February 25 kicks off America Saves Week, an annual event sponsored by the Consumer Federation of America to encourage saving, debt reduction and wealth building. Use the following tips inspired by the America Saves Week website (www.americasavesweek.org) to save money when budgets are tight.

  1. To find small savings that add up to big savings over time, keep a careful record of all your expenditures for a month. You may be surprised to learn how much you are spending on such things as a daily latte or restaurant meals.
  2. For necessary purchases -- such as food, transportation and insurance -- comparison shop. The Consumer Literacy Consortium provides good advice from leading consumer experts on how to save money purchasing 28 types of major products.
  3. Pay your bills on time. This saves added expenses such as late fees, extra finance charges and disconnection/reconnection fees.
  4. Restrain from spending large amounts for birthdays and holidays. A few well chosen gifts are likely to be more appreciated than a more costly pile of gifts chosen thoughtlessly in a shopping spree.
  5. Payday loans typically charge interest rates of 500 percent, and the interest rate on credit card debts can run 25 percent. You can save hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars a year by paying off these high-cost debts.
  6. Establish an emergency fund to avoid having to take loans to pay for unexpected expenses. Determine how much money you are able save each month, then deposit that amount in a savings account at FSB. Financial advisors generally suggest saving enough money to cover your living expenses for three to six months.
  7. Ask your bank to automatically transfer funds each month from your checking to your savings account. Even as little as $10 or $15 a month helps. After all, that’s $120 or $180 a year.
  8. Put all your loose change in this savings account. For many people, that could add up to well over $100 a year.
  9. Low- and moderate-income workers qualify, each year, for an Earned Income Tax Credit that can put over $1,000, and often more than $2,000, in your pocket. IRS Publication 596 explains how to apply, or you can contact your local tax payer assistance center for in-person help. Be sure to save at least half of this windfall.
  10. If your employer offers a retirement plan, such as a 401(k) plan, that deducts money from your paycheck, join it. Try to contribute at least as much as your employer is willing to match.
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