Most everyone would like to be independently wealthy, but few people know how to build wealth. Instead of patiently saving and frugally spending, most of us would rather just wait for the big score, the golden opportunity, or a piece of that elusive pie in the sky.
Stop dreaming and start focusing on your future. Even if you don't become a fat cat you can still live comfortably by making a few minor changes. All it takes is a little willpower and the 10 strategies we offer below.
Watch out for this first step - it's a doozy. You're going to have to undo everything you think you know about saving money and budgeting. It hasn't served you all that well until now, so rethink your strategy for socking away money and gear it more toward the future.
If you're like most people, you spend some of your paycheck, pay your bills, and save whatever's left. That is the opposite of what you need to do if you're planning to build your nest egg and hunker down for the future.
You should put your financial goals first, pay your bills next, and then you can spend (or don't) the money that remains. This means making a concerted effort to start saving toward your future now. After all, it's never too early to adopt good money habits.
We're aware of two obstacles that you'll have to overcome in order to adopt a smart, maintainable savings plan:
Forget the excuses and the "what ifs." Start changing your mindset now. And keep in mind that times flies when you're having fun, but your money should never be having fun - it should be hard at work at all times.
Set big goals and see if you can keep up with them. For example, if you commit to saving $50,000 over the next five years, you'll have your work cut out for you. It may seem like a daunting task, but once you start seeing your savings account grow, you'll be encouraged to actually exceed your goal.
Likewise, ratchet up your game when it comes to paying down your debts. It's going to take all the self-discipline you can muster to pay off your mortgage early or make extra payments on your auto loan as you save even more money at the same time, but you'll be glad you took on this accelerated, two-pronged approach. In a few short years, you'll have saved so much dough that you'll be able to pay for most of your purchases with cash. Yes!
If you want to man up and take control, pass the reins over to an automated program that takes money from your checking account every month and diverts it into your savings account. After a while, you won't even notice the little hole in your checking account, but you will notice the little nest egg in your savings account. For those who are more daring and bold, have that same automated program take money from your checking to feed both your savings and your investment accounts.
Needless to say, you should check all of your bills, receipts, and statements carefully because no one will tell you if you have hidden or recurring charges that you've forgotten about. Utility bills are goldmines for finding extra charges and service fees that you need to question. Every few months, you should review any subscriptions that are automatically charged to your credit card every month. Cancel the ones that are obsolete or no longer needed. It's an easy way to keep more of your money, and it only takes a few minutes to complete.
Try to live within your means, especially when it comes to major purchases like your home and vehicle. If that means trading in your $400-a-month gas-guzzling showpiece SUV for something more practical and fuel-efficient, so be it. You might have trouble keeping up with the Joneses, but rest assured that one day you'll surpass the Joneses by a country mile. For now, you need to reconsider luxury items that may be crimping your style instead of defining it. What good is living in luxury if you're struggling to stay afloat?
Never pay full price for anything. Nowadays, the MSRP, or sticker price, is just for suckers. There are so many comparison shopping websites, and you can always find a lower price than the one offered. For items which you are fine buying used, you can get additional savings by buying from classified sites like Craigslist or using sniping software on auction sites ike eBay. When you go shopping, leave your credit card at home and take along a pad and pen instead. If you see something you can't live without, jot down the details, including the taxes and warranty information. Then go home and do some research online. For starters, many online purchases are free of sales tax, and the prices are much more competitive.
You may think coupons are for fixed-income oldsters, but anyone can save big with a little clipping. Forbes reports that regular coupon users report savings of up to 40% on their grocery and household purchases. That's because there's an art to couponing, and it's easy to master. You can clip coupons in advance, or you could scan items in the store or supermarket with your smartphone to get instant digital savings at the checkout stand. Online there is even a service which automatically displays coupon codes while you check out. One misconception is that men don't clip coupons, but they most certainly do. They just don't use coupons the same way women do. A man will search for three days and drive 90 miles out of his way to get a few bucks off an oil change or a new chainsaw. But then, for some reason, he will feel embarrassed about pulling out a few dollar-off coupons in the grocery store. Why is that?
By the time you've read the first seven of these strategies, you may come to the conclusion that we want you to live like a pauper – not exactly. If living frugally and counting your change will eventually put you in the lap of luxury, then yes, you should pinch pennies and spend less than you want to. But we're not suggesting you eat ramen noodles and day-old bread for the rest of your life. We're just suggesting that you re-examine your spending patterns and curb your impulse buying. You can start slowly - try brown bagging your lunch for work once or twice a week, for example.
For most people it is generally easier to lower your expenses to save more than it is to accelerate investment returns. Many people who try to play catch up end up falling for ponzi schemes, other financial scams, or even simply taking on excessive financial risk
Setting personal spending limits is very easy, and sticking to those limits, once you get the hang of it, is also easy. Just as an example, your rule-of-thumb limits might be to never spend more than $50 on shoes, more than $100 on a piece of sporting equipment, or more than $300 on anything that isn't essential to your life. The great thing is that you set your own rules - so get creative. How about never using a shopping cart when you go to Target, or never spending more than 10% of your income on clothing?
Everyone else is making money selling stuff online, and so can you. Anything you have of value that is still in its original box can fetch a pretty penny on eBay or Craigslist. You just need to look up the item on eBay (don't worry, it's there) and find out the market value. You will be able to see what auctions are currently going for & they have a checkbox to see recently completed auctions so you can see the final price with shipping. Then take clear pictures of your item, write a snappy title, and wait for your PayPal account to swell. The only stipulation is that you don't fritter away the extra money you make this way.
There is also nothing wrong with throwing an estate sale, which is really just a garage sale with higher prices.
There are many more ways to save money and increase your net worth, but most of them involve some sort of sacrifice. Spending money may give you instant gratification, but saving money gives you lasting satisfaction that you'll thank yourself for later.