As consumers face an uncertain future in 2010, they will be looking to lower their costs, to save more for the future and to stabilize their financial lives.
Here are 10 money-saving tips to reach those not-so-lofty goals.
Start, or boost, your emergency savings account.The biggest barrier to saving is not being in the habit of saving. The best way to get in the habit is to pay yourself first by directly depositing money from your paycheck into a dedicated savings account. This can be done concurrently with your goals of paying down debt or saving for retirement. You won't miss what you don't see, and putting your savings on autopilot is a great way to reinforce your money saving habit when unplanned expenses inevitably come along.
Get a high-yield savings account.Once you've started to save, you'll need a place to put that money. There are three requirements in determining where to put your rainy-day fund: It must be liquid (meaning you can get to the money whenever you need it), it must be free of investment risk and you must earn a return that preserves your buying power against the erosive effect of inflation.
An FDIC-insured, high-yield savings account meets all three of these requirements. Check Bankrate.com's search engine for the highest-yielding, FDIC-insured savings accounts available nationwide.
Find a free checking account.Having the wrong checking account can take hundreds of hard-earned dollars out of your pocket every year. The average interest-bearing checking account charges a monthly service fee of $12.55 and requires a balance of more than $3,300 at a near zero rate of interest to avoid fees. Instead, look for one of the many accounts that charge no monthly service or per-transaction fees, and don't require a minimum balance. These free checking accounts have long been the hallmark of smaller community banks, credit unions and online banks. Check out Bankrate.com's tips on avoiding fees and use the search engine to find a free checking account that meets your money-saving needs.
Track your monthly spending.People hate to use the "B" word -- budgeting. Call it what you want, but you do need to get a handle on your spending. Doing so does two things: It helps you determine where you can cut back and helps maximize your money-saving efforts. Begin by tracking your spending for two months. Then use that information to build a realistic monthly spending plan. Finally, track all of your monthly expenses. At month's end, tally your spending against the plan and see where you did well and where you didn't.