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Tips for Saving Money & Paying Off Debt

Updated on December 13, 2007
Piggy bank, a glass jar, or a bank account: start saving today.
Piggy bank, a glass jar, or a bank account: start saving today.

Collectively, Americans are spending more than they earn - and that is pretty scary. Learning the skills and strategies to save and invest money can improve the quality of your life.

I like to apply the same strategies and ideas to my financial goals as I do to my health goals (with a few tweaks, of course). Remember that you do not have to deprive yourself of things to achieve your goals, whether it is saving money, dieting, or learning a new habit. Learning how to save and invest will help you get out of debt, teach you how to buy things that have meaning for you, and help you create important buffers (like retirement savings).

So, how do you do it?

Small steps. Keep in mind the story of the Tortoise and the Hare - you are the tortoise here. All of those small steps, in time, will cover a huge distance.

Start a Savings Jar

Sure, it sounds too simple to be true, but it works. Remember: small steps. So, go get a jar. Or a box. Or a separate bank account just for these savings.

Organize how you add money to your savings jar.

1. Standard Savings

This is money that goes into your savings on a regular basis. Pick an amount (monthly, weekly, or daily) to put into that jar, and stick to the plan. Do $1 a day, $5 a week, or $50 a month – you choose. As you continue on, you will find that you can increase this amount.

2. Savings from Non-Expenses

What are non-expenses? This is money you decide not to spend. Say you usually spend $5 a day on a coffee, but today you decide to get a different coffee that only costs $2. Add the $3 you save to your total savings.

You just saved $3 by spending less money on something you always buy, now you can double the savings by adding that $3 to your savings jar.

3. Payoff Your Debt

You have debt that you need to pay off. It is especially important to start paying off those bad kinds of debt (those that carry high interest rates).

What is considered debt? It is the amount you have not paid for more than one payment cycle. If you go shopping and charge $300 to your credit card, then pay $300 to your credit card company that month, this isn’t considered debt. You don’t end up paying any interest this way.

However, if your credit card balance is consistently $1500, and you are only making payments of $150 a month (with a $50 minimum monthly payment), you are paying off debt.

How do you consider this savings? The minimum payment is what you have to pay, so anything above that is considered an extra payment. The remaining $100 can be considered debt payoff, which means you will end up saving more money in the long run by paying off your debt now.

Remember that some types of debt are good, like mortgages with a good rate, student loans, etc.

Get Motivated to Save

It sure is easy to decide to start saving, but it is hard to keep doing it on a long-term basis. The same can be said about dieting. Have you ever been gung ho at the beginning of a diet, but it quickly fades away and you end up gaining the weight back? The key to avoiding this pitfall is to make a lifestyle change.

Don’t just think of it as one dollar…that dollar saved now will be worth more later. That dollar can be turned into so much more in the future.

Need some more motivational tips? Try these:

  • Split your savings – use some of it towards something fun to look forward to, like a family trip. The rest of it should be put towards something serious, like retirement. This way, you have savings goals to look forward to.
  • Use your savings as a long-term investment plan for retirement, college funds for your children, or a house.
  • Look forward to being free from financial worries.

My budget is tight already, how do I find money to save?

It can be really rough at first, especially if you feel like you are already doing a lot to cut costs. Remember that it is okay to start small!

· Track everything! When you are tracking every single bit you earn and spend, down to the penny, you will be much more aware of where your money goes. This means you even have to track that pack of gum, candy bar, or can of soda. You will be surprised at how reluctant you will be to spend money on certain things if you are forced to write it down.

· Think before buying. Do you really need this or do you want it? Is this a necessary purchase or frivolous spending?

· Create a budget with all of your expenses. When you know just exactly how much you spend on bills and what you have leftover, you will be able to make smarter choices. Include an automatic payment to your savings when creating this budget.

· Reassess your needs. Do you need the extra phone line? Can you cut back on the cable package? Obviously, there are some things you must spend money on, like utilities, groceries, and other bills. You also want to maintain a comfortable style of living, so don’t cut out anything that will change the quality of your life. Personally, I don’t watch much television, so cable is something I can forgo. I spend a lot of time on the internet, so I consider my DSL connection a worthwhile expense. You need to make these decisions based on your own lifestyle.

