We always want what we don't have, and for most Americans it's a full savings account. The national saving rate was less than .5 percent in 2013 but most Americans still choose to live beyond their means, until they have nothing to live on. So if you're ready to tighten the purse strings, the Illinois CPA Society developed 11 ways to help you save during tough financial times:
1.) Avoid Paying Fees. Use a bank with no ATM fees and avoid paying other fees whenever possible - late payments on utility bills, late video rental fees, etc.
2.) Take advantage of sales and use coupons. Plan your commissary shopping ahead of time and stick to a list. Buy more of the items you use on a regular basis whey they're on sale. Combine a manufacturer's coupon with a sale price for more savings. Share and swap coupons with other military families and friends.
3.) Shop around and compare prices.
Whether it's your phone service or car insurance, look around for the best price and value. Check what you're getting for the money and make comparisons based on all the features and benefits.
4.) Evaluate your cable/satellite TV package. Do you really need all 906 channels? Downgrading your level of service may put more money in your pocket.
5.) Eliminate magazine subscriptions or reduce the amount of magazines you receive. Most libraries carry a selection of magazines to check out. Additionally, most magazines post their content online now.
6.) Calculate the cost of your commute. With gas prices rising, it may be more feasible for you to consider public transportation or carpooling. Try walking or biking if you live close to your destination.
7.) Scale back on the vacation. Saving doesn't mean denying yourself a trip, but weigh the options. Your kids may have just as much fun at a nearby water park as they would half way across the country.
8.) Alter your attitude about saving. Make it a contest with family or friends to find the best bargain, or low- to no-cost entertainment. Go to community concerts and plays. Or, swap games, books and movies with friends.
9.) Experiment with less expensive products and places. Be open to trying different brands that may cost less with items such as make-up, food or cleaning products. Test out inexpensive restaurants and services and take advantage of offers to first-time customers.
10.) Eat meals at home and prepare a lunch to take to work. The same applies to coffee and other beverages; best to brew or make your own rather than continue a $70 a month habit.
11.) Change the 'need it now' mentality. Don't let shopping be your 'feel better' solution. Try to find other ways to unwind like exercise or reading. When you do shop, weigh every purchase and ask yourself if it's something you must have now. The price may go down considerably if you wait a few months, and you don't need to be the first one to own the latest gadget or fashion fad.
If you follow these steps and save money on the little expenses you could prepare yourself for any big financial emergencies that could arise. Consult your on-base financial counselor or visit Military.com's Money channel for additional financial advice.
Readers, I hope that you can help your fellow Paycheck Chronicles readers and me out by telling us about the tricks and tips for using the Tricare mail order pharmacy. Readers ask me about it, and I don’t know the answers because I have never used it. Now I am trying to use it for […]