savings start with budgeting. That’s because budgeting is really a very crucial step towards successful saving. However, many of your day to day lifestyle practices can quickly undermine your budget strategy, leaving you feeling frustrated (and still without money in your savings). On top of budgeting, we’d like to offer some tips to stay within your budget and tuck away your spoils into savings.

So, let’s get started:

Five dollars.
Start slow by putting a little bit of money each week into a designated savings account. It doesn’t have to be much, even starting with five or ten dollars gets you in the habit. Once it’s in your savings account, don’t touch it. Don’t do it! Starting realistically gives you the chance to develop a small savings and see the positive outcome of your actions. After a few weeks, start throwing twenty dollars, thirty, fifty into the account when you get paid and take it off the table right off the bat. Saving starts to feel really cool when you look at your account and there’s a good amount in your savings account. You start to get that hotel-on-Boardwalk-Monopoly-Guy feel after a while.

Yea, that feeling. Source: Masslive.

Eat your leftovers.
Living just above paycheck-to-paycheck becomes familiar cycle after a while: get paid, think about saving, do a pretty good job at it, get paid again, and then spend the windfall–plus whatever is leftover–in celebration of your good work. Back to zero you go. A great way to break this feedback loop is to take whatever is leftover when you get paid, after planning for expenses such as rent and utilities, and feeding your savings account. Leave no leftovers behind!

Go cash.
Having cash on hand forces you to keep track of how much you have left in your budget. It’s a whole lot harder to ignore irresponsible spending when you watch the amount of green paper in your wallet quickly dwindle. Using your debit card means keeping a running tally of your budget in your mind, which can quickly lead to underestimating your spending. And, without realizing your cash flow is evaporating to a trickle, you can keep throwing money around beyond your established limits.

Save your change.
That change in your pocket from carrying cash? Put it aside in a jar somewhere in your home. Small change can lead to big changes when you feed the piggy bank. Personally, I know people who have financed international travel, bought high end stereo equipment, and more, all just by putting aside coins and not touching them for a few years–even when times get lean. And when it comes time to cash in your big ol’ change jug, don’t use those automated coin sorting machines at the grocery store–they charge an egregious fee simply for the convenience of counting coins. Grab some coin roller tubes from the dollar store and spend an hour or two counting and rolling them by hand, like your grandma probably does. Then you can take them to the bank and make them into real, useful money.

Figure out what you don’t need.
Chances are there are some things you are spending your hard earned money on that you simply don’t need. Whether it’s an overpriced coffee on the way to work or a shirt you’ll wear maybe twice at most, looking at the way you spend less as a relationship of want and more of necessity gives perspective on where your paycheck seems to go.

Consider taking on a money-saving hobby.
So you’ve ID’d what has been draining your bank account, but frankly . . . it’s hard to get through the day without that good AM coffee, a flavorful sandwich for lunch, that shirt that expresses your personality. Well, why not learn how to make more of what you need yourself, for less? Learning to cook can help you save money and gives you better control and consciousness of what you are consuming during the day. If you’re a coffee person, learning the ins-and-outs of making the best coffee broadens your relationship with your morning cup. Learning more about the indispensable expenses in your life and mastering a DIY approach to making them on your own is great for conversation, for conservation, and just the love of the game. The benefits of expanding your horizons are numerous!

Plan out ATM withdrawals.
Don’t pay for the simple convenience of getting money. If you know you’ll be buying something, get money from your own bank branch and avoid paying two, three, or four dollars at a competitor’s bank. Think of it this way: you’re literally giving money to a bank–a rich and who knows maybe possibly evil bank that doesn’t service your money in any other way–simply because you didn’t plan. That’s crazy. Plan better! If there are no ATMs for your bank location, consider picking up something you need at a store that gives cash back on purchases.

Did I mention budgeting?

Oh, I did. Well I guess I’ll mention it again. Develop a realistic budget that you can stick to–and make it one that doesn’t cut off all the enjoyment in your life. People who pull the strings on their budget too tight are the most likely to give up on saving when it suffocates away the little purchases that make the day better. In time, a little here and there becomes a safety net when emergencies happen, a cushion between jobs, or a the down payment on a new home. Budgeting–in concert with responsible savings practices–is central to financial stability and can drastically augment the way you live your life. Save on, friends!