Since the day when a financial planner guy caused me a few weeks worth of lost sleep, and several dozen panic attacks by telling us we should be putting aside $1,000 a month to save for retirement and college for our then-three children, I tried to develop a plan. Naturally, after those tidings from Mr. Financial Planner, it took some time for me to calm down, chill out, and take a deep breath, and realize the world was not going to end if I didn’t put $1000 in the bank every month as the financial planner said. I had to refocus….on what was important…on who God is….and how He provides…and develop a plan that worked for us.
Instead of asking “Is this going to be enough?” I had to ask “Am I doing what I am able to do with what I have?” The answer is sometimes yes, and sometimes no. We had a lot of bad financial habits to break from, as many people do.
I’m not saying this is the one and only perfect plan. I suppose the ideal would be to sock away $2000 a month if only I had that. But, we have to do what we can do with what we have, instead of worrying about all the things we don’t have.
[Tweet “we have 2 do what we can do w what we have, vs worrying about what we don’t have.”]
Obviously, all of this starts by saving as much money on your various bills as you can possibly save, starting with the biggest items first. As you slowly (or quickly) get spending under control, you’ll have more to save, right?
Here are my top six favorite methods of helping my pennies, nickels, and dimes add up when saving for the future:
1. Saving with your Budgeting Leftovers
We like to use a modified version of the Envelope method for budgeting. With this method, we are able to see what we have left over in each category at the end of the month if anything.
So, for example, if we’ve been able to lower our electric bill one month from the budgeted $150 down to $125, we have a choice to make. We can either party it up with that $25 (and whatever else is left over) or we can put that into savings as soon as the month is over, to prevent it from going to stupid stuff we really don’t need.
This can be in addition to planned “Savings” or as a way to start on the habit of savings.
2. Saving with The Change Jar
Ah, the old change jar. This one works so well for so many different things.
Here’s how I use it: When I come home from grocery shopping, I empty all change from my pockets into a large container (“the change jar”). Most of the time I round up to the nearest $10 and put all $1 or $5 bills in there too. I’ve made it a point to never spend a $1 or any coins when out shopping unless completely unavoidable.
You may be surprised how quickly this adds up.
I had one change jar that was all pennies. I put all of my pennies in there only, because I am very lazy, and I hated having to sort through the pennies when rolling coin from the other jar. From the time Ruth was a baby, I threw pennies in there. It was a large glass pig, several feet long and wide. I didn’t have it completely full but one day it got broken by a metal Tonka truck and a child who jumped over a staircase railing onto it (thankfully and miraculously uninjured).
Husband and I sifted out the tempered glass from the pennies and rolled pennies until we realized we had several hundred dollars in pennies. As our washer had just broke (story of our lives) immediately after one of our cars drained the emergency fund yet again, we were blessed to be able to buy a new one…with pennies.
As much as I was tempted to do so, I decided to go to the bank first instead of handing the guy at Home Depot a 30 lb bag of rolled pennies.
Coin adds up, and it adds up fairly painlessly.
3. Saving Menards Rebates
Rebates aren’t exactly a “save for retirement or college” plan, but I have found that they are great for saving towards home improvement and repair when it comes to Menards because they do not expire.
Okay, so most of you probably don’t have a Menards near you. But, if you do, check out their sales from time to time. Not only do they beat Home Depot by far in many areas, but they also have some affordable grocery and personal care items.
Menards has helped us to save for home repairs and some household items while helping us buy necessities through their very awesome rebates program.
Here’s one example: This past week, Menards had washcloths on sale. They were $2.99 each, but each one got a $4 rebate, meaning I made $1.01 on each washcloth. Now, as a family of 7, we can always use washcloths, especially these nicer, thick ones. I was restricted to buying 10 of them. So, for $29.90 that week, I got 10 wash cloths, and a few weeks later, I got $40 in rebates. We waited to buy gutters for our home until they had the frequent 11% rebate going on — earning us 11% on those gutters.
These rebates do not expire, so I keep them in a box for emergencies. So, last spring, when the plaster came crashing down in my son’s room after a nasty storm, revealing a lack of insulation, we opened up our box of rebates and paid for all of the supplies with those rebates. Even better, the paint, joint compound, and insulation all had rebates with them the week we went shopping, earning us more rebates.
This takes time in mailing them in and waiting for them to get there, but it is well worth it, especially if you are perpetually finding yourself short on cash for emergency repairs to your home.
I’ve also taken to saving them over the winter so as to be able to buy garden supplies in early spring.
Alternately, a friend puts extra money on gift cards for a certain store where she finds herself spending emergency money so that she always has that. Plus, gift card purchases at Kroger earns her 4x the fuel points towards gasoline! Just be sure to check whether that money expires!
4. Christmas Club Accounts
Many banks have Christmas accounts, and they don’t have to be used for Christmas. No one is going to follow you around and make sure that you only buy Christmas presents. 😉
By putting away, for example, $10 a week, or even less, you’ll get a check sometime in October for the full amount, plus interest. For us, it was a great way to save towards the inevitable and unfortunate “December layoff without pay” that we’ve grown accustomed to.
5. Mutual Funds with Direct Deposit
Another long-term investment possibility is a Mutual fund. Simply put, a mutual fund is a collection of stocks and bonds bundled together. Usually, they are labeled as being a growth (read: high risk) investment or a safer (read: lower return) investment, and everything in between. It all depends on how much risk you are willing and able to take with your money.
Many times there is a high (for us! :-)) minimum deposit to open an account, but some companies allow you to sign up for a direct deposit program, where money is transferred from your bank account into the mutual fund every month (or week, or however often you set it up for). This is what we’ve done a few times too.
Money Market Accounts are like mutual funds but they work like a checking account. Many of us mommies here in the online world have Paypal Accounts. Up until a year ago, my PayPal money market account was earning me a significant amount of interest (the peak rate was 5.25%). Not every PayPal account is a money market account. This was an option I was able to add to my Paypal business account, and I’ve been very grateful for it, at least until it was closed a few years ago when the economy tanked. 🙁
A money market account is similar to a mutual fund, except that you can withdraw money from it fairly easily. If you are undisciplined, this may not be a good way to save money, but it does earn you interest on your average daily balance each month. Regular savings accounts also earn interest too, of course, but a money market account usually earns you more than a normal savings account, depending on the exact investments.
Some banks also have money market accounts available. You can earn interest while writing checks off of the amount in the account, though you usually have a minimum balance to maintain. It’s worth asking at your bank about this.
6. Hard Currency (Silver)
Silver (and gold, though that’s more expensive) is used for many different applications and often rises and falls with demand. When silver is low (under $20 an ounce), it makes a great investment. This isn’t a “liquid” investment — you have to be in it for the long term to get anything out of it.
Several years ago, my husband bought quite a few silver coins at $9 per ounce. I was not amused (LOL). However, two years ago, the silver hit $50 an ounce. That’s a much better investment than you’ll find at any bank!
Since that time, whenever Silver seems to be going down, we’ve bought some silver coins here and there, keeping them in a safe deposit box at the bank. At less than $20 per one-ounce coin when silver prices are low (as they are right now), it’s pretty painless. We both keep our eyes on silver price, and whenever it doubles or triples (as it often does every few years), we cash out.