By Eve Hernandez
When finding ways to build up savings, personal finance experts often tout those pesky impulse buys to reduce expenses. Skip the latte! Stay home and stream a video that’s included in your subscription! Why dry clean when you can hand wash? However, once we make a conscious effort to curb those spending habits, we can sometimes find ourselves at a plateau.
So what’s next in building up our savings accounts? I’ve got a personal story to share. But first, here are some recommendations to build up savings one hour at a time:
- Call your credit card company to receive a lower interest rate – If you’ve made your payments on time within the last year, and stayed in the same job and lived at the same residence for at least 12 months, you may have improved your credit score (visit MyAdvantage Checking for free credit score details). This may help negotiate a lower interest rate on your credit card, which could lower monthly payments and save interest expense. You can then use the difference to pay off your principal balance, reducing time needed to pay off the account. Since getting a lower interest rate may require a conversation with a real-life rep, be prepared to block out an entire hour for this call.
- Shop around for a better auto loan or auto insurance rate – Once again, a positive payment history, time in your residence and with the same employer can work in your favor. You may be able to refinance your vehicle loan with a lower interest rate, lower monthly insurance premiums and save money. Getting a quote for a loan rate or insurance premium online is quick and easy, but it may take several business hours to get a call back. Be sure to have in hand all items required to verify your identify, VIN and current payment information to speed up online application and follow-up calls.
- Clean out your closet – Closet, pantry, garage, cabinets. If you’ve lived in the same residence for any amount of time, it might be time to re-organize. Chances are you’ve stashed away a few items that you don’t use, or forgot you owned. Any items that you re-discover can save money on future shopping trips. You may also find some items that you can re-sell, and re-purpose those funds. To get this kind of job done, you may need to plan several one-hour increments. This will keep it from becoming an overwhelming project, and give you an opportunity to make a thorough assessment of each project.
- Login to your savings and loan accounts online, set up online bill payments, make a budget – This could also be a more long-term project, but organizing your accounts can also help you find ways to save. You may find that you’re spending more on meals or on a utility bill now, compared to three months ago. Set up a spreadsheet to track down each dollar, and decide how much you want to send back to your savings account.
I recently decided to take on the One Hour Challenge after emptying my pantry and several closets for a painting project. I’ve used the same bi-weekly grocery list for years, and my pantry was overflowing with cans, jars and boxes. Clearing out the pantry was a real eye-opener! After getting rid of expired cake mixes and cans of ravioli, I found that I’d really, really overstocked on some basics: four-packs of canned tuna, all types of canned beans, jars of pasta sauce, quart sized plastic zip bags, aluminum foil, trash bags and dishwasher liquid. I totaled the value of all those items at $68. After the new paint dried, I invested in clear containers to help ban future pantry chaos. Starting with empty shelves, measuring and buying containers in advance, I was able to get everything back in place within the hour. I may need more hobbies, but I can truly say that I enjoyed the process, and felt motivated to move on to the closets.
Setting the one-hour timer, I quickly found several items that looked better online or in the store than they looked on me. Here are just a few things found in the shop-my-closet haul: three dresses with tags still on, five pairs of shoes worn only once, and two big-ticket, vintage western shirts (it was a phase) that might actually bring in some money. After a quick online search, I learned that I could conservatively make $75 by selling all these items. I can’t wait to take on the garage and the cabinets. I may not get rich quick, but I may find more items to sell.
I’ve learned that in just a few one-hour sessions, I can add more order to my week. I have also learned to save money by checking my shopping list, and that I need to try things on before buying. Any funds I earn with my upcoming yard sale will go into my savings account.
I hope that you’re encouraged to take on the One Hour Money Challenge.