But on The Early Show Thursday, contributor and financial journalist Vera Gibbons explained how, with a few simple steps, you could "save" more than $5,000 a year:
In general, use cash as much as possible, instead of your debit or credit card. That helps prevent buying on impulse. As many as a third of all purchases are bought on impulse and, according to one estimate, we spend a third more when we pay with plastic than when we use cash. Of course, the amount you save depends on how much you typically spend, but try to get into that habit. It really works!
Take Home More Of Your Pay = $2300
This is a very basic tip, but the majority of us still don't do it, so it bears repeating: Change the number of allowances you claim on your W-4. That means the government would keep less of your paycheck each pay period, and you'll have more in your bank account. Seventy percent of households still receive a refund at tax time; the average refund is $2,300.
Save That "Extra" Paycheck = $1000
Most families plan their budget based on two paychecks a month (usually distributed on the first and fifteenth). But, if your company pays you every-other-week instead of on set dates, there are two months out of the year when you actually get three paychecks (often around May and December). If you leave one of those two extra paychecks out of your budget and automatically squirrel it away, you'll probably save more than $1,000 and never feel the squeeze. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average weekly earning is about $610; that excludes the very highest earners. It also doesn't account for taxes and other deductions. So, we put the number at $500 a week. If you're paid every other week, that means each paycheck is roughly $1,000.
If you get paid every week, the number of "extra" checks doubles to four.
Save A Dollar A Day = $365
This one is for people who say they simply can't afford to save anything. Take the change you accumulate each day and dump it into a jar. Or, simply set aside one dollar bill each day. At the end of the year, you'll have $365! But what's more amazing is how much you can save if you do this for many years in a row:
Save $365 a year
Earn 5 percent interest
After 20 years = $12,750
Bank Those Coupon Savings = $364
Here's another easy-to-do idea that also doesn't require big sacrifices: Put aside the amount you save by using coupons at the grocery store or drugstore. If you save $2 a week using grocery coupons, put the savings -- the money you didn't spend on that box of cereal, tissues, etc. -- in your savings account instead. According to the Coupon Council, those who spend 10 minutes or less per week clipping and organizing their coupons (46 percent of consumers) achieve an average $7 weekly savings on their grocery bill. (If you save $7 weekly, you'll save $364 by year's end)
Save $10 Here and There = $600
If you're willing to try to save a bit more each month, try this strategy: Carve $10 a month from five spending categories that aren't fixed: For instance, eating out (order water to drink or cut back on dining out), shopping (shop at malls only when an item is needed), and utilities (lower the thermostat at home; turn off lights or unneeded appliances). Trying to save just $10 in several areas feels much more manageable than simply saying, "I'm going to save $50 a month" or "I'm going to cut $50 out of our entertainment budget." This is also a fun way to get your kids involved in saving money. Show them your electric bill from last year or last month. Challenge them to lower that bill by $10. When kids are working toward that goal, you'll be surprised at how much more willing they are to turn off lights when they leave a room!
Make Savings Automatic = $600
If you're ready to truly commit to saving $50 a month (or more!), the best thing to do is have the money automatically taken out of your account before you can even consider spending it: Out of sight, out of mind! You may be used to doing that with your 401(k), but did you know that you could sign up to have a designated amount automatically taken out of your paycheck and deposited into a savings or investment account? Ariel Mutual Funds, T. Rowe Price, Investment Co. of America and others let you invest as little as $50 a month if you set up automatic deductions from your bank account or paycheck. Investing at regular intervals is called "dollar cost averaging." And investing that way is good idea, no matter what amount you can afford, because it helps weather market volatility ($50 a month for 12 months = $600).
TOTAL "SAVINGS" FOR THE YEAR IF YOU FOLLOW ALL THE TIPS = $5,229!