A Rainy Day Fund

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If you didn't make a habit of saving money, the past year has taught you a harsh lesson. So maybe 2010 is the year to bank a little change and maybe it can be easier than you think.

MSN Money has put together a list of nine sneaky ways to save money. Nine things you can do to boost your bank account without feeling the pinch. Rebecca Schreiber is a Financial Planner in Washington, D.C. and while she acknowledges that these days it's hard to set aside money, even two to five dollars a week will eventually add up. Skipping your latte twice a week could mean an extra $200 a year. A cushion that could come in handy for the next rainy day.

MSN Money also suggests giving yourself an allowance. Every payday put a certain amount of money in your wallet and once it's gone, that's it. Don't dip into your savings and you'll learn to appreciate the dollar a bit more. For more money saving tricks keep reading. Who needs a government bailout when you already have your own?

9 sneaky tips for saving more
By Donna Freedman

Spend a little, save a little
Give yourself an allowance for fun. Put that amount in an envelope each payday or fold it in your wallet. Once it's gone, that's it -- no fair dipping into savings. (But you get extra credit for putting leftover discretionary spending funds into savings next payday.)

Smart Spending message board reader "ATSiaRU" says that knowing she has a certain amount of money to spend any way she wants "makes it easier to put money earmarked for future purchases or long-term goals into the bank."

I'd never tried this until recently, when I decided to allot myself $10 a week for fripperies. Knowing that I could spend the sawbuck has thus far kept me from feeling that I have to spend it. It's like a little green security blanket.

Of course, you could also spend your allowance the first day of the month. Or the last day. The point is that your savings should stay right where they are.

Can't touch this
Financial educator Katerina Taylor admits being occasionally tempted by thoughts like "I really want that purse." However, most of her money is in a pair of online banks that require at least 48 hours for transfers. This is enough of a cooling-off period to make her realize she doesn't really want that purse.

Another way to keep her mitts off the moola: Taylor sets most of it up in laddered certificates of deposit, which carry penalties for early withdrawal. However, the CDs mature regularly enough that money would be available for a nonfashion emergency.

A reader posting as "NancyinFL" set up automatic withdrawals from her checking account into a "one-way" fund -- no debit card. She dubbed the account "Next Life" because it's the seed money for a new career.

Picture this
Last spring I opened an additional checking account to get a $100 bonus and nicknamed it "Home." The thought of a home of my own inspires me to look for ways to boost the balance: manufacturer rebate checks, cash from recycling aluminum, payment for occasional baby-sitting gigs or handyma'am jobs, wrapped change, a small holiday bonus. Generally, I add a couple of dollars from my wallet, too.

In eight months I've put aside $1,324.67, including the initial $100 deposit and the $100 bonus. It's not a fortune, but lots of it is money that might otherwise have dribbled away.

It wouldn't hurt to rubber-band a photo or advertisement of your goal to your credit card or debit card either. When you want to stop for takeout instead of going home to heat up leftovers, you'll see the picture of the new baby who will one day need to go to college.

Rounding up extra cash
An old savings tactic is to round up the amounts on checks -- for example, recording an $11.09 check or debit card purchase as a $12 transaction. At the end of the month, you add up the discrepancies and transfer that amount into savings.

Some financial institutions will do the transferring for you and maybe provide some matching funds. Bank of America's Keep the Change program and Capital One's SmartCents program are two examples. Of course, you'll want to read the fine print for things such as minimum balance requirements.

Another time-honored technique is to bank the money you save by using manufacturer coupons each week. Karen Germ of the Unlock Your Wealth Foundation, in Phoenix, suggests doing the same with money saved through supermarket loyalty-card savings. Germ has put aside nearly $1,000 this way.

Some people swear by the "dollar bill challenge," setting aside all singles that come into their hands. If that's too rich for your blood, save only your change. You'd be surprised how it adds up. Last year I amassed $34.54 just by picking up money other folks had dropped. (I donated it to a food bank, though.)

It's a bill, so pay it
Wouldn't it be great if there were savings collectors every bit as persistent as the ones who go after debts?

The fact is, savings is indeed a bill to be paid.

The easiest way to pay bills is the easiest way to save, too: automatically. Direct deposit from your paycheck whisks money away before you even see it. You quickly learn to live on what's left.

Start with a few bucks. When you don't miss it anymore, increase the amount a little. Work slowly, giving yourself time to adjust.

Honest, it works. "Once you see what you've accomplished, you're more disciplined. You don't want to see that money diminish," says Taylor, whose Smart Kidz Money Matters program targets secondary-school students.

If you're a hands-on type, make sure the first item on your list of bills to pay each payday is savings.