Saving Secrets: How to Save at Least $50 a Week
While $50 might seem like a lot of money, making a few small changes can leave you with that much, or more, at the end of every week. "When you really think about it, saving $50 a week isn't that much money," points out Brandon Small, a Minneapolis-based Charted Financial Analyst and Certified Public Accountant. "If you do four cash transactions a day, you probably get a good chunk of that back in coins every week."
Try Eliminating Unnecessary Monthly Expenses
"Regardless of how much money my clients make, there's a common thread among many of them. They don't realize where their money is going," explains Small. "If you get rid of a recurring expense, you've essentially locked in those savings forever." When savings becomes a goal, many people are able to look at their monthly bills in a new light. Some choose to make do with fewer TV channels, potentially saving $30 a month, or $7.50 a week. If you can trade your $40 membership at a full-service gym for a $19 membership at a good enough gym, or eliminate your gym membership altogether, you'll save $5 to $10 a week. Brandon Small adds that "smartphone service is another opportunity to save, especially if you're around Wi-Fi connections all day." While you're cutting your cell phone bill, consider dropping your landline to save even more money.
Ways to Pay Down Debt
While it's usually a good idea to save, there is one instance where you come out ahead by spending your money: when you have high interest rate credit card debt. "Why would you put money in savings at 1 or 2 percent, at best, when you could use the same money to pay off a credit card at 15 or 20 percent?" asks Small. Using your extra money to pay down your debt will make it easier for you to save in the long run, since you can take what you're paying on the debt and on the interest and put it right into savings. Since small credit card debts frequently have relatively high monthly payments, even paying off small debts can free up an additional $5 to $10 a week to get you to your goal.
Make Daily Choices
If trimming expenses and paying down debt can't get you to your $50 goal, you may have to change some of your behaviors. Instead of going to the movies twice a month, go once. You can turn an evening that costs $40 with popcorn, drinks and candy into a $5 night for a DVD rental and bag of microwave popcorn. Eliminating two smoothies or blended iced coffee drinks a week can save you $10 per week, and eating at home one more time per week can save a few dollars -- or more, depending on how much you usually spend.
Pay With Fives
Finally, if you really want to accelerate your savings, pay for everything you buy in increments of five dollars. For example, if you buy a 89 cent pack of gum, use a $5 bill, and if you buy a shirt for $16.99, use a $20 bill. When you get your change back, save it. "When you add a lot of small numbers up, they turn into big numbers very quickly," points out Small. If you average $2.50 in change twice a day, you'll have $35 left over at the end of the week and be well on your way to your $50 goal. On the other hand, if using cash stops you from spending money that you don't really need to spend, save all of the cash and you'll come out even further ahead.
What $50 Does
"What do you think $50 a week is worth?" asks Mr. Small. "It's $2,600 a year, but when you start adding in interest, it grows very quickly." For example, the Consumer Federation of America calculated that if you saved $50 per week every week for 40 years, you'd have $332,020 even if you invested it at a conservative rate of only 5 percent per year. This means that you'd end up with more than three times what you actually put in. Furthermore, if you just kept the $332,000 invested at 5 percent, it'd throw off $16,601 in interest every year without you doing anything.