Saving in 2011

The following is a guest post by Tara Alley, a freelance writer native to Montana and currently writing and living in Orange County, CA. You can reach her at: alley.tara [at] gmail [dot] com.

How often do we all come to the close of a year and sigh because we’ve come nowhere near where we wanted to in terms of money saved, pennies in the bank, a better grasp on frugality and that elusive cushion that would allow us just to sit back and relax a bit? With today’s economy, I think we’re all feeling this year-end regret a little bit more, regardless of where we stand or where we wish we stood. This January, start 2011 with some solid, measurable goals that you can hold yourself accountable to, and trust me, come January 2012, you’ll love the new feeling you’ll find! Not sure where to begin? Here are ten simple things to do to start 2011 off right and get that penny-saving mind in high gear!

1) 10% Saved
No matter what, if at all possible, start putting 10% of every source of income into savings. I’m talking everything. So often we treat those little odd jobs or those bonuses as “play money” and blow them off entirely. You’ll be amazed at what happens when you take 10% of every dollar that comes to you and stick it immediately into savings.

2) Cook 2x a Week
Start cooking, at the bare minimum, two times a week. You may fight with this one… cooking takes too much time, I don’t know how, etc. Trust me, you’ll learn fast! The amount of wasted money we spend on eating out can become ridiculous. Two simple meals cooked each week will make a huge impact, and if you make extra portions each time, the leftovers will even multiply those savings even further.

3) Make Your Own Coffee
I don’t care if you’ve never made your own before. Go look at some inexpensive, standard coffee makers, buy one, and start brewing your own. If you figure $2-$4 a day for a cup of coffee (which a huge percentage of us willingly pay), you can pretty easily the see the savings that will accumulate.

4) Save Change!
So simple it seems like it shouldn’t work, but it does! Save all your change, even those annoying pennies. Cashing them in twelve months from now will put a big smile on your face!

5) Turn Shopping Into a Game
Haven’t caught the coupon “fever” yet? See if you can make it something you do weekly that you can find some enjoyment in! Plop in a movie, spread the flyers out on the floor and start clipping. Better yet, get a couple friends to join you in the effort and you can pool your findings. Sign up online for daily/weekly e-mail deals, or join an online coupon-saving community for even more help.

6) Get a Movie Subscription
If you watch movies with any frequency, do this. Not only do these monthly movie subscriptions immensely cut the cost of renting movies, the added bonus of never having to pay late fees is huge.

7) Make it a Point to Lower Those Credit Cards
They really don’t just “go away.” If you aren’t meeting the monthly minimums yet, cut out whatever you possibly can in your life (TV, internet, movies, magazines, junk food, drinks out, etc.) to make that happen, bare minimum. Then, cut just one more thing and start paying them down, starting January! If the end of February comes, and nothing has changed, make another “extras” cut.

8) Make Gifts
Birthdays, anniversaries, promotions, baby showers, you name it. We live in a consumer society in which it’s appropriate to buy gifts for everything, kindergarten graduation included. I challenge you to get creative and start making gifts. Pick up a new hobby: baking/cooking, arts, etc. And, if you can’t think of anything to make/do, give them the gift of your time. Offer to help them with the task of their choice. A gift like that is infinitely more meaningful than a bottle of wine, any day.

9) Exercise Outside
If you’re paying a monthly gym membership, see if you can replace your activity there with exercise outside and/or home weights. Simple hand weights are very inexpensive and intense aerobic home DVDs can often get you sweating much more than a fancy elliptical playing Beverly Hills Housewives. And, jogging outside is FREE!

10) Write Out Your Goals
Just thinking of goals has very little impact on your life. Get out a notebook and make a list of what you want to change about your saving. Do you want to make cuts? Simply put more in savings? Pay off a lingering credit card? Buy more generic labels? Start a change jar? Whatever they are, big or small, write them all on paper. They will help you verbalize and realize what it is you do want to change, and you’ll have something to keep you accountable for all of 2011.

These are just a few of the thousands of ways to start a year off right with saving as one of your resolutions. Go for it, look even further, dig deeper and good luck!

Related Reading:

Four Leading Causes of Overspending

Why a Weekly Menu Matters

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