When you’re young, working hard, and making plans for the future, you can’t really save too much money — you’re probably not saving enough. Squeezing out money from every paycheck to put into savings can be challenging when you’re just starting out in your career and not yet making top dollar in your field, so it is bad budgeting to waste money on items you don’t need or items far more luxurious than your paycheck is today. The chances are good that you have some areas of spending you can trim and start sending more of your money into an interest-bearing savings account.
1. Chasing the latest and greatest
Let’s face it: some of us love our gadgets, and having the newest tech toys as they come out can be really exciting, and there is almost no limit to the wide array of sexy choices in new tech gadgets. New iPhones, the latest, biggest Samsung Android phone, tablets in all sizes and higher definition screens, wearables are all really cool, but most do the same things.
Do you really need a wearable device when an app for your smartphone can count your steps, calculate calories burned, or tell you more about what is in your food? If you already have a wearable, do you even use it? If you have a tablet and an e-reader and a big smartphone and are contemplating upgrading any of these functioning devices, then I am looking at you. Don’t spend it — save it. Skip the upgrades and enjoy the tech you have — the newest one isn’t going to do much more, and hot new features often go unused anyway.
Buying the latest, greatest, newest tech toy is usually a big, fat waste of money, especially if you have a lot of devices that serve similar purposes. It’s also likely that your smartphone already does — or can do — most of the tasks other devices are designed to do.
2. Car payments
Is your car payment higher than your rent? Close to it? Does paying it every month feel like a hardship? If so, you’re driving a car you probably can’t afford.
If you are driving an expensive car, you are also paying for expensive insurance. A good rule of thumb is to limit all of your costs associated with driving, including the loan payment, insurance, gasoline and maintenance, to about 25% of your net income.
If you’re spending more than that, it’s time to scale down and channel the difference into savings. Start looking at models online and check pricing before you visit any dealerships so that you know what you want, hopefully you won’t make a snap decision based on a slick sales pitch, and won’t get swindled.
3. High interest credit cards
When was the last time you looked at the amount of interest you are paying on your credit cards? Are you using your cards just based on rewards? You could be paying a lot more in interest than you’re getting back in those rewards, and that is money you could pour into savings.
If you have good credit, you should be able to bag a pretty low interest rate on your credit cards.
At least once a year, it’s a good idea to sit down and examine your credit card terms so you can really see what you are paying versus what you are getting in return. If you dump $500 into interest on items you could afford to buy with cash just to earn flight mileage, for example, you could have bought a plane ticket with what you would have saved, or better yet, put the money into savings.
4. Education debt
You and almost everyone you know probably has student loan debt. Who doesn’t? And many of us are saddled with multiple loans and loan types. If you haven’t consolidated your student debt, what are you waiting for?
You could save a lot of money by refinancing your student loans into one payment that is a lot more convenient to make each month. Start shopping around online and at your local bank branches to learn about your options. Your choices are going to vary, and you may find out that you already have a good interest rate, but talk to several loan officers at a number of banks to find out if you can save by finally making the big loan consolidation move. The next step is to allocate those extra dollars to your savings account.
5. Unused memberships
Sure you want to support your local museum, but do you ever actually visit it? Are you prone to buying into a gym membership but rarely going to work out, but keep renewing the membership, thinking that will get you to go back? Are you a member of more than one buying club like Costco, BJ’s or Sam’s Club or just buying for one? It’s time to stop. These are unnecessary expenses that will do much for you in the long run if you instead put that money into your savings account.
Do you love magazines? Just like those unused or underused memberships, if you have stacks of magazines sitting around that you haven’t read, or if similar information is available online (trust me; it is), then it’s time to rethink your magazine subscriptions.
There isn’t much information that you can’t get online, and often served just as beautifully as a good print magazine. Flipboard on your smartphone or tablet is one among many terrific apps that let you build your own content feeds. You can save some trees, and better still, more of your money by cutting those expenses.
Shirley is a staff writer for MyBankTracker who covers personal finance trends, money habits, mortgages and foreclosures.