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While everyone knows it’s important to save money for the future, not all methods of accumulating cash are equally effective.
The U.S. Commerce Department reported that the nation’s savings rate for disposable income in December fell to a 12-year low of just 2.4 percent. It’s not that people don’t try to save. Very often, the problem lies in the methods they choose.
Here are 10 ways that people attempt to save that really do not work. Read on to find out if you need to change your savings strategy.
1. Making minimum payments on credit card bills
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It may seem like you’re saving money when you make a minimum credit card payment, but you have to consider the interest due on the unpaid balance. Paying off debts takes much longer when you’re paying the minimum while the interest charge is added to the balance each month. It’s better to pay your bills in full and on time.
2. Delaying home maintenance projects
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It’s easy to put off home maintenance projects, but such delays tend to catch up with you. Eventually you’ll have to pay for repairs. Leaky roofs don’t fix themselves and tend to get worse over time. If you have a termite program, the longer you want to fumigate, the more damage those pests will do.
If you decide to sell a home that’s in need of a repair, you’ll get less from the buyer, who will factor in the cost of correcting delayed maintenance. You’re better off taking care of your home as problems arise. In addition to having a more pleasant place to live in, your home will have a higher value when you sell it.
3. Going the do-it-yourself route
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Some people decide to save money by doing repairs around the house themselves. That’s fine if you have the skills to pull it off, but if you get in over your head, you’ll need to call in a professional. Repairing faucets or leaky pipes is harder than it sounds. A botched repair job may cost more to fix in the long run. Be honest with yourself about your capabilities before you tackle a home repair project.
For more detail on this subject, check out “Are DIY Home Renovations a Good Idea?”
4. Letting your health insurance lapse
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When times are hard, it’s tempting to stop paying premiums and let your health insurance lapse, particularly if you’re young and healthy and can’t imagine ever getting sick. The problem with that is anyone can be injured or hit with a serious illness that requires medical treatment. According to the government website HealthCare.gov, an injury as simple as a broken leg can cost up to $7,500 in medical costs. A typical three-day stay in the hospital will cost you about $30,000. The cost of treating cancer can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars. You’re better off playing it safe and buying health insurance, which will help cover those costs.
5. Skipping visits to the dentist
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Delaying routine dental checkups could allow problems with your teeth to go undetected. This could lead to bigger and more serious problems down the line, such as the need for root canals, said Mark Durrenberger, a financial planner and author of “The Modern Day Millionaire.” You’ll ultimately save money by taking good care your teeth.
Looking for ways to defray the cost of that care? Check out: “How to Have Healthy Teeth and Avoid Crazy Dental Fees.”
6. Buying perishable food in bulk
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You will pay less for food if you buy it in bulk, but there’s a danger that much of your savings will be lost when excess food items spoil. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated that between 30 and 40 percent of America’s food supply is wasted. So unless you plan to keep a close eye on product expiration dates and eat all of your leftovers, don’t buy perishable items by the pallet. Instead, stock up on canned goods, things you can freeze and household products like toilet paper that you know you will use.
7. Shopping at multiple grocery stores
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It may seem like you’re saving money when you comb through grocery store ads looking for the best deals at multiple stores, but there are hidden costs. According to financial adviser Tammy Johnston, people often fail to factor in the value of the extra time they spend shopping or the cost of driving to more than one location each time they need groceries. She holds that it’s more cost-effective to pick one store, become familiar with its prices and buy the items you need when they go on sale.
8. Buying discounted items without checking the price per unit
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If the grocery store where you shop has unit price labels, which are required in some states, you should use them to determine which products are the least expensive. Consumers often buy sale items without first checking the per-unit cost. Some brands are so costly to begin with that they’re more expensive than competing brands (in per-unit terms), even after being marked down.
9. Buying sale items you don’t truly need
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Sometimes it’s hard to resist a bargain. When something is marked 30 or 40 percent off, it’s very tempting to buy it, even if you wouldn’t normally make the purchase. If you don’t truly need something, you can’t save money by buying it at a discount. An expensive coat that spends years hanging unused in a closet doesn’t benefit anyone. So get a grip on your shopping impulses. When you see a bargain, ask yourself if the product is something you really will use.
10. Buying minimal car insurance
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Some people try to save money by purchasing the minimum amount of car insurance required by state law. The problem is that the minimum level of coverage may not be enough to cover your costs if you are involved in an accident that causes injuries or property damage. If you are found to be legally responsible for a serious accident, you could be required to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars beyond the limits of your coverage. You’ll sleep better if you know that you have an adequate auto policy.
Have you stumbled on silly ways of saving or great tricks for piling up cash? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.