You CAN Save for the Future When You're Struggling to Make Ends Meet (Really!)

piggy bankIt's the financial equivalent of being stuck between a rock and a hard place: How can you build your family's savings when you're barely making ends meet as it is? Or when you're struggling to get out of debt?

Theoretically I should have two college funds going right now, one for each of my kids ... but I figure it's probably more important that they're fed and clothed in the meantime.

(The electric bill is a priority too, as I can't imagine doing homework by candlelight would do much for their academic future, either.)

If you're like me and getting your family's finances under control feels like an overwhelming, if not impossible, task -- take heart. And take one step at a time. 

Here are a few easy ways to get started ...

1. Get in the habit of tracking your household spending. Most of us think we know how much we spend every day/week/month ... but take a look at your bank and credit card statements and you might be surprised. For a real eye-opener, try jotting down every dollar you spend for a week (and what you spent it on). Unnecessary spending patterns will be super-obvious! Don't beat yourself up -- make small changes based on your observations and you'll be amazed at the difference.

2. Scout out secret savings. Pull out all those monthly bills -- Internet, phone, auto insurance -- and call that customer service number. You might not know this (I didn't until recently), but simply asking for a better rate can actually GET you a better rate. It's true! (Sneaky tip: If the service rep doesn't offer to extend any new customer deals or promotions, mention that you're thinking of switching to a different company. It really works!)

3. Update your 401(k) contribution rate. Again, if you're like me, you probably did the auto-enroll thing when you started working with your company. Problem is, your rate is probably too low to get the maximum match. Ask someone in HR to help you switch to the qualifying rate.

See, none of those tips are too terrifying, right?

Do you have a savings account for your family? Any advice to share?

Image via Ken Teegardin/Flickr

thrifty solutions, budget finds


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Capta... CaptainMcMommy

We have switched to cash for everything but bills and gas. By just doing that we have saved a lot of money! #2 really does work (except for Directv, but we couldn't afford the best deal they could give us so we canceled). If you're a SAHM do you need to spend $100 a month on a cell phone? We have a home phone for $20 a month and I have a prepaid cell for $100 a year. We currently have an emergency fund of $1000 saved up. All other extra money we are making right now is going towards paying off debt (student loan). Then we will save up 6 months of bills. After that it will go to paying down our mortgage so we can move. After we move it will go into savings and retirement.

miche... micheledo

Other ways:  Drop the internet, cell phones, cable, going out to eat, any activity that costs money (movies, zoo, etc).

butte... butterflyfreak

#2 is definitely a good one! My husband is the master at this, but he goes right for the jugular and says right off the bat, "I'm thinking about switching as X has a deal right now." Those reps bend over backwards to keep our business, as they should with the economy the way it is.

nonmember avatar Becky

That's a smart suggestion about not keeping an expensive cell if you are a SAHM. My cell is dead half the time and we have no land line, so I certainly don't feel any safer with my cell. Also, when your kids are really little, there is no point in having cable. I NEVER have time to watch my own shows and the little tv the kids watch is broadcast free-- PBS and a local children's channel. (The channel is so cheap, they run the same 3 ads even, so I don't have to hear any begging for Mattel or McDonalds!)

nonmember avatar NavyWife

Drop the cable and use Netflix and Hulu. As far as internet goes, it can come pretty cheap if you aren't picky. Do family game nights, go the park, go to the beach if you live near one and pack your own lunch. Save going out to eat for special occasions (anniversaries and birthdays). You don't have to cut every ounce of fun out your life in order to save. You don't have cut out everything that costs money, either. Just do it cheaper :)

nonmember avatar Lynn Ryzak

I loved going to Seattle Drip and Starbucks for my Chai Latte`. This little habit got to be to expensive. Know I go to Sam`s Club and buy Mystic Chia Spiced. Unfortunately this is a seasonal item. I also canceled Cable. I get one channel and it has news and some really good shows.It`s not a big deal not having Cable.

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