How real people grow their wealth

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For most people, wealth does not come in a windfall but instead gathers gradually as a result of years of hard work and diligence.

Bankrate readers offer their tips for growing wealth. You’ll find no winning lottery numbers or surefire stock recommendations among them, but all are sensible suggestions for savings.

Real people strategies
1. Grow your own food 9. Take advantage of rewards
2. Set limits and stick to them 10. Save with coupons
3. Buy savings bonds 11. Use direct deposit
4. Redirect your raises 12. Leverage automatic savings
5. Split raises in half 13. Don’t touch the money
6. Track spending 14. Pay attention to progress
7. Spend less by budgeting 15. Save a little each week
8. Save by using credit 16. Check grocery store ads

Grow your own food

I have a plot in our local community garden that I share with two of my friends.

It is a fun, inexpensive hobby for us — plus it keeps us active and teaches our children important life skills.

We keep our 20-foot-by-30-foot parcel planted year-round, and it provides our three families with fresh, organic produce.
— Anonymous

Set limits and stick to them

I try to save at least three to four part-time paychecks so that I can elect to make a hefty payment on a credit card account and buy myself a little something I waited to get.

Also, I have inventoried my home and gathered up all half-full or almost empty bottles of lotions, soaps, hair creams, cleaning products and vowed not to make a purchase until we absolutely had not one drop of a particular thing. So I have not been to the store to buy these items — including makeup and colognes.

I limit my driving and only buy $20 (of gas) at a time about once a week … so $80 a month. Not an ounce more.

As for groceries, I am using only fresh or frozen vegetables. At the store, I purchase only the item that is $0.99 per pound and pull out my cookbook to find an exciting way to cook it and make great meals. Chicken can be cooked 100 different ways.
— Sharon Dorsey

Buy savings bonds

I have always made a 10 percent deduction on my pay.

If you do it every week, you will see that you don’t miss it. After a few years it can really accumulate into a nice sum of savings. The best vehicle is savings bonds. You buy them and just hold them.
— Michael de Gennaro

Redirect your raises

Anytime I get a raise or a bonus, I don’t have the additional money deposited into my checking account.

I have already proven I can live without the money, so first I direct it to my 401(k).

Once I maxed out my 401(k) contributions, my raises went directly into my HSA.

Once that was maxed out, they went directly into a savings account.

I now have my 401(k) fully invested, my HSA fully funded and a great emergency fund.
— Sam Hohman

Split raises in half

Each and every job raise should be split — half you keep and half is put into a monthly retirement vehicle. It is a foolproof way to retire early.
— Chere

Track spending

Tracking spending (even for 30 days) allows you to know exactly what you spend.

Have you ever gone to the ATM and two days later asked yourself, “I know I got $60 on Tuesday — where did it go?”

You may remember some of it, but you will not remember all of it. Tracking spending takes out the guesswork and puts you firmly in control of your finances.

From there, it’s easy to determine what you can cut or, better yet, what you can save.
— Jude Gilford

Spend less by budgeting

We found that if we keep track of our spending on a month-to-month basis, we spend less.

We are also good at paying ourselves first through auto-pay on the paycheck that goes into savings and 401(k) accounts.

We also are good at putting our loose change in the change jar so that maybe we can take that trip someday.
— Brenda

Save by using credit

My husband and I do not carry any significant amounts of cash — have approximately $20 to $40 maximum in each wallet.

All purchases — food, gasoline and nominal retail purchases — are on the card. All credit purchases are paid up completely every billing. Savings are twofold: 30-day float and no credit card interest ever for the past 30 years or more. Our motto is, if we pay any interest charges, they must be tax-deductible!
— Kathleen McHugh

Take advantage of rewards

I charge all food, gas and household bills such as electricity, car loan and house insurance.

I pay the card off each month. I am left with reward points to turn into cash, restaurant certificates, gift cards at various stores and so on. I actually make $40 to $70 a month by doing this.
— Diann Williams

Save with coupons

Use coupons at the grocery store and put that money in a piggy bank. It’s amazing how much it adds up.

