Make a commitment to save next year.

This article is part of an M-Network group writing project, the 12 Days of Christmas – Personal Finance Style. As the project moves through it’s days, I will be adding each article at the bottom of this post. We’ll be posting from December 1st to December 12th.

If you’ve read personal finance blogs, followed Dave Ramsey, or spent any time whatsoever in the world of personal finance, you know the number one rule is to save an emergency fund. However, when you’re living paycheck to paycheck, the idea of setting any money aside can seem daunting.

Here are 7 strategies anyone can use to start saving money. If you implement one or more of these strategies now, you may be surprised at how much money you’ve saved by next December.

1. Pay Yourself First

To make any headway in saving money, you need to make saving a priority. Most people pay their bills and use the leftover money (if there is any) for savings. Instead, treat savings like another bill. Pay yourself before you pay others, even if it’s only $20 a paycheck.

2. Make it Automatic

It’s easier to save if you don’t even see the money before it goes into savings. Set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account. By automating your savings, you are assured that money is headed into your savings account every month. No more forgetting. No more telling yourself you can’t afford it. Your savings account grows, and you don’t even have to put any effort into it!

3. Save Your Change

In order to boost your savings, make a commitment not to spend change. When you’re at the store, and your total comes to 19.04, give the cashier a $20 bill. Take the 94 cents in change home and add it to your change jar. Periodically bring your change to the bank. You’ll be amazed at how fast your savings grows!

4. Round Up

The flip side of not spending change is to round up every time you enter a check in your checkbook. If you write a check for $19.50, enter it in your checkbook as $20. Your checkbook balance will reflect a lower amount than what you actually have in the bank. At the end of the month when you reconcile your checking account, add up all the “extra” money and transfer it to your savings account.

5. Give Up a Small Luxury

Are you addicted to Starbucks in the morning? How about renting videos every Friday night? Make a commitment to give up one small luxury every week and pay your savings account instead. You won’t miss the Starbucks (and neither will your waistline), and your bank account will grow!

6. Make it From Scratch

Whether it’s baking cookies or making laundry detergent, the homemade alternative is often cheaper than it’s store bought counterpart. Vow to make one thing from scratch every week, and put the money you save by passing on convenience into your savings account.

7. Clip Coupons

Start using coupons. It’s only $1 here and 35 cents there, but every little bit adds up. When you go to the grocery store, hand the cashier your coupons after she’s given you your total. Write your check for the full amount, before the coupons are deducted. When the cashier gives you your change, head straight to the bank (many stores have banks right on the premises!) and deposit your change.

Whatever method you use, make a commitment to start saving in 2009. Even if you can’t save a lot, you’ll still be better off in a year than you would be if you don’t save at all!

Do you have any strategies to make saving money a priority in your life?

And here are the rest of the 12 Days of Christmas – Personal Finance Style from the M-Network

Day 1 – The First Rule Of Personal Finance at Paid Twice
Day 2 – Two Financial Goals – Less Debt, More Income at Cash Money Life
Day 3 – 3 New Year’s Worksheets at Mrs. Micah
Day 4 – 4 ways to be better prepared for Christmas next year at Gather Little By Little
Day 5 – 5 Golden Rules To Follow During The Holiday Season at My Two Dollars
Day 6 – 6 Ways to Give at Moolanomy
Day 7 – 7 Savings Strategies at Being Frugal
Day 8 – 8 Simple Snowflakes at Paid Twice
Day 9 – 9 Year-End Money Moves at Moolanomy
Day 10 – 10 Personal Finance Essentials at Cash Money Life
Day 11 – 11 Ways to Decorate More Frugally at Plonkee Money
Day 12 – at Being Frugal

Photo by annia316.