Okay maybe you have thought of some of these, but are you actually doing them? It’s easy to get busy with life and blow off taking simple steps that can make you some dough in the long run.
Making Your Money Make Money
- Set savings on auto pilot and increase it each year –
This is an ol’ time favorite suggestion. You’ve likely already done this for your retirement savings at work. But, have you set up automatic savings outside of work? Whether you’re saving for a sunny day (I hate the thought of savings being just for rainy days,) for a real estate purchase, or just investing for the future – having money come from your paycheck or checking account on an automatic basis will make things so much easier. If you already have this set up, when was the last time you increased the amounts you’re saving?
Estimated time to set up: 30 minutes max.
- Move your cash to a higher yielding savings account –
There’s no excuse for having your savings and money market balances not earning money for you. Typically (but not always) the big banks where you might have your checking account aren’t going to pay you as good a rate on your savings or money market account balances as you can get with an online bank. Check out www.Bankrate.com to compare rates and bank quality. If you have your accounts held in a living trust you’ll want to make sure that the bank you choose will be able to set up the account in your trust name. Most will, some won’t.
Estimated time to set up: 15 minutes if not titled in a trust, 25 minutes if you have a trust.
Stop Wasting Money
- Pay all bills on auto debit –
I’ll fess up – I used to periodically get dinged for late payments on bills if I was traveling a lot or just busy. I almost always got these fees waived by calling the company, but that took time that could have been spent more efficiently. Perhaps you’re already doing this, but if not get your bills set up on auto pay. You’ll still need to check your bills to make sure they are correct (see Tip #7) but bye-bye late fees.
Estimated time to set up: Depends on how many bills – average 5 minutes a bill.
- Don’t waste money on things you can get for free –
On one of our trips to Ghana I was working with Global Mamas and they said the mamas love seeing U.S. fashion magazines. So while I was getting my hair done I asked the shop owner if I could take some old magazines. She was thrilled to give them to me. What else can you get that someone else is very happy to get rid of? Check out the free stuff listings on Craigslist, Freecycle or other sites. Many people have stuff they’d love to get into the hands of someone who can use it.
Which leads to…
- Get rid of stuff you no longer need –
Yes, I first mean your clutter, stuff, belongings etc. In a recent podcast with Sharon McRill founder of the Betty Brigade an organizing and relocation firm, and author of Downsizing the Silver Tsunami: Who to Call and Where Does All the Stuff Go? she said, “start now!” As the baby boomers continue to downsize – donation centers will eventually start to charge you for taking your stuff. Less clutter means more spaciousness in every part of your life. When I mentioned the two huge bins of Lego toys in my basement Sharon told me that many things have value that you wouldn’t expect. Apparently there are lots of people who buy bins of Legos to round out their projects! So, you might even make some extra cash in the process.
Maybe you’re paying for a storage unit that you really don’t need. Ask, would you really care if everything in there was mistakenly sold on Storage Wars? So save the fees – sell or donate your stuff.
Next, clean up your investment portfolio. If you have small accounts hanging out there that you’ve never consolidated now’s the time to do so. If you’re hanging on to old investments that no longer fit your goals, make those changes too.
Estimated time for stuff and clutter: Sharon suggests one hour a week is doable.
Estimated time for consolidating accounts: 15-20 minutes per account. This may take more time if you have to contact a former employer to get paperwork.
- Don’t wait for a big tax refund to get the use of your money –
I’ve been giving this advice for decades, yet people still need to hear it. If you think it’s fabulous to get a big tax refund you’re wrong. It means that the government used your money for an entire year. Fix your withholdings or work with your accountant on your tax estimates. The IRS has a tax withholding calculator you can use (programs like TurboTax® do as well.)
Estimated time: Between calculating and doing a new W4 form with your employer – about 40 minutes.
- Really scrutinize your credit card statements –
Are there small charges on your credit card bill that you might be ignoring? I recently realized that on the card that Steven (my husband) uses there was an ongoing Amazon charge. It was small, I hadn’t noticed it. One day when I was reconciling our accounts it occurred to me that he rarely buys anything on Amazon. For ten months I’d been paying this charge and it wasn’t legit. I called the credit card company, they took it off and credited me the amounts.
Similarly, do you have subscriptions that you no longer use or didn’t realize you signed up for? We had one of those last month – $89 for some company and I didn’t know what it was. Turns out when our son bought something it came with an annual subscription (must have been in the fine print.) Again, the credit card company got rid of it and credited the money back to my account.
Estimated time: About 10 minutes a month.
The next two tips I got from our son Benjy. Living in New York he’s gotten very wise about how to stretch his income, have fun in NYC, and still be able to save in his 401k and build up a cushion.
- Pre-game –
Benjy and his friends will meet at someone’s apartment for cocktails before they go out. Apparently it’s still called “pre-gaming” even when there is no sporting event attached. Saves lots of money and is fun too.
Similarly, avoid wasting money on soft drinks when you go out. I was really strict with our kids growing up about drinking pop (that’s Midwest for Coke, Pepsi, etc.) We always had water with our meals. I realize that not only was this so much better for our health, but saved us lots of money. I never really tracked this, but if the four of us went out, let’s say once a week for twelve years and didn’t spend $12 a meal on drinks (a conservative estimate) and we added that to a savings account we’d have about $8,500. Where could we be going with that money?!
- Maximize the points on your credit cards –
If you like to travel there’s a card for that. If you dine out a lot there’s a card for that. Assuming you don’t keep balances on your credit cards (we know that is a waste of money) consider doing a bit of research on what card best fits your needs. Points = money, free trips, etc. down the road. Check out The Points Guy for some guidance.
Estimated time: To research 15 minutes, to apply for a new card add another 15 minutes. To use your extra points for travel – one to two weeks!
Increase the Velocity of Your Generosity
If you’ve been following me for any period of time you know that I see generosity as one of the biggest drivers to prosperity. Here are some tips to do this.
- Writing thank you on your checks –
Generosity is a physical manifestation of your gratitude. So start with the gratitude. For many, many years I’ve been writing “thank you” under my signature on my checks. I do it so automatically that I barely think about it. Why do I do this? To acknowledge my gratitude that I have the money to pay the bill or donate or for whatever reason I’m writing the check. If you don’t write checks any longer, you can add this to the memo box on a virtual payment or simply say it out loud as you hit enter. Be grateful for what flows in and what flows out – this is an easy practice to move your mindset from scarcity to abundance and prosperity.
Estimated time: 2 seconds per check or payment.
- Put your giving on auto-pilot –
This is another all-time favorite of mine. Just like Tip #1, systematizing the money you are allocating to charity will allow you to be more deliberate and generous in your giving. You can do this by taking a percentage of your income each week, month, or quarter and putting it into a separate account earmarked for giving. Where do you give it? Where ever you are called to do so. A qualified charity, a family member or friend in need, a cause you believe in … you decide. If you choose a qualified charity you might get a tax deduction which is awesome, but that shouldn’t be the driving motivation.
Estimated time: 20 minutes to set up an account and schedule regular contributions.
Congratulations if you are already doing all of these things!
And let me know your tips for being better with money.