Taking Baby Steps to Saving Money

Every year, getting out of debt and/or saving money tops the lists of New Year’s Resolutions. But as we know, most people abandon their New Year’s goals within a few months, and a full thirty percent of people only make it a few weeks. That means the vast majority of people who set out with good financial intentions aren’t going to end the year any richer than when they started it. That’s just pain depressing. But it doesn’t have to be, you can beat those odds! Last week, we wrote about the importance of taking baby steps to reach your goals, and this week we want to share some specific baby steps that you can take this year to achieve your goal of reducing debt and/or save money. Follow these steps day-in-and-day-out and you will end the year richer than you began it.

Sarah on “Give Yourself an Emotional Carrot”

“Why do you really want to get out of debt or save more money this year? If you don’t have an answer to that question, you won’t make it through the year. You need something to carry you through those moments when you really are tempted to revert back to your old spending habits. So give yourself an emotional carrot. Take a few moments today to write down why you need to achieve this goal, no matter what. Answer the question, why is it a MUST? Once you’re done, cut out those reasons and put them in the billfold section of your wallet, or if you’re a credit card spender, fold it up and put it next to your top credit card. That way, every time you open your wallet to spend something, you will be reminded of why you must be penny wise this year.”

Alicia on “The Importance of Specificity”

“A goal without specificity is really just a wish. Transform your wish into something you can absolutely achieve by getting specific. Start with the big picture. How much debt do you want to erase or money do you want to save this year? Once you have that big number, break it down into smaller monthly goals, and then weekly, and daily goals. That may seem like an unnecessary step, but it is crucial, because it shows you that by taking small, daily action you can achieve your big goal. Then each day as you write your to-do list, jot down what you have to do today to reach your daily goal.”

Here are a few more ways to take baby steps towards saving money or getting out of debt in the coming year.

1. Keep Track of What You Spend…And Save.

The experts are right, tracking your daily spending is an important exercise in financial management. If you don’t know where it all goes, you won’t know how to plug up the holes! We’ve developed a free expense tracker form that makes it easy to see where you are spending your money. Go to: http://www.getbuttonedup.com/tools/ and click on the monthly spending tool. Another great spreadsheet for tracking your spending is available at http://www.frugal-mama.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/FrugalMamaAnnualBudget1.pdf. In addition to tracking what you spend, you should also track what you save. Create a space in your daily to-do notebook for adding up what you have saved at the end of each day. Then at the end of each week, add it up. Nothing motivates more than actually seeing your progress.

2. Take Advantage of All That Free Online Advice.

There are so many great tips for saving money that are already posted online, like these 66 tips from the Federal Trade Commission: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/general/gen14.shtm, and these radical ways to save money from MSN: http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/Savinganddebt/Savemoney/P36019.asp. Take advantage of all that free advice! Every Monday morning go online to find one specific strategy for saving money from an expert and add it to your to-do list for the week. If you do one extra thing a week for 52 weeks, it will add up to quite a lot.

3. Make a Change Jar.

It’s so simple. But if you save rather than spend the change that you get each time you pay cash on something, you’ll have a nice little bucket of savings at the end of the year. Multiply that by all of the spenders in your household and you could have hundreds of dollars in coins come December. Go get an empty bell jar or tall Tupperware container, label it CHANGE, and at the end of every day, empty any loose change you have accumulated into the jar.