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I Saved How Much?!

Money-saving tips can be boring, especially since we often don't want to do them. Giving up smoking is a classic one. If you smoke a pack a day and each pack costs you $5, you're spending nearly $2,000 per year on tobacco. Invest that for 25 years and, if you earn an annual average return of 10%, you'll end up with nearly $20,000 at retirement -- just from that one year's worth of not smoking. Imagine how much you could accumulate if you gave it up for several years!

Quitting smoking is much easier said than done, though. When flipping through some past issues of our Motley Fool Green Light newsletter recently, I ran across some other excellent money saving ideas. I hope a few of them will make sense to you, because if you make a few changes in your life, you can end up significantly improving your retirement.

Consider this ...
Here are some ideas for you (and me), from advisors Dayana Yochim and Robert Brokamp:

  • "Give your cash a shot of adrenaline. If your current checking or savings account pays anywhere near the national average APY of 0.34%, stop letting your short-term money languish. On a $5,000 balance, you could easily earn 2.13% to 4.05% (that's $106.50 to $202.50 over the next year) just settling for the national average rates." You could do even better than that -- some banks are offering more than 5% interest on savings accounts (which could net you $200 more than you're currently getting) -- visit Bankrate.com for more info. Savings: $200.
  • "Overlooked deductions, credits, and itemization opportunities [on tax returns] cost the average taxpayer more than $400 a year." Yikes -- this can be a biggie. Every situation is different, so some people could end up saving $1,000 or more by being more comprehensive with their tax returns. For example, you may be able to deduct your job-search expenses, charitable contributions, and medical expenses. You may even qualify for $1,000 or more in education-related credits. (Learn much more in our Tax Center.) Savings: $1,000.
  • "Slash your car and homeowner's insurance by as much as two-thirds. Raise your deductible to $1,000 from $250 (15% to 30% savings), purchase auto and homeowner's insurance from the same company (15%), and keep a claim-free record (5% to 35%) for $245 to $560 in savings on a $700-a-year policy." Wow -- got that? These savings (which could amount to $1,000 or more for someone like me with a policy that costs more than $1,000 a year) are there for the taking and will only cost you a few phone calls. No long-term suffering, no subsisting on salads made of lawn clippings. Understand that a higher deductible will cost you more out-of-pocket during the years when you have a claim, but most of the time, you'll end up ahead of the game. Savings: $750.
  • "Save on airfare with Farecast.com, a free service that predicts the direction of prices for travel from most major airports. Farecast touts an accuracy rate of roughly 75% and, for $9.95, allows you to lock in low fares." If you save just $100 each on four flights this year, that can make a big difference. And this, too, is painless money saving with little inconvenience. Savings: $400.

There's more ...
Here are a couple of ideas of my own:

  • Tend to your credit rating. Be diligent about paying your bills on time and using credit responsibly. Check your credit report regularly to make sure that there aren't any errors (if there are, you can fix them). By having a super-duper credit score, you'll likely be able to snag the best interest rates available when you borrow money. On a $200,000 mortgage, getting a 6.5% 30-year loan instead of an 8% one can mean you pay $1,264 per month instead of $1,468 -- a savings of about $200 per month, or $2,400 per year. That's a big deal. Savings: $2,400.
  • Look for small ways to save, too. For example, I rarely buy sodas when I dine out. If I dine out four times per week and forego four $2 sodas, that's $8 per week not spent, at little inconvenience to me. For the year, it's a whopping $400. Savings: $400.

What to do
I think you get the idea by now. There are myriad ways to save money, many of them well worth considering. If you employ the tips above, you might save a total of $5,150 annually. (And that's excluding the smoking cessation tip.) After 25 years, earning 10%, $5,150 will grow to nearly $56,000.

Once you've got the money, make effective use of it! As Green Light notes, "Commit to an investment of just $500 a month, and, if the market hits its historical mark, you can sleepwalk your way to more than $400,000 in 20 years. Kick in $1,000 each month, and you'll bank roughly $810,000 in 20 years."

Invest in an S&P 500 index fund and you'll instantly be invested in 500 big American firms, such as Chevron (NYSE: CVX  ) , Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL  ) , Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) , Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM  ) , and Amgen (Nasdaq: AMGN  ) . And investing in an S&P 500 index fund is easy and comes with low fees -- you can do so via the Vanguard S&P 500 Index Fund (FUND: VFINX  ) or the SPDRs (AMEX: SPY  ) exchange-traded fund, among other options.

In the meantime, for more money saving advice, tips on great deals, and general investing guidance (such as specific stock and mutual fund recommendations), I invite you to take advantage of a free 30-day trial of our Motley Fool Green Light newsletter service. There's no obligation, and I think you'll like what you see. Dayana and Robert include a $450 "money in the bank" promise with each issue -- that's how much you can make or save following their tips. A free trial will give you full access to all past issues, too.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Amgen and an S&P 500 index fund. Amazon.com is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Bankrate is a Rule Breakers recommendation. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.


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Selena Maranjian
TMFSelena

Selena Maranjian has been writing for the Fool since 1996 and covers basic investing and personal finance topics. She also prepares the Fool's syndicated newspaper column and has written or co-written a number of Fool books. For more financial and non-financial fare (as well as silly things), follow her on Twitter...

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