How to make saving money easier

Dear Liz: What’s the easiest way to save money? I have the hardest time. I want to save, but I feel that I don’t make enough to start saving.

Answer: The easiest way to save is to do it without thinking about it.

That usually means setting up automatic transfers either from your paycheck or from your checking account. If you have to think about putting aside money, you’ll probably think of other things to do with that cash. If it’s done automatically, you may be surprised at how fast the money piles up.

The second part of this equation is to leave your savings alone. If you’re constantly dipping into savings to cover regular expenses, you won’t get ahead.

People manage to save even on small incomes because they make it a priority. They “pay themselves first,” putting aside money for savings before any other bills are paid. Start with small, regular transfers and increase them as you can.

Don’t throw that away!

Please welcome Jeff Yeager, one of my favorite cheapskates and an all-around good guy. I asked him to write the very first guest post for AskLizWeston.com based on advice from his latest book, “Don’t Throw That Away!” The book, and this post, focus on the middle part of the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra, with creative ways to get more mileage from what you already have. Here’s what Jeff has to say:

By getting a little creative and reusing would-be throwaway items, you’ll not only help save the Earth’s resources and live lighter on the planet, but you can also save some money at the same time.  Here are a few examples of creative repurposing:

Fruit and vegetable peels:  Of course you can compost them (and I give readers all the rotten details about composting in the book), but the skins of many types of fruits and veggies have a multitude of other uses as well, including: banana peels can be used to shine shoes (I call it a “banana split shine”) as well as fertilize your prize rose bushes and protect them from insects;  papaya peels contain vitamin A and papain, which makes them great for softening skin and soothing cracked heels, and peach skins work similar magic; scrub copper pots and pans with lemon peels or other citrus rinds and a little baking soda for a bright and shiny finish; you can even naturally darken greying hair using potato peels!
Old cellphones: Did you know that under FCC regulations, you can call 911 in case of an emergency using any cell phone, even phones with expired service contracts?  So don’t throw away your old cells when you get a new ones, just keep them powered up and scattered around the house, car, office, everywhere in case of a true emergency.
Refashioning:  Restyling old clothing into new apparel (aka “refashioning”) is becoming a hot new trend, to the point where some designers are now coming out with lines that are simply made to look like refashioned garments– I guess that would be faux repurposing?  Many of the projects are simple, like making “tee-skirts”– fun little skirts made out of old t-shirts – requiring little in the way of sewing skills or equipment.
Cheapskate-soap-on-a-rope:  Save those little slivers of soap from the shower, put them in the heel of an old pair of pantyhose, and keep it tied to the outside water spigot to wash up after working in the garden.  The mesh lets you get every last bit of suds out soap slivers.
Eggcellent reuses for eggshells:  Crumble them up and sprinkle them around the garden to fertilize the soil and deter slugs, deer and other pests; add some along with the coffee in the filter for a less bitter cup of java; or make adorable “egg shell candles,” a chance to repurpose both eggshells and leftover candle stubs.
And whatever you do, don’t throw away that dryer lint!  Stuff it inside an empty toilet paper tube and use it to light a fire in the fireplace.  Dryer lint is highly flammable, so it’ll really light your fire, so to speak.
Remember:  “Reduce – Reuse, Reuse, Reuse, and Reuse Again – Then Recycle.
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Don’t Throw That Away! is only available in e-book formats, so you won’t have to worry about how to reuse it after you’ve read it. It is published by Three Rivers Press and is available wherever e-books are sold.  Jeff Yeager is also the author of The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches and The Cheapskate Next Door. You’ll find him at The Ultimate Cheapskate.

Try, try again

One of the most frustrating things about money is that progress may not be permanent.

But it’s still progress—if you keep going.

Here’s what I mean. Say you make a goal to boost your emergency fund. You manage to save a few hundred bucks—and then your car breaks down, or you get a speeding ticket, or you need dental work. There goes the extra money.

That’s where a lot of people give up. Looked at another way, though, the emergency fund did exactly what it was supposed to: it was there when you needed it, and kept you from putting another few hundred bucks on your credit cards. If you keep saving, this small start can turn into something bigger.

In my MSN column, “Why you need $500 in the bank,” I told the story of Wendi Pendleton. Here’s the email she sent me a couple of years ago:

“I just wanted to thank you. During April 2008 I read a column about having a $500 emergency fund. I decided it was solid advice and trimmed my spending that month and saved $500. Realizing how much money I wasted I saved another $500 the next month and so on (and some months more than $500). Even after what would have been a crisis with dental work needed, and a car repair that would have stressed me before, I now have $12,000 in savings I am using as a down payment on my first house, something I never thought would be possible for me on my own. Thank you, you changed the way I looked at my money and spending and improved the quality of my life.”

My challenge right now isn’t saving money—we’re on track with that. My goals involve getting more exercise. The days I don’t get in a full hour’s workout can be discouraging, but my experience with achieving other goals has taught me that any exercise is better than none. When I hit a setback, like my recent bout with the flu, the important thing is not to throw my hands up in despair and retreat to the couch. The important thing is to get back out there, and try again.

I hope you’re making progress on your goals for 2012, including your goals with money. If not, well, maybe it’s time to get off the couch.

This post is a part of Women’s Money Week 2012. For more posts about goals and taking action, see Women’s Money Week.