4 Tips for Saving Money
Mint founder Aaron Patzer's advice on managing money in the downturn.
NEW YORK (Fortune) -- For Mint.com founder Aaron Patzer, personal finance should be "easy and effortless." Following are a few tips from Patzer on saving and spending. (Read more about how he started Mint.com here.)
You probably don't need to budget every last expense in order to start saving. Instead, focus just on two to three problem areas: shopping, restaurants, buying too many DVDs, etc. Use an online tool to categorize your incoming transactions, and get the site to email you when you're approaching your budget limit.
Credit card networks like Visa or Mastercard charge retailers for each purchase they help facilitate. As a consumer, you can get a cut of those fees in the form of cash-back rewards. Opt for cash over miles or points -- cash is more flexible. Don't settle for a card that pays less than 1%. For a typical household, that can mean as much as $300/year back, just for doing what you were going to do anyway.
Financial institutions use your credit score (also known as a FICO score) as an indication of how "risky" you are. This in turn determines 1) whether or not they will give you credit or a loan, and 2) how much interest to charge you. Improving your credit score -- especially if you are thinking about buying a house or taking out a large loan -- can be worth literally tens of thousands of dollars. Check your credit score at least twice a year.
The average American savings account currently pays about 0.50% interest. That's a shame, because banks turn around and loan money to borrowers at interest rates up to 8%. Despite falling interest rates, you can still earn up to 3.0% with online only banks.