You want to make the most of your money, right? Sometimes, it's the little things that make a difference over time. Wondering what we can do to make a difference to our bottom line? Let's check out some actions we can take in order to make our money go a longer way.
[In Pictures: 8 Painless Ways to Save Money.]
1. Find a high-interest savings account. Do you have an emergency fund? If so, what interest rate is it earning? If you are like most people, you aren’t even sure. Lots of banks and institutions now offer savings accounts with competitive rates that are often 5x the national average. If you can’t find one, then check online; a high yielding cash account is a popular product that you'll find in many online banks. If you shop around, you will likely find one that pays higher than what you'll get at your local bank.
2. Consolidate bank accounts. How many checking accounts do you have? You may have solid reasons for keeping separate accounts but consider merging them if you're paying higher fees on one vs another. Who knows, it may be quite possible to save on service charges once you consolidate your accounts into one. That's because fees are often lower for bigger accounts.
If you shop around, you may find some banks that will waive service fees on their products if you maintain a certain balance. Remember also to close any accounts not currently being used. Accounts not in use will still be incurring service charges.
3. Do a balance transfer. Just as you'd consider consolidating checking or savings accounts, you should also consider consolidating your credit card debt. By doing so, you could save money on fees and possibly, interest rate charges as well. There are zero percent balance transfer cards you can look into, for this purpose.
4. Balance your check book. While we all know that balancing our check books is a good thing, if you are like most Americans, you probably aren’t doing this on a monthly basis. Balancing your checkbook does a few things for us. First, knowing what you have in your accounts will ensure that you don’t bounce any checks. In addition, knowing your balance will keep you focused on your cash flow and disposable income, and will let you think twice before making any impulse purchases.
Secondly, reconciling your account ensures its accuracy. Given that banks make mistakes, you'll want to make sure that the deposit you took to the branch actually got posted to the right account! It helps when you've got online access to your accounts, which allows you to track your transactions even more easily.
[Visit the U.S. News Personal Finance site for more insight and money management tips.]
5. Find a bank with low fees. Do you read all the small print that comes with your bank statements? What kind of fees are you being charged? Do you bank online? How much are you paying for ATM withdrawals? There is a ton of competition in the financial world these days. If you are ready for a homework assignment, add up all the fees you pay to do your everyday banking over a six month period: ATM withdrawals and deposits, online payments, monthly service charges, in-branch transactions and bill payments.
Make sure you're aware of how you are being charged by your bank. Your financial institution may offer an electronic banking package, where you pay minimal fees for electronic transactions. First, know what fees you are paying; second, get a handle on the type of customer you are and what typical transactions you make; then shop around for the best savings account with the most reasonable fees based on your banking habits.
6. Know and operate within your budget. "Budget" is a word most households don’t like to hear. Wouldn’t it be awesome to live in a world where your disposable income is endless and we never have to think about how we’re spending our money? But this is not the case for most of us today, who instead have to worry about living on a fixed income during tough economic times.
The time-proven way to stretch, save and spend wisely is to build yourself a realistic budget and then live within it. Perhaps using budget management software can be helpful. Remember that a budget isn’t meant to punish you, it really is a tool with which you can build your future, meet your goals and retire when you plan to.
Lots more could be said about all of these points. But hopefully, a number of them can resonate with you to help you stretch your dollars and grow your net worth.
Silicon Valley Blogger is a full time blogger and online entrepreneur who writes for The Digerati Life and The Smarter Wallet sites that cover general personal finance topics ranging from investing and saving to credit and debt management.