Andy Fleming writing on saving money…

Saving money doesn’t have to mean cutting back or learning to do more with less. Sometimes, all you need is a few techniques that encourage you to set aside cash for your future. We’re not all lucky enough to have a job that sets aside portions of our paycheck for retirement…but it’s easy to take personal control of your savings once you get into the rhythm of things.

The sooner you start saving, the better. Even small amounts add up, which is why clever money saving techniques can be so helpful in the long run. Even just keeping your change organized can lead to several hundred extra bucks per year. Keep these “tricks” in mind to help turn savings into a serious investment.

1. Start Using A “Change Jar”

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What do you do with your spare change? Are you constantly emptying out your pockets into kitchen drawers or your bedside table? The old trick of saving all your change in a single jar is surprisingly effective. Some people lose hundreds of dollars every year just because they ignore their change. Even pennies add up over time, and there’s no reason to let them gather dust in between the couch cushions. The average person throws away about $6,000 in change during their lifetime…that’s a whole luxury vacation down the drain.

The best way to consolidate saved change is to roll it into sleeves and cash it in at the bank. Coinstar and other “change machines” are convenient, but they take about 9c for every dollar. Again, this adds up over time and there’s no reason to spend an hour or two rolling change to avoid these fees.

2. Bank Your Coupon Savings

If you’re diligent about coupon usage (and you should be) you can start banking those extra savings at the grocery store. Most stores print a little reminder of how much you saved on coupons for each visit. Look for the line on your receipt that says something like “you saved X this visit”, and then get into the habit of transferring that amount to a savings account. Most banks have an app you can easily download to your phone that will allow you to schedule transfers at any time, so you can bank those savings on the way home.

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If you’re not good at couponing, don’t worry! There are plenty of apps and websites to help make the process easy. Notables include Coupons.com, which offers hundreds of dollars’ worth of printable coupons that you can easily search through and SnipSnap, an app that allows you to take photos of retail coupons with your phone, and then use your phone at checkout in place of paper coupons.

3. The Dollar Bill Challenge

Saving Money

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If you’re in the habit of using cash on a regular basis, try the dollar bill challenge. Every time you get home with $1 bills in your pocket, put them away somewhere. Some people do this with $5 bills instead. This will save a lot more, but may be more difficult to stick to. Most of the time, we’re just using dollars to round out purchases or pay for parking and they often just end up being fed into vending machines or being given to the homeless. Stick to the challenge and you’re sure to end your year with a sizeable stack of extra cash.

Another variation on this trick: pick a random number and put aside all the dollar bills with serial numbers ending in that digit. It’s a matter of personal preference, the best technique is the one you personally find it easy to stick to.

4. Round Up Your Purchases

Saving Money

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Every time you make a purchase using a credit or debit card, consider rounding it up to the nearest dollar and putting that change aside. Doing so could save you $3 to $4 per day, which will add up quickly. Some banks offer tools to help with this, Bank Of America has a program called Keep the Change and Wachovia offers savings plans through their Way2Save program that will automate the process. If you’re with a different bank, you can always set up an account with Acorns. This app will round up purchases and deposit the change into an account that can be used for some basic investment profiles. You can always choose a low-risk profile if you just want to bank the spare change.

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