3 min read
finding money by saving

Figuring out ways to spend less and save more is a huge challenge for many people. This may be a result of what they have been taught or simply because of habits they refuse to give up. Can you afford to save money if you are not already saving? If you are currently saving, can you save more? The answer to both questions is yes.

A good starting point is to consider your needs and your wants. When prioritizing your spending, you may discover that you do have money to save. Let’s look at 10 tips for saving money when budgets are tight.

Buy generic brands for food and other items. Many products are available in a store-brand or generic form for considerably less money. If you like the generic brand after trying it, you may continue buying it to save money. Purchasing name brand products when they are on sale is another way to save and stretch your dollars.

Try gardening. Growing your own food instead of purchasing fresh produce can be rewarding. If done correctly, you could also sell the vegetables you don’t eat. Focus on vegetables, such as greens, squash, zucchini, and tomatoes, that are easy to grow and that produce abundantly. If you need gardening help, visit the Alabama Extension website (www.aces.edu) or call the Master Gardener Helpline at (877) 252-4769.

Track your spending. Know how much money you have to spend and be aware of your expenses. In other words, create a budget. This is an ideal way to help you keep from overspending. You may find money to save that you normally would spend unconsciously.

Look for money-saving hints. For necessary purchases, such as transportation, insurance, banking, credit payments, housing, and utilities, see “103 Ways to Save Money” from Alabama Extension. Consumer Action also provides 66 concrete steps consumers can take to save money or prevent fraud.

Build an emergency fund. Use this fund to help avoid having to take loans to pay for unexpected purchases. Keep your emergency fund in a savings account, and don’t touch it unless there is a real emergency. If you keep a high balance, you could avoid monthly fees.

Avoid impulsive spending. Do you buy without thinking? One way to help you avoid buying on impulse is to ask yourself these questions: Is this a want or a need? Does it help me reach my goals? If I spend this money now, will it affect my ability to achieve my goals? Is there another way I’d rather spend this money? Hide or get rid of credit cards. Carrying cash may be a better option because once the allotted money is spent, you don’t spend anymore.  If you are carrying cash, you can’t overspend. Take time to think before you buy.

Make, take, and use a shopping list. Variable expenses can cost a lot of money. One of the easiest ways to reduce your grocery bill is to follow these simple steps. (1) If it’s not on the list, it does not exist. (2) Shop when there are sales or use coupons. Coupons are available in newspapers, on the Internet, and in packaging. (3) Use store value cards to save or get discounts. (4) Try not to go shopping when you are hungry. (5) Shop alone because when children shop with you, the total amount is usually higher. (6) Buy fruits and vegetables in season.

Use the Earned Income Tax Credit. Low- and moderate-income workers qualify each year for an Earned Income Tax Credit that can put up to $6,557 in your pocket. The maximum amount for tax year 2020 is $6,660 with three or more qualifying children; $5,920 with two qualifying children; and $3,584 with one qualifying child. Contact a local taxpayer assistance center for in-person help or check out the Internal Revenue Service Publication 596 for more information including how to apply.

Use automatic transfers. Ask your bank or credit union to automatically transfer funds each month from your checking to your savings account. Even as little as $10 or $25 a month helps. That’s $120 or $300 a year. You can also put your loose change in this savings account. This can add up to more than $100 in a year. Start small so you can build big.

Try other simple things to cut back on expenses. Terminate subscriptions to monthly magazines and cancel unused club memberships. Check out free books and movies from the public library. If you can’t afford to have Internet at home, go to your local library, which should have free Internet accessibility. Cook at home instead of going out to restaurants. Try to repair clothing and toys before throwing them away and buying new ones. Clean out closets, garages, and attics and then have a yard sale or take the things you no longer need or use to a consignment shop. This could add money to your budget.

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