Money Matters

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How to easily grow your savings

One of the keys to successfully managing money is to save money. Conventional financial wisdom recommends men and women have between three and four month's worth of earnings in their savings accounts to cover themselves in case of an emergency. But many people live paycheck to paycheck, while others are mired in debt.

A 2013 survey from BankRate.com found roughly three-quarters of Americans have little emergency savings. Many working professionals find it hard to save any money once they have paid their monthly bills, including home expenses, child care and other common expenses.

Although many Canadians are not saving enough, there seems to be a silver lining with regard to money management in that part of North America. The percentage of people who claimed they could not save dropped from 28 percent in 2012 to 17 percent in 2013, according to a BMO Financial Group report on household savings. Statistics Canada reported that the household saving rate rose to 5.4 percent in the third quarter of 2013, which is up from 5 percent in 2012.

Financial analysts point to consumer trends among younger generations as one possible cause of the dwindling emphasis on saving money. Previous generations were taught the benefits of saving and being frugal, but nowadays many people struggle to distinguish between necessities and luxuries. More readily available access to credit and a more materialistic culture may also be contributing to fewer dollars being saved.

While saving may seem like an uphill battle, a little saving can go a long way. Explore these relatively painless ways to cut back and save more money.

• Do it yourself. Make a list of all the service providers used — from manicurists to hair stylists to lawncare professionals — and figure out where cuts can be made. Doing all or a portion of the work yourself can save a considerable amount of money. Do your own weeding and edging, only paying a landscaper to perform the more time consuming task of mowing the lawn. Skip an in-salon coloring treatment for an at-home application. Spend a day preparing meals for the week and eliminate much of your dining out expenses or fast food excursions.

• Review your shopping cart. Impulse buys can bust budgets. When grocery shopping, take some time before getting in line to review your potential purchases. Compare items against your list and figure out if any items can go back on the shelf. Do the same when shopping online. Before you proceed to checkout, review items in your cart. Chances are you can delete one or two from the list.

• Consider new stores. If you find yourself spending more than you feel is necessary when shopping, look for new stores. Smaller markets may offer produce and other items at a fraction of the cost of large chain stores. Instead of doing all of your shopping in one place, shop around and buy items where they are the least expensive. For example, you may find paper products are more affordable at a pharmacy than at the supermarket.

• Learn to coupon effectively. Although you need not go to extremes, use coupons when shopping and learn how to pair sales with coupons to earn even greater discounts. Many blogs and websites help make the process easier, telling you when and where to clip coupons. Sometimes you can print coupons directly online or load discounts to a shopper loyalty card.

• Scale back on certain services. Assess your lifestyle to determine which services you can live without. If you rarely watch television, you may be able to reduce your cable or satellite package. Figure out if bundling services really does save you money. Add up how many minutes you use on mobile phone plans as well as the amount of data. You might find that you do not need the biggest phone plan after all.

Saving does not have to be challenging. Opportunities to save money present themselves at every turn. Master the little ways to shave off expenses and  grow your savings.