Q:  I am getting married this year and really need to stash some cash away.  I’ve got some time before the big day, but what is the fastest way to save up a few thousand dollars?

 A:  Usually when we stress the importance of saving money, people start to moan and groan.  Well, we’re hear to tell you from experience, saving a few extra pennies a year is not as hard as it sounds.  You just have to piece some things together, kind of like a jigsaw puzzle, to get to the big picture.  Combine a few of these ideas and we’re positive you will be able to stash away $2,000 or more this year:

Collect Coins.  The ones in your wallet, purse, coat, etc. that is.  Every time you spend cash and get change back, take it and put it in a jar or something.  Doing this for a month typically can add up to $20 to $60 depending on your spending habits.  Annual Savings = $240 – $720. 

Put Your Insurance Company on Trial.  Some may notice that their insurance rates have gone nowhere in the past 5 years despite them getting older – which is extremely annoying.  So why not look at changing companies?  Also, look at that deductible you are obligated to pay in the event of an accident.  If changing companies or your deductible from $500 to $1,000 can save an extra $40 a month it may be worth it.  While you’re at it, see if you can bundle the companies that provide your insurance if you currently have more than one.  You may be able to get another 15% discount just for doing more business with them.  Annual Savings = $300 – $400.   

Create a 45-Day Month.  If you have a bi-weekly or monthly recurring expense, why not do it a little less often?  By putting some time between how frequently you perform activities like haircuts, messages, manicures, etc. you will cut down on their annual frequency.  With 3 less hair appointments at an average of $20 for the men and $50 for the ladies, the savings add up.  Annual Savings = $250 or more.

Cut the Landline.  Some people still have both a cell phone and a landline.  Why not drop the home line and just go cellular?  For an extra $10 a month you could add some minutes to cover yourself and ditch the home phone.  This is only advisable if you are not extremely ill, accident-prone or need the line for DSL or home alarm, but for most it is a possibility.  Annual Savings = $300.

Flex Those Benefits!  Using pretax dollars always has an advantage in that it cuts your taxable income.  By using a Flexible Savings Account (FSA), you can use pre-tax dollars to save for medical expenses.  It’s really easy for a person who puts $2,000 into an FSA to see a $600 reduction in their tax liability if you are in the 25% tax bracket.  Where does that $600 reduction wind up?  In your tax refund of course!  The only downfall is that FSA’s are a “use it or lose it” program – meaning any money not used at the end of the year is forfeited.  Thus, estimating how much you will spend on medical expenses is crucial.  Annual Savings = $600 or more.

 Stop Drinking Like A King.  While the Remmy, Chris and Henn-o taste good, they are definitely not for the weak of financial heart.  Neither are those $12 martinis!  So why not scale down the liquor to some wine or less expensive brand of liquor and help both your body and your wallet?  This can shave at least $50 a month off your bar tab if you are a frequent drinker.  Annual Savings = $600.    

Stop Paying A Premium.  The truth be told, most cars will run on just about any grade of gas you can find, including that ethanol blend you find in the sticks of Southern IL.  Unless you have a “high performance” engine that will not run properly on premium gasoline, ditch it in favor of some cheaper go juice.  By switching to a lower octane gas, you can easily save 10 to 20 cents per gallon.  While this may only equal $2 to $4 per fill up, it can equal close to $50 a year.  Annual Savings = $50 

Punch A Gift Horse In The Mouth!  We often mention  this around Christmas time but we’ll mention it here and now.  We all like to give things to our friends and family – sometimes we even feel obligated to do so.  But don’t feel obligated to spend more on gifts than you can afford to.  The average outlay on gifts during the holiday season of 2011 was close to $1,000 per household.  Add in some birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, valentine’s days and that number can quickly get out of control.  So, scale back a little, give within your means and don’t worry about the rest.  People who really care about you place more importance on you being in their life then they do on what gift you give them.  Annual Savings = $750.