Financial Resolutions: Saving More Money

Financial year 2015Saving money is one of the most common financial resolutions people make, but can also be one of the most difficult to keep. Starting a savings plan takes discipline and yes, some sacrifice. With bills, debt and other monthly expenses to worry about, you may easily find yourself living paycheck to paycheck, with little left over to put away. Still, having savings is incredibly important; you never know when a life-changing event like an employment change, the birth of a child or unexpected illness could occur.

There are countless resources out there to take you step by step through how to meet your savings goals, but to get you started, here are a few quick tips you can start doing today.

Pay yourself first. A good habit to get into is to pay yourself each month as though you were paying a regular monthly bill. Map out your monthly expenses and determine a reasonable amount that you can contribute (remember, anything is better than nothing). Make the first check you write each month to yourself, and hold yourself accountable—just as you wouldn’t skip paying your electric bill, don’t skip out on paying yourself.

Set up an emergency fund. While you may want to save for any number of things, building an emergency fund should be a priority. Try to save three to six month’s salary for emergencies only. This way, you have a financial cushion to help you through anything that life throws your way.

Start using a monthly budget. Keeping a budget to track your monthly expenses is a great financial habit to get into; budgeting will help you see how much you spend each month and where you can cut back. As you identify and eliminate unnecessary expenses, adjust the amount you pay yourself each month. It may not seem like much, but little sacrifices now can make a big difference in the long run!

Saving money is something you should commit to doing for the rest of your life. Establishing these good savings habits now will help you lead a healthier, more prosperous financial life for the years to come!

Summer Savings Tip: Turn off the lights!

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average household dedicates about 5% of its energy budget to lighting.Summer Savings Tip: Turn the lights off

It’s an easy budget to start trimming, and here are tips to get you started:

Make the switch
Switching to energy-efficient lighting is one of the fastest ways to cut your energy bills, and you have lots of choices, including halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Energy-efficient bulbs may cost more than ones you’re used to, but you’ll save over their lifetime.

Visit Energy Star to find the right light bulbs for your fixtures.

Off vs On
Think twice about that old electricity myth that says it uses more electricity to turn a light back on than it does to keep it on. Today’s basic wisdom suggests that, depending on the type of light, you’re apt to save by turning it off, no matter how short the duration before you’ll be turning it on again.

Time out
Use timers and motion sensors to automatically control the amount of electricity you use. Dimmers also provide savings.

Natural light
Take advantage of daylight by keeping your curtains, blinds or shades open, or using curtains that allow daylight in. When you’re decorating, remember that lighter colors reflect daylight and enhance available natural light in a room.

Crunch the numbers
Curious how much you might save — in terms of dollars or energy — by turning off the lights when you leave the house? It could add up. Check out this breakdown at The Simple Dollar.

Find more tips!
Looking to save even more? Visit websites for your local utilities, including the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO), for more energy saving tips on everything from appliances to heating and cooling.

Is your family good about turning off the lights?

Hot Tips for Summer Vacation Savings

Summer becomes a hot time to give yourself and your loved ones a badly needed break. But with rising food, fuel, and hotel costs, for many people, a summer vacation may seem out of reach financially.

Rest assured, however, there are some ways to cut the cost of summer vacation and ensure you get your time in the sun.

• Be flexible – it pays. If you’re open to trying different vacation spots, you’ll increase your chances of saving money. For example, look at both lake vacations and beach locations for the best deals, and make your decision accordingly. Having flexibility on your vacation timetable will also make saving easier, especially if you choose a cruise, which can offer significantly lower rates during summer season.

• Stay out of the hot spots. While a lot of us love to be where all the action is, vacationing in crowded “hotspots” can cost you a lot more. By staying away from these locations, you won’t just avoid crowds and traffic; you’ll save money.

• Cash in your rewards. Do you have a credit card that offers travel rewards? Summer is a great time to cash in. You may be able to reduce or eliminate the cost of hotels, airfare, entertainment, and rental cars. Plus, if you stay at the same hotel or use the same airline, you can earn rewards that can be redeemed for next year’s vacation. How’s that for smart vacation planning?

• Get a vacation rental. One way to save significantly on your lodging costs is to rent a condo or cottage. Research has shown that renting homes is a lot more affordable than staying in hotel rooms. Plus, with a home, you’ll have more room and privacy – always a plus when you’re traveling with children.

• Dine in. Another advantage of renting a home is that you can make your own meals, putting more money in your pocket. If you plan on staying at a hotel, see if you can book a room with a stove or refrigerator to allow you to make your own meals and store snacks.

• Team up on your vacation. Invite family members or friends you enjoy spending time with to accompany you. With a vacation rental, you can split the cost of the home, making your vacation a whole lot more affordable.

These are just a few simple ways to save. Find more information on ways to save on vacation planning all year long with help from National Geographic.

How to set (and stick to) a budget

How much do you spend? How much do you earn? If one equals the other, you’re in trouble. And, if you spend more than you earn, you’re in really big trouble.

The solution? Set a budget, and stick to it!

The goal? Live within your means, avoid falling off a cliff and into debt, and start saving – for emergencies, special occasions, and for your future.

Easier said than done? No. All it takes is a little time, a little patience, and a little commitment. And, taking that first step.

Getting started
Check these 8 easy tips for creating a personal budget Pay particular attention to Step #8: “Don’t set yourself up for failure. Making sacrifices is part of managing expenses, but if you set restrictions too high and too soon, you will be less likely to follow your budget over the long term.”

The first step to successful budgeting is knowing, and tracking, where your money goes. You can do it with pencil and paper, or consider one of the personal finance software programs such as Quicken or Mint.

Setting priorities
The second step is to set priorities. Try to cut back your spending to about 90% of your income.

Stretching that dollar
If you think it’s impossible to save anything, or to save more than you’re saving now, you might be surprised that it is possible and, maybe, painless. Here are 10 tips for saving on a tight budget.

And, if you simply can’t image how to spend less than you’re spending now, start thinking about new ways to reduce your monthly bills.

Sticking to it
Don’t get discouraged. If Plan A doesn’t work, come up with a Plan B to focus on your finances .
Budgeting will be easier once you find the path that works the best for you.

Savings Tips: Home Energy Costs

Save on Home Energy CostsWith the temperatures beginning to dip lower, many of us find ourselves reaching for the “On” switch on our heaters to help combat the cold. Each year, the cold weather months cost Americans thousands of dollars — last year, the Energy Information Administration predicted that consumers that used oil heat would spend an average of $2,544 on heating costs alone, while natural gas users would spend an average of $1,031. Heating your home isn’t cheap, but there are many practical steps that you can take to keep your household energy bill manageable.

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Savings Tips: Defraying College Costs

Saving for collegePerhaps the single most daunting aspect of college is the enormous financial obligation that comes with it. For parents, sending a child off to college can mean stretching family finances further than ever before. For students, college likely means taking the first real steps into managing their own finances. Here are some tips to help students and families manage college costs:

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Savings Tip: Mother’s Day DIY Ideas

Mother and SonMother’s Day is Sunday, May 12. Hopefully, you’ve already found the perfect gift for Mom. As you’ve probably learned the hard way, the longer you wait, the more you could end up spending.

Pressed for ideas that are easy on the wallet, but still show how much you care?

We’ve searched the Internet and came up with ideas, from do it yourself crafts for which there may still be time to create, to suggestions for making the day special in other ways — while still staying within your budget.

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