Saving money is a curious term with two meanings: to spend less, as in "I buy things on sale to save money," and to physically place money where it is safe from being spent.
That's fine, but here's the problem: It's easy to trick yourself into thinking that the meanings 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 had an item not been on sale. That would be a clever way to boost your cash stash this year and at the same time adjust your mindset on what it really means to save money. Here are eight more:
TAX YOURSELF. Decide right now that you will tax yourself 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, and no IOUs.
IMPOSE A MORATORIUM. Select a specific denomination of currency, like the $1 or $5 bill, that you will no longer spend and will instead save. Forbid yourself from spending it. Get very strict. Why not go with the $5 bill? Your stash will grow so much faster if you absolutely refuse to spend any Abe Lincolns.
HOARD COUPON SAVINGS. Starting today, here's the plan: When you shop for groceries, ask the clerk to total your order. Then, pay the full amount. Then, hand over 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 there's bank branch in the supermarket, open a savings account. It's easy to stop and make a savings deposit on your way out. Even if it's small, it all adds up.
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 that only a small percentage of consumers who buy the item will ever carry through. No matter how small the rebate or how complicated the process, promise you will not be among the lazy bunch. Apply for a rebate; follow up; and then stash those rebates as they arrive!
DRINK WATER. Pay yourself a bonus, like a dollar or two, each time you eat out and opt for water instead of a pricey beverage. Don't slack on your obligation to pay up. And remember, no IOUs allowed.
MAKE A SWITCH. Opt to exercise outdoors instead of paying for a gym membership. Or decide to 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. Stash what you would have spent.
GIVE IT UP. Pick one thing that you will sacrifice for a specific period of time, such as the coming year. Just cut it out. Stash the amount that you would have spent on the thing — regular manicures, French fries, gourmet coffee, cigarettes — into your savings container or account. You could always do your own manicures, swear off junk food or brew your own coffee. As for that smoking habit, just imagine all the dough you could put in your stash if you were to give it up.
TRICK YOURSELF. Whenever you write a check or make a withdrawal from the ATM, record the amount in your checkbook registry, but round up the number to, say, the next dollar. Then, deduct that amount 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.