· Cut coupons, but only use the ones that are for products you normally purchase. Consider any money saved as savings, then double it by putting that savings into your savings jar.

How Important is Saving to You?

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    • profile image

      Nemanja 3 years ago

      Hi Terri. Hotel prices in Dubai have deprpod quite a fair bit. What is your budget? If you want to stay near the airport, there is the Premier Inn (~ 250dhs) which provides free shuttle service to the airport and Dubai Metro. If you know where you want to go, the Metro is a cheap way of moving around. You can also search around for hotels which are near the Metro stns. There might be some good deals for 4-star hotels. Dubai is not unlike KL in that the place is quite sprawled out. If you can shortlist some hotels, I can perhaps let you know whether the place is good or not. But I am no expert in Dubai as I hardly stay there. We just do day trips.As for food, whenever we go to Dubai, we usually go for Chinese food. So can't recommend any good Arabian food! Indian food is also quite good here.The Burj Khalifa has just re-opened their observation deck. I think it costs about 120dhs to get there. You also might be interested in the Burj Al Arab as well. I personally have not gone there though.Souq Madinat Jumeirah is quite a lovely mall to visit as it is based on Arab architecture. And of course very touristy..Atlantis Hotel on the Palm Jumeirah could be a worthwhile visit.. just to see this engineering marvel. Though you might a better aerial view from the Burj Khalifa observation deck.The Global Village mentioned by Lianne has closed for the season. They are only open in winter.You can email me for more details.

    • blairtracy profile image

      blairtracy 6 years ago from Canada

      Great information. As a current student, once I am done paying for my schooling. I will take this advice to pay off loans. Thank-you.

    • magkouin profile image

      magkouin 6 years ago

      great tips on how to save money!..thank you very much

    • CJamesIII profile image

      CJamesIII 6 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      This was a great hub. I read the Jerrold Mundis book How to Get Out of Debt... years ago and I recommend it to everyone. It is in both of my hubs about saving money and investing.

    • Julie McM profile image

      Julie McM 6 years ago from Southern California

      Practical advice for all of us. Thanks.

    • profile image

      adair_francesca 6 years ago

      Great hub! I really want to save some money and the information here will be really helpful.

    • profile image

      Carl 6 years ago

      Great hub and really sound information. My top tip is this. Always use the accumulator method. Now what is that?

      Well when my kids say to me, 'but that only saves $1 a day Mom' I tell them that it saves $356 a year and ask them to think of what they could buy with that? The result is amazing they start making lists of the things they could buy all because they helped Mom save $1 a day.

      It works on grown ups too lol. My husbands car magazines!!! well we worked out we could buy a new (second hand) car with the 'meagre' savings he would make if he just stopped buying so many of them, mostly for the train journey on the way home from work. Hope that helps y'all. Try it.

    • profile image

      Mark Randall 7 years ago

      Saving money can be difficult especially if you are on a tight budget. I always like putting all of my tax returns into a savings account. I find this to be another great way to steadily build up my savings account. Also, cutting out the morning coffee trip can save in the long run. It may only be two dollars a day, but 5 days a week and 52 weeks a year comes out to be $520.00. Just something to think about. Great Hub!

    • profile image

      Transportation Collection Agency 7 years ago

      Great post. Saving money is wonderful, and paying off debt is even better.

    • RoseGardenAdvice profile image

      RoseGardenAdvice 7 years ago from San Francisco

      Very, very informative written in an easy to read style. Yes - small savings is the only way to go. Thanks!

    • profile image

      ThinkBigger 7 years ago

      I like this hub..it provides many great tips about debt reduction and savings

    • moonfarah profile image

      moonfarah 7 years ago

      Thanks a lot, for the advice! Your hub is great! It has really changed how I order money!

    • profile image

      Business Debt Collection 7 years ago

      Great post. When you say buying a $2 coffee instead of the $5, why not brew it at home and pay $.25? Thanks for the advice!

    • bd160900 profile image

      bd160900 7 years ago from San Diego

      very interesting! love it.

    • MarissaG profile image

      MarissaG 7 years ago from Canada

      This is very useful information. A lot of great money saving tips here. The savings jar one is one that I have been using for a long time and I find it really works well.

