You know you should be saving money for an emergency or for retirement. But with wages looking like it's 1995, but everything costs like it's 2095, putting money aside is pretty tough to do.
I remember my first savings account. My mom opened one for me and one for my brother. All of our birthday money and graduation money went into those accounts. No blow-outs at the mall. No kickass spring break vacations.
I also remember that, when it was time to put a down payment on an apartment my sophomore year of college, I was pretty darn happy I hadn't touched that savings account. I continued to dip into that savings every time I had a big financial milestone. And every time, I was grateful.
Putting a little money away for a rainy day isn’t always easy. You may have some good intentions, but at the end of the month, or the end of the year, there just isn’t any money left. Somehow whatever you make is spent before you make it to the next paycheck. Let's look at ways you can save a teeny tiny bit at a time, so that after a long period of time, you'll have a healthy savings.
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How to Put Your Savings on Autopilot
#1 Make a Personal Budget
Start by making a personal budget. (I go into detail about how to make and stick to a budget in this blog post.) Take a look at what how much money you bring in each month. Next, write down your fixed expenses. Fixed expenses are things like rent, car payments, utilities, etc. Then, figure out how much you need each month for groceries and other essentials.
The best way to figure out how much you should spend on groceries is to use the official USDA food plans. They have estimations for thrifty, low-cost, moderate and liberal grocery budgets. For instance, if I go by the liberal plan, my family should spend about $1,338 per month on groceries.
#2 Make a Discretionary Budget
Next, it’s time for a little bit of math. Add up how much money you make each month, then subtract the bare bones total you just figured out. What you’re left with is your discretionary income, money you can spend however you want. This will pay for clothes, movies, eating out, getting your nails done, etc.
Part of your discretionary money, though, is going to be put aside for savings. That's right; it's time to be a grown-up.
#3 Decide a Savings Amount
Pick a number you’re comfortable with setting aside per month. You want to save money, but you don't want to feel like you're depriving yourself of everything.
Maybe that’s just $20 per month; maybe it’s $500. Whatever you decide, put that amount in your budget and treat it like any other bill. It's money that you can't touch.
To make it a little more difficult to get your hands on that money, talk to your bank about setting up a separate savings account. Then, set up an auto-deposit to have the amount of money you want to save per month sent directly to the new savings account when you receive a paycheck. (If you're paid twice a month, divide the monthly savings amount in two and have that amount deposited automatically for each paycheck.) The idea is, If you don’t see the money you're saving, you’ll never miss it.
Now, your savings will run on autopilot!
#4 Sign Up for Acorns
Another way to add to your savings account without thinking about it too much is to sign up for Acorns. Acorns is an app that rounds up all over your purchases, then deposits the difference in an account for you. You’d be surprised how quickly those cents add up. By saving money this way, it’s not as painful and it happens without you lifting a finger (except for signing up). Download Acorns for iPhone or download Acorns for Android.
#5 Don't Forget Check Ups
Don’t forget to audit your savings from time to time, say, at the end of every year. Take another look at your budget. Can you increase your savings a little more?
Another great way to boost that savings account is to take any extra money – like birthday cash,your tax return, your bonuses, etc. – and put it straight into the savings account. Again, you won’t even miss the money, but it will help you build up your savings quickly.
#6 Earn Interest
Make sure your savings account is an interest bearing account. Since you won’t be touching this money unless it’s a dire emergency, you should be able to earn at least a little interest. Talk to your bank about your best options.
#7 Double Your Savings
One last tip: Talk to your employer about matching 401K funds. You may be able to get a contribution from the company you work for towards your retirement savings account.
Now, put your savings on autopilot and feel good about your solid financial future.
What's your trick for saving money? Tell us in the comments!