Are you expecting a pay raise in 2017? Don’t!
According to a recent survey, employers say they’re not planning to increase budgets for raises and bonuses for 2017. Not great news, considering more than half of Americans have less than $1,000 dollars to their name.

So how do we begin to save?

Q: Why are so many Americans struggling to save?
• A recent survey shows that 62-percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings account and 21-percent of people have no savings account at all.
• When it comes to saving, I’ve heard every excuse in the book. Some think they don’t make enough, while others aren’t willing to give up the little luxuries they’ve grown to love over the years.
• Bottom line: It’s not how much you make, but how much you spend.

Q: So you say start small?
• We’re starting small so we can reach this goal easily and increase it later.
• The New Year is a great time to start new spending habits – and take on new challenges.
• My challenge for you is to try to save at least $100 a month – and I have some simple ideas for you on how you can pocket more money in 2017.
• If you try this challenge, you’ll be more aware of your spending and where your money is going which might surprise you.

Tip #1: Trim the Fat on Groceries
• The average family of four spends about $150 to $300 on a groceries a week.
• You can cut down on this amount significantly if you take time to plan meals and use the ingredients you already have.
• So dig deep into those cabinets and freezer bins – and make a list of your food items – and then search for recipes that will use those ingredients.
• From there, make a concise list of what you need and stick to the list at the grocery store.
• Another way to trim your grocery bill includes shopping at discount food stores like Aldi – or just simply buy generic vs. brand-name items.
• Finally, cook in bulk. This idea can save you time as well! Spend one weekend shopping and cooking for the entire month and then you can take advantage of bulk buys and coupon savings.

Tip #2: Find Creative Entertainment
• We all like to have fun, but you don’t need to spend money to do so!
• Find one weekend a month where you find entertainment that’s free. If you are looking for ideas
• For those nights you choose to dine out, make sure to check Groupon or Living Social or other social media sites to see if there is any special sales or promotions.
• And order smart – ask for water instead of a beverage and pass on the appetizer and dessert.

Tip #3: Cut out the Frills
• Eliminate any services that you rarely use.
• For example, do you really need a landline if everyone has a cellphone?
• Can you use Netflix instead of cable?
• Quit your gym membership – and find ways to stay healthy and exercise at home.
• Finally, pay attention to where your money is going.
• Perhaps you have a monthly subscription that you forgot about or an Amazon Prime membership you rarely use.

Tip #4: Sell your clutter
• Take this quick test. Open your closet and look inside. If it’s full of clothes you haven’t worn for three years- you don’t need them. You can do this test for jewelry as well!
• Find a local consignment shop who would sell them for you and give you part of the commission or sell on eBay.
• Children’s consignment stores are usually always looking for toys to sell. Find the toys and books that your children have outgrown and make a few bucks.

Q: How do you suggest we keep at saving month after month?
• Put the dollars you saved in a separate account if you can add an account for free at your bank.
• Watching those dollars add up each month will encourage you to save even more.
• And again when the savings start rolling in, make sure to get yourself on a budget so you don’t blow what you saved the next month. I have a budget worksheet on my website.