You're standing in line at Starbucks and purposefully not thinking about how many times you've paid for overpriced coffee this week. Next, you're wandering the aisles of the grocery store trying to remember what you came here to buy, resulting in one armful of useless condiments and two more armfuls of snacks. Finally, you're checking out and flipping through your credit cards and debit cards, randomly deciding which one to use to pay, before finally selecting one.
If that remotely sounds like you, then you're doing everything wrong. Luckily, with very simple, basic revisions of your daily habits and routines, you can stop wasting money and see your savings grow. Mind you, you should also be making monthly (or even weekly, for overachievers) budgets to track your spending, but if you're not quite ready for that... Then get your act together and stop making money-wasting mistakes!
1. Invest in a coffee maker
Yes, it seems like it will take so much more time in the morning to brew your own coffee. To put it kindly, you're wrong. Depending on which coffee maker you invest in, you can habituate yourself to set the timer to brew in the morning as part of your bedtime ritual, or you can take the few minutes in the morning to relax and think about your day. No matter what you decide, it's better than spending $5 on coffee every other week day.
2. Make grocery lists
A quick trip to the grocery store or convenience store every time you run out of something means that those spur of the moment purchases add up over time. Keep a running list on your phone of household items or groceries that you're running out of and plan one major trip during the week to stock up on everything. Having a shopping list not only keeps you accountable while you're shopping so you don't buy items on a whim, but it also serves as a rudimentary budget (i.e. stop buying energy drinks and Cheetos, you're a grown adult!).
3. Schedule transfers into your savings account
First, if you don't have a savings account, open one! It's incredibly simple to use your bank's mobile app to schedule regular transfers from your checking account into your savings. Setting up automatic transfers allows you to steadily save a portion of your paycheck without having to remember or stress about doing it. It's a small easy setting that can save up tremendously over time. (Ideally, open a savings account that has compounded daily interest, because Cartman's mom says so).
4. Find dupes for your favorite item(s)
This doesn't have to apply across the board; substituting just one of your pricey must-have items can save a significant amount of money over time. Whether you're a sucker for expensive cheeses or your craving for prosciutto is too big for you to curb, start with making one sacrifice with a cheaper substitution. As the savings grow, so does your incentive to make more cuts. Ultimately, it will make occasional indulgences even better.
5. Treat Yourself–Rarely
An easy trick to develop good spending habits is to allow yourself that $5 cup of coffee or that expensive soft cheese as a rare reward for keeping your spending low–but only if you've stuck to your goals. You obviously don't want to blow everything you've saved on this one extravagance, but keeping your goals and rewards small and realistic creates easy and positive reinforcement to be smarter with your money.
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When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.
A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.
One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.
The Federal Reserve
The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.
This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.
The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.
Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.
Frugal gifting often gets a bad reputation. However, this shopping method does not make you cheap — it makes you practical. Frugal gifts often avoid waste and overspending and can be just as meaningful (if not more so) as any other present.
With the National Retail Federation predicting each consumer this holiday season to spend upwards of $1,000 on holiday gifts amidst an economic recession —this year might be the perfect time to reconsider your spending budget. We've formulated the ultimate list of frugal gift-giving ideas to get you started.