Saving up for...
You're not alone. Even if you don't have a specific goal in mind, setting aside money (especially in our current questionable economy) is a good idea. Here are some ideas that I think can help you easily build a small nest egg.
1. Trim (seemingly) little expenses. You don't have to give up Starbucks all together, but take a moment to add up a daily trip. At least $3 per day, likely 5 days a week is $15. In a year that is almost $800! Even just cutting one day a week could save over $100. Or cut back to once a week (Wednesdays, to get you through the week), or save lattes for social visits with friends. Guilty of vending machine strolls every afternoon? Bring in some mixed nuts or baby carrots (or hot cocoa if you need that chocolate fix) and save around $3.75 a week (hey, there's your latte!)
2. Cut down bills. Do you need special features on your cell phone (for instance, if you don't use the text messaging...)? Do you really watch cable (or the extra channels, if you have them)? Could you turn the thermostat down or run a little less water when brushing your teeth? How about combining your home and car insurance--you may be able to save a little there. Or check for savings on car insurance for good grades (if you have kids) or if you've gone a certain amount of time without an accident or ticket.
3. Watch what you eat. I'm guilty of this one: stocking up at the grocery store, then when nothing sounds good, ordering pizza that (surprise!) ends up being $20. In fact I figured that if I ate out everytime it was most convenient (breakfast, lunch on work days, couple evenings out with friends and at least once on the weekends), I could very well spend $200 a WEEK on eating out. I don't want to totally miss out on dinners with friends, but I could easily have cereal at home in the morning andtake a sandwich or leftovers for lunch. Buying in-season fruits and veggies and making your own pasta sauce or stirfry is also cheaper than buying pre-made.
4. Don't sign up for one-click shopping on Amazon. Seriously. Bane of my existance. In fact, freeze your credit card in a block of ice until a)you pay it off completely and can use it responsibly, or b)a pre-meditated expense comes up AND you have a solid plan to pay it off... say, plane tickets for spring break that you know you can pay off in three months. While you're at it, call your credit card company and ask for a lower interest rate. Mention you're thinking of moving to another card with lower rates. The worst they can say is no.
5. Don't go shopping if you don't have something specific in mind or don't have the money. Seems obvious, but I can't tell you the times that I "killed time" at the mall while waiting for someone and killed my savings account instead. Try keeping a small amount of clothes-shopping money for when that amazing dress goes on sale. That way you won't have to take it out of your rent money. And keep EVERY receipt (an envelope in your lingerie drawer works well).
6. Make some extra cash and don't spend it. How about pet and plant-sitting for your neighbor when they're gone? Or helping your mom's friend organize her files? Or lending a hand decorating or cleaning for a party? Maybe you have other talents, like playing guitar or math. Lots of parents look for tutors that don't cost an arm and a leg.
7. Sell stuff you have laying around. So you're pretty sure that the painting/chair/blanket you have in your attic is worth something. If it's not something you're emotionally attached to, why not sell it on ebay or craigslist? Do a little research to make sure you won't get ripped off, then post it! Or hold a yard sale... maybe when it's warmer.
8. Cut down your entertainment costs. Keep the stuff that really matters to you: a trip to the opera, rock concert, visit to the Met... but trim down the little things. If you visit a museum a lot, check out a membership or find out if they have any "free days". Enter online to win tickets to performances or call in to radio stations (the more local and obscure the station is, the better your chances of winning). Close out your Hollywood video account and join Netflix. Better yet, get a library card (you'd be surprised how up-to-date the library could be. Don't see what you want? Ask if you can make a request for the collection). Start a book swap with your friends, or a movie-night circuit to everyone's homes. Oh, and if you're determined to see The Dark Knight in theaters, at least smuggle in your own candy.
9. Use a digital camera to record your memories and only print a few of your favorites instead of the whole trip.
10. Cut down on gift-giving. Experience-gifts, like a 90s nostalgia day with you (think scrunchies and "Can't Hardly Wait") or cooking dinner together, can be just as meaningful to a friend or family member. Need a gift for a kid? That works too, but maybe a day of kite-building and flying, fort-building, cookie-baking, or zoo-visiting would be better. And token gifts like cookie plates, picture frames with prints of the two of you or the family, handmade scarves or purses (if you're crafty) can be just as touching as an expensive gift.
Can you think of anything else?