Saving money is a curious term with two meanings: 1) to spend less, as in "I buy things on sale to save money," and 2) to physically place money where it is safe from being spent.
OK, that's fine. But here's the problem: It's easy to trick yourself into thinking that 1 and 2 are the same. They are not, unless, of course, you stop by the bank to deposit into your savings the difference between what you would have spent on an item had it not been on sale. That's one clever way to boost your cash stash this year. Here are eight more:
1 Tax yourself. Charge yourself a specific tax each time you make an ATM withdrawal. It might be $5 or $10. You decide. Whatever the amount, make sure you become a tough tax collector. No slacking, no IOUs.
2. Impose a moratorium. Select a specific denomination of currency, like the $1 or $5 bill, that you will not spend this year but save instead. Forbid yourself, and get very strict. Why not go with the $5? Your stash will grow so much faster if you absolutely refuse to spend any Abe Lincolns this year.
3. Hoard the coupon savings. Starting today, here's the plan: When you shop for groceries, ask the clerk to total your order, and then pay for it. Then hand her the coupons and watch your total plummet. Since you've already paid, the clerk should hand back the cash equal to your coupon savings. If available, open a savings account at the bank branch located in the supermarket. It's easy to stop on your way out to make a savings deposit. Even if it's small, it all adds up.
4. Rack up rebates. They're coming back in a big way, as retailers want to make their products appear cheaper without actually reducing the price. They offer a rebate knowing full well only a small percentage of consumers who buy the item will ever carry through. No matter how small the rebate or complicated the process, promise you will not be among the lazy bunch in 2019. Apply for rebates; follow up; and then stash them as they arrive!
5. Drink water. Pay yourself a bonus, like a dollar or two, each time you eat out and opt for water instead of a pricy beverage. Don't be a slacker in your obligation to pay up. And remember, no IOUs allowed.
6. Make a switch. For the next 12 months, opt to exercise outdoors instead of paying a gym fee. Or ride the subway instead of jumping into a cab. Identify a name brand you will leave on the shelf this year in favor of its store-brand equivalent.
7. Give it up. Pick one thing that you will sacrifice this year. Just cut it out. Stash the amount you would have spent on whatever it is — manicures, French fries, gourmet coffee, cigarettes — into your savings container or account. You could always do your own manicure, swear off the junk food or brew your own coffee for a year. As for that smoking habit, just imagine all the dough for your stash if you were to give it up.
8. Trick yourself. Whenever you write a check, record the amount rounded up to the next dollar. Then deduct it from the balance. At the end of the month, reconcile and stash the "Oops!" overage.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.