Save the most money in 2012.
If you find yourself continually overspending, you are not alone. Americans are seemingly addicted to consumption and it has brought about the highest levels of credit card debt in the history of our nation.
Every year, we vow not to spend more than we make, yet many of us fail this resolution time and time again.
You can't just have good intentions to spend less; you've have to make a plan and stick to it.
But it's not that easy. Curbing your desire to spend requires real behavioral change and sometimes it takes new strategies to get yourself motivated.
So with that in mind, here are some new strategies that can help you take control of your spending habits in 2012.
Saving Strategy #1: The Old Standby -- Make a Budget and Set Financial Goals
Now, this might be a little bit like telling someone with a weight problem to "just eat less." However, the first step to curb spending is to actually know how much you can spend in the first place.
Making a budget is vital because it helps you set financial goals. Without goals, most of us lack direction and motivation to get what we ultimately want, whether that's paying down debt, investing for retirement or saving for a European vacation.
This year, set a goal of how much less you want to spend and incorporate that into your budget. Perhaps you also want to set a savings goal as well. Whatever you choose, get it on paper and stick to it!
Saving Strategy #2: Use Your Savings Account First, Checking Account Last
Having a budget isn't enough. Like diets, budgets just don't work for some people. Sometimes, you just have to get drastic to reach your financial savings goals.
Have two bank accounts at one bank; a checking and savings account. Set the accounts up so that you can transfer money in between the two accounts. Here's the kicker, as opposed to having your money first deposited into checking, have it deposited into the savings.
Only transfer the amount you have allotted in your budget to spend to checking. That way, you save by default, and what is left in the savings account can go toward your financial goals.
Saving Strategy #3: Spend Cash Only!
We're ratcheting things up a notch now. Do you really want to curb your spending? Quit using credit cards. Studies show that people spend more on the same items simply by using credit versus cash. Cash is more difficult than credit and any barrier to spending will help you to spend less.
Financial guru Dave Ramsey suggests a cash only approach and has a simple procedure for sticking to a spending plan -- the 'envelope system'. If you have $500 budgeted for food, take $500 cash and put it in an envelope and use that money every time you purchase food.
At the very least, it will cause major inconvenience when you're out of cash and you want to cheat. Do this for each category in your budget and it will force you to spend within your means and stick to your goals.
Saving Strategy #4: Stop the "One Click" Shopping Online!
Many online retailers allow you to have a credit card on file so you can easily make a purchase without having to enter any personal data -- usually known as "one click" ordering.
"One click" ordering is dangerous for your wallet. My advice: Don't use it!
I accidentally bought a laptop that way, which I bought on impulse -- it was a costly budget buster. If you are forced to manually enter your credit card information, you will probably be less likely to impulse buy.
If you want to spend less money, it is a good idea to avoid online shopping altogether. It is just too easy to buy online and the more you look, the more you think you need.
Saving Strategy #5: Have Friends, Family and Peers Hold You Accountable
Another way to curb spending is through shame. It might sound funny but it works. Letting someone else know your goals and letting them see whether or not you are on track is a great way to detour spending. After all, disapproval can be a powerful motivator.
If you are married, the obvious choice would be your spouse, however if you are single, enlist the help of a parent, family member or trusted friend.
You can even post your progress on Facebook if you really want accountability. Talk to them about your saving and spending goals and have them regularly ask you about them. If you don't mind sharing your personal finances with trusted friends, you may even allow them to look at your financial budget on Mint or other personal finance software.
Saving Strategy #6: THINK Before You Buy! There Are Alternatives!
When it comes to in-store purchases, there is instant gratification in buying -- but that often wears off after a day or two. Wait at least two days before making a big purchase and see if it is something you still really want. If the feeling persists, consider if it realistically fits in your budget and if that purchase will still allow you to easily meet your short and long-term spending goals.
So many times, we purchase things that we'd be better off borrowing. Borrowing from neighbors might seem like a hassle, but can be a good way to get to know the people who live around you. Be sure to offer your things as well and your whole neighborhood could realize savings from pooling resources like lawn equipment and rarely used tools like a wet saw.
Don't forget about the community library! Why purchase a book, magazine or CD when you can check it out for free? For those who prefer reading digitally, many libraries now offer free e-books for download to your laptop, Kindle or iPad.
Investing Answer: Sticking to a budget can be difficult, but you'll be surprised how much more ground you'll make toward your financial goals by simply trying a few new strategies. We hope these savings tips will make it much easier stop thinking about crunching numbers and start enjoying life.
For more saving tips, check out "Nine Ways to Save Thousands on Car Expenses" and "How to Choose the Best Credit Card Offers."