Making saving seem easy.
With so many demands on our budgets, saving for retirement can seem like our last priority. It's a dangerous trend, with only about half of workers participating in workplace retirement plans, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts. But what if we change the way we think of saving in the same way we're learning to replace fattening snacks with healthy ones? Could we trick ourselves into healthy saving habits and fund our retirements simply by using these out-of-the-box methods of saving?
Get rid of the lead foot.
"A test by Edmunds.com showed we can get 35 percent better fuel mileage by switching from an aggressive to a more laid-back driving style," says Cara Reynolds, community manager for the online financial planning service Sum180 in Louisville, Kentucky. If the average American spends about $1,960 on gas per year, that's a savings of $686 per year. Resist the urge to be the fastest person on the road and bank the savings.
Cook with a crockpot.
If you're dining out too much because you're too tired to cook at the end of a long day, find some recipes on the Web and take a few minutes to stock your crockpot in the morning. By the time you get home, you'll have a hot meal ready to serve. Swapping one $50 dinner per week for a slow-cooker meal (at a cost of $2 per person for a family of four) would save you $2,184 per year, Reynolds says.
Create rental income.
With websites like Airbnb and Craigslist, renting a room or a part of your house is much easier than it used to be. Consider converting a basement into a one-bedroom apartment and renting it to a nephew for $600 month. That adds up to $7,200 per year, says Carla Dearing, CEO of SUM180. Do you have land near a stable? Consider renting it as a pasture for horses. "With three horses at $150 each per month, that's $5,400 per year," she says.
Shop for groceries midweek.
"Midweek is usually when the sales start, and if you have a set list, you won't feel the need to impulse buy," says debt relief attorney Leslie Tayne in Melville, New York. Write down how much you'll spend before you're in the store so you avoid going over budget. "This reduces impulse buying drastically and translates into savings that can be put toward your retirement," she says.
Keep your marriage healthy.
Divorce is expensive. "Marriage should be a lifelong commitment that begins when you say, 'I do,' because the moment you say, 'I don't,' not only will your marriage end, but your net worth and retirement savings will take a serious hit," says Kevin J. Smith, founding partner of Smith, Mayer & Liddle, a wealth advisory group of Janney Montgomery Scott in York, Pennsylvania. "Focus on enhancing the quality of your marriage and make every effort to work through the inevitable challenges that all marriages endure."
If you've got a destructive habit that you just can't ditch, match it. Let's say you hope to give up smoking. Assuming cigarettes cost $7 per pack, "a typical smoker might spend $2,555 on cigarettes each year. Assuming an 8 percent fixed annual rate of return, putting this money aside in a retirement savings account would accumulate to $289,439 in 30 years," Smith says.
Cut cable's cord.
You can still get some television channels with an antenna. "For people who are willing to trim at the edges of discretionary spending, there is a decent-sized movement to cut the cords with cable or satellite providers. This allows people to take those dollars and put them toward long-term savings, such as a Roth IRA or education savings for their kids," says Jared Snider, senior wealth advisor at Exencial Wealth Advisors in Oklahoma City.
Turn your hobby into extra cash.
If you love animals, consider becoming a pet sitter using online services such as DogVacay, doing odd tasks through TaskRabbit or selling collectables on eBay, Dearing says. A fun side job that capitalizes on your strengths could also be bankable, like blogging or babysitting, working for a charity, selling your crafts on Etsy or teaching a class at the gym, Tayne says.
Play the envelope game.
Get a box of envelopes and label one for each of your monthly expenses and hobbies. Add one more for retirement, then allocate a budget and cash to each one. Greg Parady, CEO of Parady Life & Annuity in The Villages, Florida, has a client who divides her money among 23 envelopes, including those for dining out, car insurance, rainy days and her husband's golfing. "They never earned big money, but they are comfortable in retirement and they now travel the world together," he says.
Create your own jackpot.
If you're frustrated by your losing lottery tickets but still hope to hit it big, consider redirecting ticket money toward retirement savings. "Assuming an 8 percent fixed annual rate of return, putting aside just $10 per week would grow to $7,957 in 10 years, $25,655 in 20 years and $65,019 in 30 years," Smith says. If you still need to buy a ticket, consider matching lottery purchases with the same amount to retirement savings and make it fun by comparing the two on an ongoing basis.
Christine Giordano is a freelance business journalist with a passion to help consumers make educated decisions. Also a columnist for Newsday, you can follow her on Twitter @chrisgiordano.