Think of the future and invest today
It's not that hard to set yourself up for future wealth. Saving money does not have to be an exercise in total self-denial. To set yourself up with savings that grow, take steps like these: Drive a late-model used car instead of a new one. Don't buy or rent a place that's larger than you need. See the latest movies at a matinee for $5 instead of at the evening show for $15. People who have the most money often look like they don't have much, say financial planners. The ones with fancy cars and elaborate homes are often knee-deep in debt. It's especially important to save when you are young. A 25-year-old who saves $5 a day will accumulate $500,000 by retirement time (at 8 percent interest). A 35-year-old will save only half as much with his $5 a day, says Beth Kobliner, author of Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties. Riding in a car pool, packing your lunch, and washing your own clothes can result in a big financial payoff over the course of a year. But, says Kobliner, money disappears in small places. By tracking expenses for a time, you'll know where you can save more. Other good ideas: * Automatic deduction. Have savings deducted from your paycheck. Place them in an IRA or 401K for tax savings. Once you can save a little more, arrange to have mutual fund companies deduct a regular amount from your checking account. * Search for low-expense mutual funds. Find an expense ratio of less than 1 1/2 percent. * Set up an emergency fund equivalent to at least three months' salary. If disaster strikes, you won't have to dip into long-term savings. * Never carry a lot of cash. It's harder to track and easier to spend. * Pay bills on time. Late charges on loans, fines and fees for income and property taxes can add up to a great deal of money.