Personal Finance for Dummies
Saving money can be as fun as spending it.
Everyone knows that money doesn’t come easy but spending it can be a breeze. And with the cost of living almost always on the rise, saving some of your hard-earned dollars can sometimes seem like an uphill battle.
However, as a customer or consumer, you have the power to decide what to spend your money on and how much to spend. Businesses know this, which is why they use a variety of sales and marketing tactics to beat the competition and attract your support.
If you’re interested in harnessing that power and stretching those dollars just a little farther, especially when times are tight, you can become a supersaver by using these key tips:
Know exactly what you want and need. When you’ve decided to buy a product or service for a specific purpose, try to avoid paying for more than you need. Cellphones and usage plans are a prime example. Will you use all the bells and whistles on the latest smartphone? Walking around with limitless calling, texting, roaming and data can be comforting, but is it all worth paying for, especially when it isn’t necessary to accommodate your immediate needs? If much of what you’re paying for is a nice-to-have but not a must, you’re throwing money away.
Do some research upfront. This has never been easier. Some products have literally thousands of industry and consumer reviews online. The same goes for restaurants, auto shops, hairdressers and most other businesses. Reading them all could take a lifetime, so limit yourself to a reasonable number, as well as the insights of some experts you trust to give you the straight goods. Then, move on to some market research – compare the prices and details from a variety of providers or sellers to find the best deals and customer experience. Contact the most promising vendors to ask if the item is going on sale anytime soon and what their return policy allows.
Be prepared to negotiate. Whether you’re considering a new purchase, need a service or want to sign up for an activity, it pays to ask the right questions. Better yet, be ready to refer to a list of your wants and needs while you try to arrive at your ideal price or solution. Rather than risk losing your business, many businesses can offer discounts, additional services or incentives as part of the transaction. For example, you may not be able to talk down the price of a new car, but the dealer may be able to include some upgrades at no extra cost. Sometimes a seller may not be able to meet your needs. In this case, be willing to walk away. This isn’t a sign of defeat but rather proof of the strength of your convictions. Your willingness to leave may result in your request being escalated to someone with more authority who can offer you a better deal. Or you may discover that another supplier is better able to meet your needs. In any negotiation, be respectful and calm, but also clear about what you’re asking for.
Pay attention. Mistakes can happen, so carefully check your monthly bills and statements and deal with any inaccurate charges in a timely manner. Most companies will fix their errors with an immediate or future solution to keep you as a customer. If you encounter unnecessary resistance to your concerns, be prepared to escalate the matter until it’s resolved. In the meantime, look for an alternative provider or arrangement that will treat you with a higher standard.
Be mindful of your investment activities, as well as auto, home and health insurance policies, to ensure they reflect your current needs, especially any changes in circumstances that may be applied to your coverage. A sudden increase in annual fees and costs can easily go unnoticed, meaning the money you’re saving in other areas is now trickling down a different drain.
Advisors are there to help. Your advisor can help you take advantage of those everyday savings and put them to work to achieve your long-term financial goals.
Above all, the best approach to becoming a successful supersaver may be simply to stay on track. By spending wisely and striving to always get the best value for your money, you’ll gain more control over your finances and more power to accomplish what’s important to you.
Do the math to see what you’ll save
It may not seem like a lot from day to day but spending a little less here and there can add up to eye-popping savings over time. Even a typical shopping excursion can be a supersaving opportunity with rich results.
For example, knowing when standard grocery items regularly go on sale – sometimes up to half of the usual price – can reduce your grocery bills significantly.
While not a fortune, this amount shows how being strategic and consistently paying less for things you need can be beneficial in the long run. And don’t forget about those loyalty points cards that reward you for items you purchase regardless of their price. You’ll be getting more rewards for spending less. Another win!
What to do with all those savings
It’s nice to have some money socked away but try not to let it sit idle when it can easily be working for you. Speak to your advisor about different investment options. For example, a systematic investing plan that uses dollar-cost averaging (regularly scheduled investment contributions) takes advantage of opportunities and swings in the financial markets, which can boost your savings further.
Any extra savings can also be used to pay down debt, especially high-interest debt on credit cards, which can keep you in a constant cycle of trying to catch up. Devoting more money to chipping away at the balance will decrease what you’re paying in interest, for a faster overall reduction of what you owe.