As you start to tick the days off 2016, one of your goals to start the new year off right should center saving money. While the U.S. economy is seemingly healthy, there is no harm in stashing away more of your paycheck.
The concept of saving money is relatively easy to explain, but difficult to follow through on. Households and families know the importance of putting money in savings and retirement accounts, but they often waver in their commitment. They may not know where to start or what purchases to cut out of their monthly expenses.
Sometimes, it takes a thorough examination of one's daily, monthly and yearly spending habits to identify areas that can lead to greater savings.
Online shopping is rapidly becoming the go-to option for consumers. Instead of making a trip to the store for a pair of shoes, or grocery shopping for weekly ingredients, you can order everything with just a few clicks or taps of the mouse or smartphone.
In fact, according to Statista, consumers buying goods online amounted for $703.3 billion in 2013. Mobile shopping alone nearly totaled $12 billion.
It's easy to see the appeal of online shopping because of its ease of use, and that unfortunately is where money problems may arise.
To help save money, join as many legitimate mailing lists as possible to take full advantage of sales and promotions. Some businesses will even email special offers that make a deal hard to pass up.
You can also save by not always making a purchase right away. Add the items to your cart, but instead of buying, leave the computer or phone and come back later. If you forget about your online cart, then you likely don't need to make the purchase.
Save on groceries
After rent, utilities and outstanding debt, food represents one of the biggest, most important portions of your budget, and also one of the most expensive. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average family of four can be expected to spend anywhere from $786 a month on groceries to $1,195.
To start off, you'll always want to create a shopping list to avoid overspending. Try to limit your grocery store visits to once per month, because as Money Crashers explained, the more you shop, the more you're inclined to spend.
Your monthly trips should be centered around stores that offer lower prices than their competitors. Coupons certainly help reduce the grocery bill, but if you don't have time to collect discounts, you can rest easy knowing some big box retailers have lower food prices. You can even consider going to dollar stores.
Other tips to keep in mind during your next grocery store visit: Only buy in-season produce, try to veer away from pre-cut meats and consider buying generic.
Changes to your life
For many, saving money equates to spending less on groceries and other expenses. However, there are other methods to save, including lifestyle changes. Cigarettes and alcohol represent two very big lifestyle expenses.
"The money saved from not smoking doesn't even account for potential health issues."
The average cost for a pack of cigarettes ranges anywhere from $5 to $13. According to Bankrate, buying one one pack a day for an entire year will cost around $2,555. If that money was saved and invested at a 6 percent return, you would have $201,994 after 30 years. The money saved from not smoking doesn't even account for potential health issues and the accompanying medical bills.
What may seem like small, incremental changes will eventually add up and become noticeable in your checking account and retirement funds.
Plastic over cash
With credit cards and debit cards readily available, the urge to swipe and forget is stronger than ever. If you are going to rely on plastic, make sure it's a credit card with a good rewards program. This way, every time you make a purchase, you rack up reward points that can later be redeemed for discounts or even credit to your monthly statements, thus saving you some money.
Set personal goals
Create a list of savings goals you'd like to accomplish and stick to it. Put that list on your calendar, smartphone, tablet and wherever you'll see it regularly. These daily reminders will motivate you to meet that goal. If you get extra cash for your birthday or a raise, put that extra money into savings.
Not enough individuals and families have adequate savings. Make 2016 the year you start saving for the future by looking for deals when shopping online and in the grocery store, while also thinking about lifestyle changes.
Savings don't always have to be extreme or difficult. In fact, you'll have great success by making even the smallest of changes.
For more information about smart ways to manage your finances, contact Landmark Bank.
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