Sure, $100 is only $100. But never underestimate how far that money can go, even in this economy.”It’s smarter to put that money away because once it’s in your pocket, it’s pretty much gone,” says Joel Larsen, a certified financial planner based in Davis, Calif.
No matter where your finances wound up this year, we’ve compiled 15 tips to help you stretch that Benjamin even further in 2012.
'A lot of people will say, 'it's only $100,'' says Larsen, but if you were to save $100 a month over 20 years at a 7% rate of return, you would amass $52,092.67--impressive, right?
Depending on your finances, you'll need to shop around to find the right plan. Weigh out investment performances, expenses, and tax exemptions.
'One of the primary benefits of a 529 savings plan is that it offers tax protection from the federal government,' he says. 'Also, you may be eligible for tax protection from the state government.'
It may not be all you need to pay off that credit card bill, but $100 is a solid start.
'If you have a credit card that charges 20% in interest, you want to pay that off as fast as possible,' Schrage says. 'This option would be like putting $100 into an investment that paid a 20% annual return compounded monthly. There is no sense paying the minimum payments on high-interest debt and digging yourself in a deeper hole!'
'You should understand the sales cycle that your grocery store runs and keep a binder of organised coupons,' Schrage says. 'Plan to go in and stock up on large amounts of frozen foods when they are best priced. When food prices are rising and you need to prepare, this strategy will become especially important.'
Buying frozen food could shave $20 off your grocery bill.
See six ways to prepare for rising food prices at Money Crashers.
If you're young, a Roth IRA is a great investment, says Larsen.
The money goes in after taxes, but by the time you prepare to retire, you won't have to pay taxes.
Not following up on regular check-ups can be one of the costliest--and deadliest--money mistakes petowners ever make.
Vets recommend check-ups every six months. Though they can cost between $100 and $200, the visit could save you thousands on emergency costs.
See more tips to cut your pet's medical bill.
'A certificate of deposit is one of the safest investments for your money and provides a better return than your savings account,' Schrage says.
'Fixing up your house will help significantly over the long-term,' says Schrage.
If you're looking to put it on the market, making minor repairs can dramatically raise its value.
Repairing leaky plumbing and caulking holes are some of the best home improvement ideas, and might save 5% to 30% on monthly utilities.
'A book or conference may be a great way to learn new ways to invest in your career,' Schrage says. 'You may want to educate yourself on ways to improve your career, improve your health and learn new skills that can help you save or make money later on.'
See some new sites to rev up your job search if you're looking in 2012.
'If you know you are going to need new winter clothes, you should consider buying them in the summer and vise-versa,' suggests Schrage. This could save you hundreds.
Whether you lose a job, wreck a car, fall ill, or another hardship, it's better to be prepared.
Aim to set aside three to six months' worth of living expenses, roughly the time it takes to find a new job.
Paying with savings over a credit could save you heaps of interest and save your credit score from the trash heap.
'Tis the season to crank up your thermostat, but why pay hundreds to stay cozy?
Dodge the draft, caulk your windows, and follow the rest of our cheap, useful tips to cut your bills by 5% to 30% in 2012.
Schrage calls dividend reinvestment plans investing (DRIPs) 'an extremely cheap way to start investing in stocks and watch your money grow.'
Because DRIPs automatically purchase new shares of stock, they create the sense passive income, which can help your money grow by leaps and bounds. 'Especially if it's invested in a conservative, stable blue-chip stock,' Schrage adds.
Invest in a DRIP for as little as $10.
Cooking at home is a fun way to stay healthy (restaurants tend to load up on the salt), and save serious cash on eating out.
Packing lunch is another good way to cut back, too.
We feel better about ourselves when we help the less fortunate.
But if you'd prefer to pocket the $100, we've rounded up a bunch of ad-sponsored programs that give money to a charity each time you click.