    • lawrencesykes profile image

      lawrencesykes 7 years ago

      This page is a great read. Thanks for all the tips!

      I actually owe over £50k and have got a company called Payplan assisting me. I recommend them to anyone in debt.

      I found their details on http://www.debt-management-companies.co.uk

    • profile image

      best forex robot 7 years ago

      It does seem that the jar idea is pretty simple, but I'll bet adding a set amount of money to it week after week would really make it add up. And the more you add to it the more motivating it becomes to watch it grow.

    • profile image

      Pay off Debts 7 years ago

      Simple and awesome techniques to build your own corpus for the future so that no debts have to be taken for unforeseen events.

      Great Hub.

    • mailxpress profile image

      Michelle Cesare 7 years ago from New York

      Hi,

      Great helpful informative Hub. I placed a link to this Hub on one of my free websites. I won't post it here because it might be considered spam but if you would like to know what the webpage is contact me. I'm more than happy to show you. Great topic.

      mailxpress

    • cupul profile image

      cupul 7 years ago from jakarta

      gret hub!, thank's for sharing fren.

    • antonrosa profile image

      antonrosa 7 years ago from USA

      Great information here!

    • hanrianto profile image

      hanrianto 7 years ago

      great advice, it's true that saving is the most important part that will lead people to financial freedom not financial doom.Thanks

    • bgigstead profile image

      bgigstead 7 years ago

      Great hub. As a Financial Advisor it is nice to see someone with the right idea. It is sad when you talk to 2 people who had the same chances in life, and 1 is "dirt" poor and the other one saved and is very comfortable in retirement. Keep on doing what your doing.

    • profile image

      James 7 years ago

      some wonderful and excellent tips thanks.

    • profile image

      Melvin 7 years ago

      Great tips on how to save. The most difficult hurdle to overcome is to actually follow your advice. It takes a lifestyle change which can be incredibly hard to achieve.

    • itcoll profile image

      itcoll 7 years ago

      these are excellent ways to pay off debt.thanks for the tips.

    • profile image

      scheng1 7 years ago

      This is what my parents taught us, especially they said to save money before buying anything.

    • profile image

      Loila 7 years ago

      I like to read articles like this. It reminds me to be cautious in spending money. Thanks...

    • profile image

      Hxprof 7 years ago from Clearwater, Florida

      I especially like the part about writing down expenses. I've found that I don't have to write things down for too long before I've created an awareness of my spending-then I change it.

    • forlan profile image

      forlan 7 years ago

      we use to buy coffee for $ 3. If we buy it for $ 2, Should we save 0ne dollar into piggy bank or else?

    • bayareagreatthing profile image

      bayareagreatthing 7 years ago from Bay Area California

      Wow- that is such good advice! I have taken some of these steps myself and they REALLY work!! The advice to rethink needs is really crucial! Thanks for such practical advice.

      PS- I wrote an little hub on something we are doing to save this Christmas and would like to share with your readers-

      https://hubpages.com/holidays/Christmas-Ideas-for-

    • midnightbliss profile image

      Haydee Anderson 8 years ago from Hermosa Beach

      these are excellent saving tips, thanks.

    • profile image

      forex derivative 8 years ago

      great tips

    • babedoll50 profile image

      babedoll50 8 years ago from Alberta

      This hub is full of great tips. However sometimes people just dont learn until they hit rock bottom. I know this because we were almost there at one point. Now we do a number of things to put money aside for such things as savings and emergencies.

    • Kent Campbell profile image

      Kent Campbell 8 years ago from Ventura, California

      You have some really great tips for the average person. Most of the time saving is easy said than done, but you will feel so much better when you know you have that extra money just in case. Most of the time you just need motivation to get started and that is what most people lack.

    • musicprof profile image

      musicprof 8 years ago from New Orleans

      Fantastic tips, Stacie. Sometimes I wonder if the young and young adults today ever worry about having enough to survive on when they get on with age. More should really be done to encourage people to save more and spend less or only on what is necessary.

    • Curious Traveller profile image

      Curious Traveller 8 years ago from United Kingdom

      This is a fantastic Hub with lots of great advice for improving anyone's financial health. I wish that knowing that and putting it in to practice were the same thing!