Years ago the stores gave you cash back for coupons you used, but now it’s just deducted from the balance you owe at the store and your receipt shows how much you saved. But you haven’t really saved if you aren’t actively saving that money — you are just spending less.

Start saving by taking the amount of cash out of your wallet and putting it away.
— Lisa Anderson

Use direct deposit

The best savings secret is using direct deposit from your paycheck into a savings account.

I also have direct deposit to an additional savings account at a bank that I don’t frequent very often for my vacation and Christmas fund. Even small amounts add up if you leave it alone.
— Karla

Leverage automatic savings

The key in our household is automatic deposits. Here are some examples:

1. Every month we have a set amount taken out of our checking account and put into our two children’s college savings plans — $50 each.

In this way we are setting aside $600 per year for each child for their college education. At $600 each year for 18 years we will have a lot more than I, or my parents, had saved for my college education. They will be expected to work, apply for scholarships and take out loans if necessary to help fund their education.

2. Part of our paychecks goes to various savings accounts automatically:

A. Savings accounts for each of our children (both are under age 8) to buy them clothes or other necessary items. We save $10 per month for each, so that is $120 per year for each child, plus birthday and Christmas money they receive from relatives helps toward clothing expenses.

B. A money market fund for future vacations to the tune of $50 every two weeks, which turns out to be $1,300 per year. We usually take a big vacation every two years, so we have at least $2,600. Any money not spent on a previous vacation is left in the account.

C. A money market fund for the down payment on our next vehicle. Whenever we pay off a vehicle, that money gets set aside instead of spent, currently $150 every two weeks, which turns out to be $3,900 per year. We try to go at least two to four years after paying off a vehicle before replacing it.

D. A savings account for Christmas spending; we save $80 per month, or $960 total, to put toward Christmas presents for family and friends.

3. We fund our 401(k)s directly through our employer, taken out of our paychecks pretax. Paying for our retirement comes first.

By having our money moving automatically around to various savings accounts or into the college funds or 401(k) plans, there is no way not to have that money available for those reasons.
— Jen Richardson

Don’t touch the money

I have a certain amount allotted to a bank account each payday that I do not use to pay bills, nor do I withdraw that account. I never miss the money because it is allotted before my pay is deposited.
— Christina

Pay attention to progress

I keep a chart of my debts and assets, including school loans, car loan, mortgage, my savings account and 401(k).

Then I watch them closely, actually daily right now, to see my savings grow and my debts come down. At the top of the chart I put how much I originally owed, and it has been very motivating. My savings account shows me daily how much I’m earning — by doing nothing!

I’ve always been a saver, but don’t have much. For many years, I was a single mom with two children, no education and no child support — earning $5 an hour in Southern California.

The kids are now on their own, and I’ve been at the same job for almost 10 years making a decent income. I just can’t figure out why I didn’t make the chart before. It has significantly helped me save while paying off my debts.
— Cindy Troyer

Save a little each week

I needed to save money for several long-term goals and ongoing bills, such as a new car, vacation fund, emergency vet fund for my pets and my personal emergency fund, and so on.

So I created an ING account for each fund. I started out the first week by putting $1 in each account. The second week I put $1 into each account plus an extra $1 into the personal emergency fund, third week went $1 into each account plus $2 into the personal account, and so on.

The second month I put $2 a week into each account plus the extra $1 into the savings. Third month was $3 into each account each week plus the extra.

Doesn’t sound like much, but you slowly learn to live without the money — paying yourself first!

At this point I am putting away almost $100 a week spread out over several accounts. Some accounts are just gathering funds for long-term goals, for instance a new car, while others get tapped into on a regular basis.
— Alexis Heydt

Check grocery store ads

I have found that one of the best ways to save a few bucks is to watch out for grocery store ads.

I retired about 10 years ago and love to grocery shop. At my local grocery market there is never a week that goes by that they don’t have a great discount on something. I save on average $40 to $45 per week, or $1,300 to date this year.

Every item I buy is something to eat or use for the household. It beats the heck out of coupons.
— David Swanger