I've worked for a very wealthy man for over 24 years! He STILL uses coupons, believe it or not. That said, I started seeking his advice and the advice of others, like Dave Ramsey and Clark Howard. As a result, I am totally DEBT FREE and have almost a quarter of a million dollars in the bank. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS GET SMART & GET CHEAP!
I am not saving money until I pay off all debt because the ratio of money earned on money saved (interest) to money spent (finance charges) is very skewed in favor of the creditors. And the absolute best way I have learned to find money to pay off debt is to write out a monthly budget WITH my husband so we are both on the same page. It's working like a charm and we are not feeling deprived. Sort of like the lifestyle change with SparkPeople.
Do you want a way to reduce a substantial amount of credit card debt? You may not realize it, but you probably accumulate at least one hundred dollars in spare change every month. Use that change solely for the purpose of paying off credit cards. At the end of the month, send the credit card companies a check for the amount of the change you have collected in addition to your monthly payment. It can become a game; pick up change off the ground!
Keep 2 running monthly totals ---one for debt & one for savings. Use a notebook, ledger, spreadsheet, or money-managing software (such as Quicken) to record your totals on the last day of each month. Your goal should be to have less debt & more savings every single month. It is so motivating to see savings/investments grow and/or debt go down. Once I started to do this, it inspired me to put as much as possible into savings each month and/or pay more.... (click title for more info)
My husband and I have started to pay cash for everything. We are using Dave Ramsey's envelope system. I went through the budget and determined categories of spending (groceries, pets, fun money) and everything that wasn't a 'bill' we use cash for, excluding gas for the cars.
About 20 years ago my entire extended family decided that being together is our present to ourselves & we no longer needed to exchange gifts outside of our immediate families. When that joint decision was made, it was one of the happier days of my life. I was always stressed before the holidays ---there was too much to do at home, at work, at school ---and then buy presents, too. Gifts are not essential for the holidays... (click title for more)
I get paid by direct deposit and on payday I check my account online. Looking at the balance, I transfer any money left over from the previous payday into a savings account; even if it is only $20.00. You will be surprised at how fast this can add up. my savings account is actually a tax-free account where I can stash up to $5000 without paying taxes on it. Nice!
You need a good credit score to get the best rates on insurance (auto/home) & be eligible for loans and cash-back credit cards. You also need credit cards for car rentals, airline tickets, motel reservations, roadside emergencies. So keep 2 or 3 credit cards that pay cash back (usually 1%, sometimes more). Use them several times a month for small purchases (never more than 10% of your limit) & pay them off every month... (Click title for more info.)
If you inherit money, win the lottery, or receive a big bonus, use most of it to pay off credit cards or other debt, save for your children's education, create an emergency fund in case you are laid off, or save for retirement instead of opting for luxury items... (more info)
I set up 3 accounts on Quicken. One for savings & investments. One for mortgage, credit cards, loans, etc. And one for checking accounts I use to pay bills, etc. It is motivating to see the Debt decrease and the Savings grow every month. It is also a reality check to track how much you owe or save.
The general wisdom is to use all extra money to pay off debt before you start to save or invest money. But if you do that & an emergency arises (the refrigerator or your transmission dies) then you have to go back into debt. So pay off debt, but also save for emergencies.
HIDE your credit cards! It can be really hard to cut down on using credit cards, especially if you're first starting out in a journey to stop using them altogether. If you need them for an emergency, you'll have them, but if they're out of sight, they're out of mind (and wallet).