Every single business these days seems to be offering a loyalty program. Any time you approach a cash register, it’s likely you’ll be pitched on the store card. Some of these programs are good, and some of them are just a waste of time and a source of junk mail. Here are just a few of my favorite programs for stores, gas stations, and restaurants that are actually going to save you money – and earn you free stuff!
Over the last several years, we’ve all tightened our financial belts in response to an uncertain economy. I, for one, have been keeping things so tight that it feels like I’m wearing one of those corsets in a British period drama. You know, where some stern, thin-lipped and scary lady pulls each string so tight the poor woman stuck in the middle of that torture trap can barely walk, let alone sit down. I mean, sure she looks fabulous, but I’m quite sure she feels like the life is being squeezed out of her.
In that same sense, tightening the grip on your budget – stretching each and every dollar to cover your expenses – can sometimes make you feel hopelessly caught in a financial trap. Wouldn’t it be nice to get a little breathing room to save for the things that you may not need, but would sure like to have or do? Yes, of course it would, silly! Since the odds of you one day discovering several money trees sprouting up in your backyard aren’t so great, it’s time for you to take the next step in your personal budgeting, and make your money grow in ways that actually adhere to the laws of nature. That’s right, I’m talking financial planning, my friends.
Here are some surefire options to help your money flourish:
Bank that money
Put any extra money you get (e.g., tax returns, bonuses, lottery winnings, found pots of gold) into a savings account for future endeavors. Let me tell you, after looking into this a bit, you’re not limited to the traditional savings account. There are several options to get a nice return on your money in the bank.
High-yield savings account
Put your money into a high-yield savings account. These are much like the traditional savings accounts you know and love, but with the added bang of a higher interest rate. Most allow you an unlimited number of transactions per month, and you can attach your checking account to the high-yield savings account for transfers. This is a great option for short-term savings since your money is easily accessible. There are many options available to you online, but read the fine print: some of these require a high minimum balance and charge penalties when you fall below it. You’ll also want to consider how easy it will be to make deposits and draw from these accounts, as some may require several business days to complete these transactions. Also, for the most part, the higher your initial deposit, the higher your rate will be. Be sure to search and compare several companies before making your final decision.
Money market account
For longer-term savings plans, many choose a money market account (MMA). They’re very similar to the high-yield savings accounts. However, federal requirements limit you to six transactions per month and include penalties for additional transactions, limiting your flexibility.
Certificate of deposit
If you don’t plan to touch the money you want to grow anytime in the near future, a certificate of deposit (CD) may be more advantageous. With these, you’re depositing money in the bank for a predetermined and fixed period of time, allowing it to grow at a fixed rate. Since you’re essentially promising the bank that you won’t touch this money for X number of years, they agree to give you a higher interest rate, but remember, there will likely be penalties for early withdrawal.
How to add to your savings everyday
Now that you have some solid money-growing ideas to mull over, you’re probably wondering, “Ok, now what? How can I gather and add to these savings every day while paying for life’s necessities?”
Lay it all out there
First, you’ll want to have a long, hard look at your finances, and be completely, 100% honest with yourself. Get a true picture of what you owe, what you’re bringing in, and how you spend your money on a daily basis. For help, check out Quizzle. They have tools to help you get a handle of your finances, and they also offer a budget planner. Once you have the things you need to pay sorted out, you can begin thinking about ways to eliminate wasteful spending, and calculate a reasonable amount of money that you can set aside for your savings each month.
Set it and forget it
If you’re anything like me, you may want to choose a savings plan that allows you to automatically deduct a set amount from your checking account each month or pay period. Otherwise, I sometimes find that the money I’d meant to stash away for savings mysteriously disappears… cough, cough, new boots, cough, cough… I find it easier to treat my savings as a bill that I have to pay rather than a choice I’m making each paycheck. Or like I’m wiring money to my future self, traveling through time and space to give myself some much-appreciated financial help. I mean, who doesn’t want to time travel? Especially when it means you’re creating a better life for yourself down the road.
“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
The great Oscar Wilde had it right. Much like I described earlier, you want to give yourself some breathing room in the future, but not at the expense of today. You can and should trim unnecessary spending, but don’t forget to give yourself a treat here and there. Go to the movies and maybe even splurge on some overpriced popcorn, but only once in awhile. Buy that super-cool jacket you’ve been eyeing up, but wait until it’s on sale. There are many ways to adjust your spending habits so that you don’t feel financially starved while you’re saving.
One idea – for those who are very responsible with their credit cards and pay them off every month – is to choose a card with bonuses and perks that allow you to earn something in return. Again, this is something you can do IF you’re someone who pays off their card every month, avoiding interest fees and debt pile-up.
Also, anytime you receive the gift of money, a bonus at work, or any other windfall, put that extra cash into your savings. It’s money that you may not have been budgeting or planning for anyway, so instead of immediately spending it, put at least a portion of it away.
There you go, some simple, yet effective ways to multiply your money. If you have any tips to add to the discussion, please share them with us below! I know you all have some creative ideas, and I’d love to hear them.