NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Whether you want to find some extra cash for holiday shopping or are looking to free up money for a long-term purchase such as a new home or big deal such as a wedding, finding so-called "hidden" cash can be a valuable weapon.
So says Pamela Yellen, editor of the Women's Financial Edge newsletter and two-time New York Times best-selling author.
"The truth is, most of us have 'hidden money' that could be used to build up our savings," Yellen says. "It's not hidden in the sofa cushions or in the pocket of that jacket you haven't worn since January. It's money that's hiding in plain sight."
To find it, you just need to be creative, Yellen says. Start with these tips:
Reconfigure big debt. Restructuring debt can free up a significant amount of monthly cash. "You can refinance your home, pay off your high-cost debt and come out ahead," Yellen says. "The challenge is to put that extra money into savings each month without fail, not to use this as an opportunity to take on more debt or spend that money on something else."
Have a tax refund? Readjust it. Sure, April is a long way off, but there's something you can do right now that will help come Tax Day, Yellen says. "When you end up with a big refund every year, in essence, you're giving the government an interest-free loan, while you're getting a zero rate of return on your money," she says. "Why would you want to do that? It's fast and easy to adjust your withholding on a W-4 form at work." Yellen says you can withhold that amount as many times as you want, until you are comfortable with the adjusted amount. "By doing this, you may be able to immediately increase your monthly cash flow, perhaps by hundreds of dollars every month."
Common-sense changes. You can cut monthly costs easily through simple changes such as eating out less often, bundling your Internet, cable TV and phone services or calling your mobile phone carrier to see how to sensibly reduce your monthly plan, Yellen says.
Even better, "put your savings on autopilot" by having money from your paycheck deducted right out of your paycheck and redirected into a savings account, she adds.
"Too many people make the mistake of seeing savings as an option they can choose every month - or not," Yellen says. "Rather than deciding to put aside savings each time you get paid, arrange for a set amount to be automatically transferred to your savings vehicle every pay period. As Warren Buffett advises, 'Don't save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving.'"
— By Brian O'Connell for MainStreet