The secrets of saving boil down to three basic principles and an attitude.
-- You won't miss money you don't see.
-- Small amounts add up to big amounts over time.
-- If you lived without it before, you can live without it now.
The attitude: Make savings a fun game, and play to win.
I've garnered these conclusions from the many ideas you keep sending for saving and building an emergency fund. As part of its "America Saves" campaign, the Consumer Federation of America has invited readers to submit savings tips (e-mail Nancy Register at firstname.lastname@example.org and send me a copy).
The first two principles account for two perennial favorites: having money automatically deducted for savings from your paycheck or checking account, and putting loose change in a jar and depositing the money in a savings account when the jar is full.
But many of you also submitted ideas that illustrate principle No. 3, as well as a winning savings attitude.
From Robin Cohen of White Plains, N.Y.: "As a teacher, I pay union dues the first eight paychecks of the school year. As a single mother with two school-age kids, I was able to fund my 403(b) this way, (depositing an amount equal to the union dues) without feeling the pinch."
From Rose Stuart of Wingdale, N.Y.: "After buying and changing an average of 60 diapers a week for two years, I understand every parent longs for the day their child is potty-trained. I suggest when that glorious day arrives, parents take the $800 a year they might have spent on diapers and save it. After saving diaper money for 15 years, they will have a nice, fat nest egg to crack for their child's college tuition."
From Anne Atheling of Boston: "When I paid off my mortgage last December, I decided to save the monthly mortgage payment in my credit union `emergency' account. The savings are piling up nicely."
From Jim Tawney, Uniontown, Ohio: "Five years ago I decided to mow my own grass rather than pay someone $30 per mowing. Every time I mowed, I put the $30 into a savings account. There is more than $5,000 in that account now. Last summer, I gave myself a `raise' and started putting in $35 for each mowing."
From Robert Kuehl in Menomonee Falls, Wis.: "For consumers who are paying off a loan involving fixed payments, such as school loans or auto loans, after making the last payment consider putting into savings all or part of the monthly payment that now no longer needs to be paid. You won't really miss the money."
From Patricia Welch in Eugene, Ore.: "I used to spend $30 a week for lunches and miscellaneous expenses (vending machines, soft drinks, etc.). Now I draw out the same $30, but I spend only $10 and put the other $20 into savings. I take leftovers from home for lunch and snack food that's on hand most of the time. I still have a little `mad' money for an occasional treat. My grocery bill didn't go up. I just was able to throw away less waste, so it was a win-win."
From C. R. Stevenson, Schaumburg, Ill.: "One way to establish a savings discipline is to save an amount equal to whatever is spent on indulgences. Put a matching amount in a cookie jar when you spend for beer, wine, cigarettes or designer coffee. If you can't afford to save the matching amount, you can't afford the $4 superalmond low-fat latte."
Humberto Cruz is a columnist for Tribune Media Services. E-mail him at email@example.com.