    • Which4u profile image

      Which4u 8 years ago from Leicester, UK

      Some nice money saving tips here, I'm very familiar with the "get motivated to save" section!

    • BundleBoy profile image

      BundleBoy 8 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Nice simple easy to follow advice Stacie. People need to get back to basics in such bad times. I would love to see our government set an example.

    • Cammy Stubbs profile image

      Cammy Stubbs 9 years ago from Idaho

      Thank you! Empowering individuals through education is what this economy needs more of. Giving power to the consumers is where our economy starts to look brighter.

    • Tessali profile image

      Tessali 9 years ago from United States

      These are excellent tips, Stacie. My husband and I have change jar and all our change go into it. Any change that we get back from breaking bills goes into this jar. I didn't think about adding in dollars though from money we would have spent on such items as coffee or other small token items. Great idea! What I have learned not to do is go shopping with any credit cards. We leave them at home. That way we cannot add to any debt we already have incurred. If we really need to have something then we have time to think about it because we have to go back to the store. Usually we find out we really don't need the item and end up not going back to get it. Shopping without money on us leads to just looking. We also ended up cutting back on cable like you mentioned. We took a look at what we watched for channels for a whole week and found they were on basic cable. No need for any premium channels at all so this saved us money. So you have made some excellent points, Stacie and I shall look harder to save more.

    • Stacie Naczelnik profile image
      Author

      Stacie Naczelnik 9 years ago from Seattle

      Most college loans have a low interest rate. They are meant to be paid off slowly, so it doesn't reflect negatively against you with a credit agency as long as you make regular payments - in fact, it helps build your credit. This is why they are considered "good debts" - it all depends on how you look at it. If you are going to have debt, better a school loan than credit card debt.

    • profile image

      Karsten 9 years ago

      I like your informative hub - though I don't quite understand how you can all a student loan "good debts".

      To me good debts is debts that make you money - ie. someone pays you more to take on that debt than what it costs you to have it - as would be the case for a mortgage on a buy-to-let property.

    • profile image

      Jeff 9 years ago

      Wow! Great info and resources you're suggesting. I agree that it is VERY important to track everything.

    • Angela Harris profile image

      Angela Harris 9 years ago from Around the USA

      Great informational Hub. I don't know how many times my penny jar has saved me. I kid you not. Every little bit really does add up, as you obviously know.

    • cgull8m profile image

      cgull8m 9 years ago from North Carolina

      Great Tips, I have started using Mint.com, it is a very handy and safe tool better than Quicken, Money software. Give it a try you will love it and then they give plenty of money saving tools soon after. I love it, easy to use and they work with many major financial institutions.

    • MM Del Rosario profile image

      MM Del Rosario 9 years ago from NSW, Australia

      I always remind my daughter (14 yrs old) that money doesn't grow on trees and instill on her the importance of saving- she has been working-- delivering local newspaper every Tuesday for a year now and she has saved and  was able to buy a digital camera thru her  newspaper delivery money.  Great Hub.

    • profile image

      djay 9 years ago

      Great post!!

      I suggest reading The Simple Dollar - it is a very good blog resource for the people who would like to save and live good doing so.

      Very recommended.

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      My grandmother always told me that when you get money put half in savings, a quarter in a drawer or piggy bank, and a quarter in your pocket.

      I've tried to stick with that method, but with credit cards it's so easy just to spend. :-\

    • Isabella Snow profile image

      Isabella Snow 9 years ago

      Great hub! Im working on the saving from non-expenses.

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 9 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      Everyone could learn from your article. Like you say though you have to start small. One person I know (my son) earns say $5 and spends $10. I just cannot get through to him. He wastes so much money on cigies too. But waste not want not. It will come back to bite him in the a..... one day. No that is a very good hub I may even send it to him to read. See if that works..

    • profile image

      Wehzo 9 years ago

      Great and informative hub. I once read an article entitled, "Everything I know I learned in kindergarten". The lessons in your hub are fool proof and very workable. They are things we learn growing up, but forget, all too often. Thanks for reminding us that we need to be hands-on with our finances and our time.