the ten percent rule. the easiest way to start saving. when you get your paycheck, automatically put ten percent into your savings account. we get paid weekly, so we estimated our average monthly income and just put ten percent away at the beginning of each month. most banks will do it for you automatically if you ask them to. what's nice about the ten percent rule is that once you make it a habit, you don't even think about it, and you don't miss the money. tight on cash? start with five percent. even if you only make five hundred dollars a month, saving five percent of that leaves you with three hundred dollars at the end of the year. it might not seem like much, but it's a whole lot better than zero.
the step-down principle. this has saved our bank account. before we had jude, steve and i ate out all the time. we were both living really busy lives as full-time students, and at one point, we were juggling five jobs between the two of us. i would get fast food on my lunch breaks all the time, and so would steve. and then we would go out to dinner because i got off work at midnight, and had no desire to whip up some baked ziti and then clean it all up. the nights we weren't working, we would still go out to eat, because we felt like we finally had free time, and we should do something special. so we started using the step-down principle. basically, we would say, "hey, it's friday, let's go eat at cafe sabor, and then go see a movie" ($45). then we'd go, "okay, maybe cafe sabor, and we'll see a movie at the cheap theater" ($33). "or maybe we'll just eat at costa vida and get a movie from redbox" ($16). "you know what, we'll just make tacos at home, and then go get a movie from redbox." ($1). i'm not saying you and your spouse should never go out and treat yourselves. but most of the time, there are always more affordable options. and cooking together always beats sitting in a crowded restaurant with an obnoxious waitress, and dozens of students on awkward first dates.
cash stash. we really need/want a new laptop, a nicer camera, a couple of bookshelves, and want to save up for a road trip this summer. for purchases like these, we decided to start putting away actual cash to save for them. i can never justify a big purchase even if it's something i know we need (and even if we have the money for it)! i just want to hold onto any excess cash we have. it eases my mind a bit if i can withdraw twenty bucks here and there and let it add up slowly. that way when we do go camera shopping, i'm not thinking, "do you know how many diapers this would buy me?!" i can spend the money on a camera, because i know that's what the money was for.
so, there you have it. three easy ways to start saving. i know this is pretty basic, but it's a great starting point (it was/is for me, anyway). SO! have any financial goals for 2012? any money-saving tips? i'd love to hear them!