Every dollar matters!Personal finance is not a game for the lazy or indifferent. Know where your money is at all times, know how much you're spending, and find the absolute best home for your money.
Here we take a look at a few saving solutions that may be worth your time, and interest.
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#1: Keep the Change™Bank of America's (Stock Quote: BAC) Keep the Change™ program makes a lot of sense for those who make debit card transactions on a frequent basis. Here's how it works, according to the bank: "When a customer signs up for Keep the Change™, the amount of every purchase they make with a Bank of America debit card is automatically rounded up to the nearest whole dollar and transferred from the customer's checking account into their savings account at the end of the day. So customers get to keep the change and grow their savings."
Plus the bank offers 100% matching on your change transfers for the first three months (up to an annual maximum of $250). This is a stellar service to check out if you often find yourself too busy to make regular contributions to a rainy day fund.
Photo Credit: Bank of America Corporation
#2: Account Snapshot Text AlertsAmerican Express (Stock Quote: AXP) offers cardholders free daily text message alerts which provide an "Account Snapshot." This way, you know exactly how much you have spent during the past 24 hours, even if you don't have time to log in to their Web site and view your recent activity.
This cuts down on fraud, helps keep you within your budget, and may guilt you into spending less if you splurge one day. You can't ignore those text alerts!
Photo Credit: American Express Company
#3: Hard BudgetingGive yourself a certain amount of cash each week, say $100, and allow yourself no other ATM withdrawals or expenses until next week. If you spend all of your cash early, you have to tough it out the last few days -- if you save it 'til the weekend, you can have some fun.
PNC's (Stock Quote: PNC) Virtual Wallet service offers next generation online account management features such as the "Money Bar" -- it allows you to easily divide your funds into three distinct categories: money set aside for bills, money available for spending, and "reserved" funds that should not be used. (Money Bar is also included in the Virtual Wallet iPhone app.)
Photo Credit: PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.
#4: Siphon Cash Back Rewards Into Investment AccountsThis idea is somewhat similar to the Keep the Change program mentioned in an earlier slide. Get a credit card with generous cash back rewards, pay it off in full each month so you take advantage of the grace period and do not accrue any interest... then take whatever cash back rewards you receive and immediately invest it in a high-yield savings account, reliable mutal fund, or a handful of your favorite stocks.
The Schwab (Stock Quote: SCHW) Invest First credit card makes that easy: it offers unlimited 2% cash back on regular purchases, which is placed into the customer's Schwab One brokerage account automatically. There is no minimum monthly purchase amount and currently no annual fee, although you need to setup a Schwab brokerage account before you can get the cash rewards.
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#5: Online Savings AccountsMost checking accounts provide no interest whatsoever; HSBC Bank's (Stock Quote: HBC) elite Premier Checking accounts (for customers with more than $100,000) does provide interest, but it's miniscule: 0.01% APY.
Try an easy to use online savings account, such as ING Direct's popular Orange Savings Account. There are no fees or required minimum balances, and you can easily transfer funds from an existing checking account.
#6: Maximize each paycheckAre things being deducted from your paycheck that you no longer want? Still paying into a vision plan even though you got Lasik last month? Need to adjust your 401k contribution to reflect a change in your lifestyle?
Remember to ensure that you are not having too much money withheld for taxes and use the IRS' free and surprisingly simple online Withholding Calculator to see if you can claim more allowances, meaning a larger paycheck. I was shocked by how much money I could save when I entered my info (and you can print out the results for reference later on).
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#7: Yard SalesHold a yard sale every six months: if you haven't used something you own in that amount of time, chances are you don't need it. Sell unwanted DVDs, CDs, and other items on Craigslist or eBay.
Also, if you have any clothes you no longer like (old jeans, anyone?), sell them to a thrift store. Beacon's Closet, a thrift shop in Brooklyn, N.Y., told us they pay about 35% of what they actually sell the item for. Not bad.
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#8: Spending JournalKeep a journal; record every expense you make throughout the day. Do this for an entire week. You'll be surprised how much you are spending on unnecessary items and may discover ways to save even more.
Do you really need that $4 latte when there's free coffee at the office? Did you tip the airport shuttle driver too much? A spending journal forces you to be more conscious of your cash outflow.
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#9: Collect Loose ChangeCollect your loose change and deposit it once per month into a savings account.
TD Bank (Stock Quote: TD) makes this easy with self-serve, free coin counter machines available at many of their branches. Best of all, there is no service fee to use the machine and you don't need to be a TD Bank customer!
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#10: Automatic depositsSet up a regularly scheduled automatic deposit into your online savings account on payday. It doesn't have to be much; the key is to never touch this money.
Even if you spend the rest of your paycheck, at least a small chunk will be safe and stashed away, quietly earning compound interest. Check out this handy emergency savings calculator to see how much your small automatic deposits will eventually snowball into.
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