Sometimes, improving your finances can be an essential prerequisite for buying a car. This especially true if you’ve had monetary difficulties in the past. With hundreds of online guides on how to save money available on the Web, on paper this shouldn’t prove too difficult. In fact, hardly any of these articles offer any truly valuable information. Even a seemingly specialised website like About Money had very little useful to say on the subject, suggesting you ‘pay off your debt’, ‘slash expenses’ and ‘build up your savings’.

If you really want to make a change, you’ll need to dig deeper. In this summary, we’ve compiled some of the best advice on how to improve your finances and get the car you want.

Improving your finances: Suggestions

Each year, US Money compiles the 50 most valuable suggestions on how to save money. That’s a lot of information, so we took a look at their recommendations from 2013 and 2015 and selected the most effective and best concepts:

  • Pay Off Debt Slowly: It may sound like a paradox. But it can indeed sometimes be better to first get your spending patterns in order and draw up a plan before actually starting to pay off your debt. Setting up a separate savings account for each of your spending goals is also a great idea.
  • Pay Off High Interest Debt Quickly: You should make high interest debt – e.g. debt on purchases made through your credit card – your top priority.
  • Improve your Credit Card Behaviour: Conditions for credit cards vary wildly. Find the one that best matches your needs and make the switch. Also, make sure to cash in on the rewards you’re saving.
  • Learn to Cook: Eating in and avoiding pricey restaurant visits can make a significant improvement to your finances. In some cases, it can actually be healthier, too.
  • Protect your Money from your Children: Having your kids move back in may be lucrative for them – but is it also lucrative for you? In some cases, your hospitality and generosity can cause serious dents in your finances. Make sure you know what you’re committing to before extending a well-intended invitation.
  • Make Use of Online Money Tools: These days, there is a plethora of highly valuable finance tools available for free online. Some of them even work on your smartphone or tablet and can thus be used on the go. Put them to your advantage and start drawing up budgets and plans and monitor them wherever you are.
  • Track Your Statements: While we’re at it, every single day should start with a look at your bank statements. This will serve as a constant reminder of how much you have at your disposal. It will also alert you to any suspicious behaviour and prevent credit card abuse.
  • Don’t Accept Posted Prices: You may be surprised to learn that even in major department stores, prices are still negotiable. It certainly can’t hurt to ask.
  • Live More Simply & Find Cheaper Hobbies: As Kimberly Palmer of US Money puts it: “The last recession brought frugality back into vogue; do-it-yourself crafts, home-cooking and even at-home haircuts are all cool again. Small lifestyle changes, like biking to work instead of driving, can significantly reduce monthly expenditures. Visiting public gardens and museums, attending community events or going on hikes are among the free or inexpensive activities that can replace more costly ones. groups and local blogs and websites make it easy to explore options.”

You obviously won’t be able to realise each of these suggestions. Nor do you need to. One of the best pieces of advice is to take baby steps and to understand that every little bit counts. If you can’t stash away 25%, 2-3% are still better than nothing. It may sound like a long road – but if it helps you get the car you really want, it is more than worth it.