LIVING WELL: Kickstart your savings with these tips
by Cecelia Hostilo, Columnist
Jan 29, 2014 | 57 57 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Many of us are interested in saving more, but are not certain how to get started. It is never too late to start saving. In this week’s column you will find tips for saving. Some may seem small, but if you consistently save small amounts, if adds up to a healthy savings account.

Paying yourself first or setting aside money at the beginning of the month specifically for savings goals is a good way to get started. Check with your bank. You may be able to automatically transfer money from your checking to savings account. By automating your savings at the beginning of every of month or every pay period, you are likely to save more than waiting until the end of the month and moving any remaining money into a savings account. By paying yourself first, you are more likely to learn to live on less. You never actually have the money available in your checking account to spend on regular household expenses. If an emergency occurs and you need the extra money, it will be readily available in your savings account.

Finding Money to Save

Take advantage of discounts and/or incentive programs provided through your employer. Many companies offer discounted rates for computers, fitness center memberships, movie tickets, hotels, cellular services and more.

How do folks find the money to save and ultimately invest — by starting small, because every dollar counts? Try eliminating things that you can live without and changing spending habits. An example is brown bagging a lunch to work one or two days a week instead of eating out. Another is buying 12-packs of soda or bottled water on sale instead of using expensive vending machines.

At the end of every week (or more often), empty out your pockets and wallet and put the change in a jar. Every other week or once a month, deposit the change in your savings account. Studies show that over three-quarters of Americans have a stash of loose change and over half of Americans add to it regularly.

Did you know that by keeping your car engine tuned and its tires inflated to their proper pressure, you could save up to $100 a year in gas?

Give up premium cable channels. According to America Saves, it’s much cheaper to rent one film a week than to watch one on premium cable channels that may cost more than $500 a year. Also, take advantage of $1 movie kiosks that are in stores you frequent often.

If so, it pays for homeowners to be on the lookout for lower mortgage rates. The America Saves program suggests refinancing your mortgage to lower the interest rate and/or loan term. You will accumulate home equity more rapidly, thus increasing your ability to cover large emergency expenditures.

Buy a home and pay off the mortgage before you retire. Did you know that the largest asset most middle-income families have is their home equity? According to America Saves, once you make your last mortgage payment, you’ll have far lower housing expenses. You’ll also have an asset that can be borrowed against or converted into cash when sold.

Make your home more energy efficient with from the U.S. Department of Energy. Learn simple tips for evaluating your home for air leaks, insulation, heating/cooling equipment and lighting. An energy efficient home will save you money on your monthly utility bill.

The best investment most borrowers can make is to pay off consumer debt with double-digit interest. For example, if you have a $3,000 credit card balance at 18 percent interest, and pay 3 percent minimum payments, it will take 14 years to pay it off. Add in accumulating interest, and you will pay $5,625 in interest charges.

Are you an impulse shopper? The America Saves program urges consumers to never purchase expensive items on impulse. Instead, think over each expensive purchase for at least 24 hours. Acting on this principle will help you have far fewer regrets about impulse purchases, and far more money for emergency savings.

Indulgences can put a dent in your finances. According to America Saves, one way to establish a savings discipline is to “save” an amount equal to whatever is spent on nonessential indulgences. Put a matching amount in a cookie jar each time you splurge on beer, wine, cigarettes, designer coffee, etc. If you can’t afford to save the matching amount, you can’t afford the $4 super mocha low-fat latte.

Make a list before you grocery shop — and stick to it. The America Saves program suggests that people who food shop with a list, and buy little else, spend much less money than those who decide what to buy when they get to the supermarket. The annual savings could easily be hundreds of dollars. Preplanning pays off.

Do you know how much money is in your bank account? America Saves urges you to avoid overdraft fees by keeping track of your spending. The $20-$40 you could save monthly by not bouncing checks or overdrawing your account could equal enough money to nearly fully fund a $500 emergency savings account.

Saving a portion of your tax refund is a good way to prepare for life’s unexpected events. Save at least half of it for irregular household expenses (holidays, tuition, water bills, home maintenance), emergencies, and/or future financial goals.

I hope these tips help you get into the savings habit. Visit www.americasaves.org, www.kentuckysaves.org, and http://www2.ca.uky.edu/moneywise for more ideas about savings.

The recipes this week are all quick and easy snacks for the big football game this weekend! They come from the cookbook put together by the teachers of South Heights Elementary School in Henderson, Kentucky. Enjoy!

Hot Artichoke Spread

1 (14-oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

3⁄4 cup mayonnaise

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1⁄2 teaspoon garlic salt

Dash of lemon juice

Assorted crackers or crostini

Combine all ingredients, mixing well. Spoon into a lightly grease 3-cup casserole dish. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Serve with crackers or crostini.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

2 cans shredded chicken

1 cup Ranch dressing

1 cup hot wing sauce

1 (8-oz.) bag shredded cheddar cheese

1 (8-oz.) block cream cheese

Mix all ingredients together. Pour into a 9” x 13” pan and bake at 350°F for 15 minutes, or until bubbly. Serve with crackers. If a milder dip is desired, reduce the hot wing sauce.

The Ultimate Cheese Ball

2 (8-oz.) blocks of cream cheese

1 (8-oz.) bottle honey Catalina style dressing

1 tbsp. sugar

1 small bottle sliced green olives, drained

1 package bacon bits

Mix cream cheese, dressing, and sugar until well blended. Shape into a ball or place in a serving dish. If shaping into a ball, wrap and chill. Before serving, place olives and bacon bits on waxed paper and roll ball to coat. If serving in a dish, top the dish with the bacon and olives, then chill and serve.

For more information contact Cecelia Hostilo at the Trigg County Extension Office by calling 522-3269.

Information for this article was provided by Barbara O’Neil, Rutgers University; Jennifer Hunter and Nichole Huff, University of Kentucky; and America Saves at www.americasaves.org

Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.
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