Money saving tips for mystery shoppers

Saving money and planning for retirement is important, and the earlier you start the more prepared you will be.

Saving money and planning for retirement is important, and the earlier you start, the more prepared you will be. For mystery shoppers, cutting back on spending can be daunting. However, if you follow the steps below and take it one day at a time, you'll be able to build up your savings and feel more confident about your future.

Set up a 401(k)
If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, sign up as early as you can. This is a retirement savings option that takes a specific amount of pre-tax money out of your paycheck and deposits it into a separate account. Over time, the money grows. Young people in their twenties should invest in this opportunity sooner rather than later. It is recommended that they invest 10 percent of every paycheck. If you do not have a 401(k) option or a full-time employer, create your own savings account and be diligent about depositing a consistent amount each month.

Create an emergency fund
An emergency fund is essential for people of all ages. This can be a safety net used if you lose your job, unexpectedly need to repair your car, are injured or anything comes up that will cost you more money than you thought. U.S. News and World Reported stated that even just $10 or $20 per week can make a big difference over time.

Choose where your money goes
Many young people will feel pressure to pay off student loans as soon as possible. While this is definitely a good idea, if student loans have low fixed interest rates, focus on paying off credit card debt first. At the very least, devote more funds to credit card debt, as those fees can build up much faster over time.

In addition, take a look at monthly expenses that can be eliminated. Forbes pointed out that if you are paying for cable TV, it's likely an additional $50 to $100 per month. If you got rid of this expense, you could save $600 to $1,200 every year. Apply this logic to dining out, buying lattes and ordering books online. Consider affordable groceries, simple coffee and using the public library instead.

Look for deals everywhere
Supermarkets offer generic brands of most types of food and retailers offer seasonal sales. Take advantage of these deals! They pay off over time. America Saves recommended that if you take prescription medication, inquire with your doctor to see if a generic version is available. These are usually significantly more affordable.

Track due dates
Credit card companies, service providers and other memberships often charge fees when you miss a payment or make a late payment. Keep a close eye on these dates and set reminders for yourself. Making a payment is already detrimental to your wallet – don't make it larger than it has to be.

Avoid ATM fees
If you withdraw cash from an ATM that is not directly linked to your bank, chances are you'll pay a hefty fee. Anywhere from $2 to $4 could be taken in addition to the money you withdraw. Some banks charge an additional fee on top of the fee charged by the ATM company. Avoid this at all costs. 

Set goals
Having a number to focus on may give you a stronger sense of purpose as you save your money. Decide how much you'd like to put away this month, this year and during the next five years. Remind yourself of these numbers regularly. It should inspire you to keep working toward your goal. 

Saving money as a mystery shopper, as with any profession, will take time and planning. It's worth it to make the effort. Your future self will thank you.