The Spend Less Challenge: 1 Idea for Every Day of the Week
We've found the easiest strategies to help you save more and stash away the extra money—without having to pause your (necessary) spending.
Monday: Look at the Big Picture
Most of us have at least four accounts (savings, checking, a joint account and PayPal, for instance). Researchers at the University of Utah found that when funds flowed in and out of just one place, the study's spenders found it easier keep track of their bottom-line net worth
. The result: They spent 10 percent
less of their money.
The next best thing to having a single account is an all-on-one-page overview. For this, check out Mint.com, an app that aggregates all your financial information (daily) and displays it in a colorful interface—helping you track spending patterns. Extra bonus: It's free.
— Jena Pincott
Tuesday: Ignore the Discount
Curb your appetite for irresistible Groupon
deals by unsubscribing from daily deals or filtering the emails out of your in-box. The fact that you spend less on something does not make purchasing it a smart move—or make it something you can afford. A deal that reduces the tab at a favorite restaurant or halves the price of a pair of designer shoes can still be a huge mistake. Yet, people get so seduced by the amount of money they're "saving," they overlook the fact that they're still spending. This needs to stop. Spending a cent on any "want" when your long-term needs are being ignored or shortchanged is irresponsible. A discount can be a disaster if it keeps you from focusing on what's important.
— Suze Orman
Wednesday: Clean Up Your Dirty Benjamins
And the Hamiltons, Jacksons and Grants, too. Subconsciously, we think old, grimy-looking bills are worth less than clean, crisp ones. And so...we generally spend them faster and more freely
, found a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research
. Luckily, there's a simple solution: If possible, ask for newer bills when getting cash back.
Paying with clean bills might get you a better deal
: A field study at a farmers’ market found that sellers more frequently overcharged customers after touching grubby banknotes than new ones.
— Jena Pincott
Thursday: Daydream About the Future (and Then Start Planning for It)
It's easy to procrastinate when retirement seems so far off and other demands—like student loans for 20-somethings and mortgage payments for 30-somethings—seem more pressing. And while you definitely should not neglect those obligations, retirement should be just as high a priority. In a panel on women and retirement sponsored by Merrill Lynch earlier this year, moderator Charles Gibson noted that in 2007 the average amount a woman had in her 401(k) was about $56,000, while a man had $95,000. Another fact from the seminar: Finance expert David Bach, who has written 11 books on money, said the general rule for anyone (men, women, married or single) is to save at least 10 percent of your gross income for your twilight years. But because of women's longer life spans (and think about how expensive those additional seven to nine years can be with nursing homes or extra medical care), he recommends that they save 15 percent.
— Lynn Andriani
Friday: Order Wisely
You've heard you shouldn't go grocery shopping when you're famished—and it turns out that advice applies to dining out, too. Aaron Allen
, a restaurant consultant who has advised clients including The Cheesecake Factory and TGI Fridays, says overordering is a common mistake among the ravenous. Appetizers are some of the most high-margin items on the menu. Two ways to avoid this pitfall: Have a small snack before you leave home, or split a starter, which will leave you plenty of room for your entrée (and save you some money, too). Cut $5 to $10 (or more) from your bill by completely skipping that section of the menu.
— Lynn Andriani
Saturday: Shop at the Edges of the Store
magazine creative director Adam Glassman explained to O
editor-at-large Gayle King during their outlet shopping safari
, how good a bargain you'll find depends on how well you navigate a store layout. "Managers know that it's human nature to automatically walk straight to the heart of a place, so things are pricier in that area," Glassman says. "This is why I always scout the perimeters first, especially the very back, because that's where the higher markdowns are. Then I scope out the middle section, and I finish with the accessories."
— Nathalie Gorman
Sunday: Follow the Rule of 5
Some people—the free-spirited or Type B, the list-phobes, the detail-averse—hate budgets. For them, Lauren Lyons Cole, a certified financial planner, suggests the Rule of 5. Start with your monthly income and subtract your bills, retirement funds, children's college-fund or other saving-plan contributions. Divide this amount by 5. Put one-fifth in a separate account for annual spending (holiday gifts, weekend getaways, etc.) The remaining four-fifths are your pocket money for the month—think of each portion as your weekly allowance. "When it's gone, it's gone," Lyons Cole says. By taking money off the table at the start, you're setting yourself up for success no matter what distractions or urges crop up along the way.
— Taniesha Robinson
Next: Suze Orman answers your most pressing money-saving questions