The 12-month get-richer plan
Ah, the lifestyles of the rich and famous. It's a good thing it's all over the TV for us to gawk at and covet 24/7, because most of us will never attain that kind of excessive wealth. What we can do, however, is try to improve our own financial lot to the best of our abilities. Sure, that may seem like settling for second (or even farther down the line) best, but we can't all have everything — and at least we have a little something.
Alas, even if we can't be swimming-in-gold-like-Scrooge-McDuck rich, there are ways to be wealthier at any income level. Simple moves we make for the betterment of our personal finances can increase our net worth. If you start today, you can be richer by this time next year. Here's what to do.
1. Get Rid of (or Reduce) One Expense Per Month
It's simple mathematics. The fewer expenses you have, the more money you'll have. Eliminating or reducing one expense every month may seem impossible, especially if you think you can't live without certain comforts, but the truth is, we don't need as much as we think. The problem, however, is that we don't realize how little we need until we start letting stuff go.
Be honest about your needs. For example, out of 300+ television stations you might have in your cable package, how many do you watch on a regular basis? If you're spending $150 a month on cable, getting rid of this expense means you'll save about $1,800 a year. You can eliminate or reduce your cable bill one month, decrease your grocery bill by 10% or 20% the next month, get rid of a monthly subscription a month later, and so forth. The savings are there if you start looking for them, and they'll start to stack up quickly.
2. Get a Better Savings Account
As you cut or reduce expenses every month, don't leave the savings in your checking account. Keep track of how much you're saving every month and then automatically transfer this money into a savings account. Since the idea is to become richer in 12 months, a regular savings account won't do. You need a high-yield savings account, which offers a better savings account rate.
3. Think Outside the Box When Saving and Investing
Several banks offer programs to help customers build their personal savings. Wells Fargo offers a Way2Save account. For every debit card transaction, the bank transfers $1 from your personal checking account into your Way2Save savings account. Bank of America has Keep the Change, which rounds up your purchases to the next dollar and deposits the difference into your savings account.
You can also take a round-up approach with investing. Using apps like Acorns makes it easy to invest and grow your money. Download the app and then link a debit or credit card to your account. Each time you use this debit or credit card for a purchase, Acorns rounds up purchases to the nearest dollar and invests the difference.
4. Make Transactions With Cash Only
Nowadays you can use credit and debit cards everywhere, including fast food restaurants and vending machines. But although credit cards are simple and convenient, a cash-only policy can help you become richer in a year.
When using plastic for purchases, physical cash doesn't leave your hand. And because there isn't a physical exchange of funds, there's a tendency to spend more. A study conducted by Dun & Bradstreet found that people spent "12% to 18% more when using credit cards instead of cash." If you only have cash, you can only spend a specific amount, thereby reducing the overall amount you'll spend in a transaction. Keep this up for a year, and you could see a significant reduction in overall outflow — and perhaps a change in your spending habits altogether.
Alternatively, if you can commit to paying off your credit card balances every month, a cash rewards credit card will put money back into your pocket for spending on the things you normally would anyway. Using the right credit card for your everyday purchases can easily save you over $1,000 a year.
5. Sell Everything You Never Use
We can accumulate a lot of stuff over the years, and in some cases, we don't use half the items in our possession. If you want to become richer in the next year, stop hoarding junk and sell everything you never use. Personally, I sell everything for which I no longer have a use and which still has some value. Even if you think your item is worthless, it's worth trying to sell it because you never know who wants your junk. Case in point: I sold a box of used bottle caps for, like, $50 once. Cha-ching!
Deposit whatever you earn from the sale into a high-yield savings account. Items you can sell include clothes, furniture, and electronics. I had a friend with a garage and two storage units packed with stuff. He had a massive yard sale over three weekends and walked away with over $3,000.
RELATED: Smart tips to help teach your kids about money
6. Increase Your Retirement Contributions
Some people think they don't earn enough to increase their retirement contributions. But even if you can't increase contributions by a lot, upping your contributions by 1% or 2% can make a difference over a year, and you'll be better prepared for the future.
Yes, extra money will be taken from your paycheck — and at first, you may feel the pinch — but I'm willing to bet that after a couple of months you'll adjust and no longer miss the money. It's just like getting hit with a new bill. You may not like the idea of a new expense, but you do whatever it takes to make room in your budget.
7. Skip Your Vacation for One Year
There's nothing wrong with a little fun away from home. Honestly, I don't know what I would do without a vacation or mini-getaway here and there. But if you want to build your net worth over the next 12 months, you can make headway by sacrificing a vacation for one year. You should continue to save just like you would for the trip. But instead of spending the cash on airfare and hotels, put it toward building a bigger nest egg. Remember, rich people didn't get where they're at by spending their time on vacation, but they do get to go on more vacations now that they're rich. Keep this philosophy in mind when you're feeling the pinch to keep going the extra mile.
What steps are you taking to get richer this year? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments below.