Did you save 6.4 percent of your paycheck last month? That's how much Americans managed to sock away on average, according to a recent Commerce Department study. If your savings rate is not up to snuff and you're finding it hard to pinch those pennies for a rainy day, try some of these sneaky switches to trick yourself into saving more than the national average.
[In Pictures: 8 Painless Ways to Save Money.]
1. Fire your bank?
I dare you to add up all your banking fees. Go ahead, add your ATM fees, monthly account fees, overdraft protection fees, minimum balance fees, debit card transaction fees, and the myriad of other miscellaneous fees to see how much your bank is costing you. If you're not careful, those seemingly small bank fees can sneak up and take a serious bite out of your savings. If you're paying a pretty penny for the privilege of using your own money, then maybe it's time to give your banker the pink slip and switch banks. There's no doubt that switching banks can be a pain, but spending the time to open a no-fee checking account or negotiating a lower fee plan could save you up to $100 (or even more) each month. Download this free Switch Bank Accounts Checklist to make your move smoother.
2. Make your kids pay for it!
If your kids keep asking for stuff they don't need, then maybe it's time to get sneaky by closing the bank of mom and dad and making your kids spend their own allowance. Teaching kids the value of earning a dollar can help them grow into financially savvy teens, and not giving in to every childhood whim could save you hundreds each month. Be strong. You can do it. A fun way to get your kids to start saving for stuff is to teach them about setting financial goals -- download this How to Set Financial Goals Worksheet to make saving money a family affair.
3. Lower your mutual fund fees.
If you put your retirement savings into mutual funds, chances are those sneaky investing fees -- management expense ratios (MERs), loads, and trailer fees -- are all drastically decreasing your investment returns each year, without you even noticing! Do yourself a financial favor by reading your mutual fund prospectus -- that booklet your financial advisor sends you every year -- and adding up your total investment costs.
Use this Portfolio MER Calculator to tally the average management expense ratio for your entire portfolio as well as the total yearly expenses incurred. This handy financial tool may just inspire you to switch to lower-cost investments, such as index funds or exchange-traded funds. Cutting your investment costs by over 1 percent could save you thousands per year, depending on the size of your portfolio.
[Visit the U.S. News Personal Finance site for more insight and money management tips.]
4. Pay your mortgage biweekly, not monthly.
Paying your mortgage every two weeks saves you an astounding amount of money and pays off your mortgage sooner. By opting for biweekly payments, you will pay a bit more each month and there will be a few months where three mortgage payments are due, depending on how the weeks fall, but if you are on biweekly paychecks, you won’t notice the difference. For example, when compared with monthly payments, switching to an accelerated biweekly payment plan can save you around $30,100 in interest and end your mortgage almost four years sooner, assuming a $200,000 loan at a 5.6 percent interest rate with a 25 year term. That's an average of $100 saved each month! Also, try these 6 Ways To Avoid a Mortgage Meltdown for more sneaky ways to own your home sooner.
5. Plug in your slow cooker.
Coming home after work without a family dinner plan is a surefire way to spend big bucks on takeout. So why not get sneaky by making your family a home-cooked meal while you're away at work? Just throw a few tasty ingredients into a slow cooker the night before, and plug in the pot before heading out the door.
Not only are slow cookers easy to use and frugal to buy, but they can also cut your grocery bill significantly by allowing you to purchase cheaper cuts of meat and tenderizing them over low heat for a longer time. Need more convincing? Check out 6 Reasons to use a Slow Cooker and How to Buy a Slow Cooker or Crock Pot for all the healthy, cost-cutting, and time-saving details. When you're ready to get cooking, try these slow cooker recipes to save on your food budget this month.
Kerry K. Taylor writes at Squawkfox.com, a blog where personal finance and frugal living are sexy, delicious, and fun. Kerry is the author of 397 Ways To Save Money: Spend Smarter & Live Well on Less.