America Saves Week: Money Habits to Make and Break
Maybe you’ve heard the quote, “It’s not about how much you make; it’s about how much you spend.” How can you put money into savings if you spend it all? The answer to this question is to prioritize saving money. Start somewhere – anywhere! – and slowly increase your effort over time.
Transfer money from your paycheck to a savings account before you do anything else. If possible, set up an automatic direct deposit from your paycheck into a separate account, so you never miss the money.
Even if it’s only $10-$20 to start, begin establishing the habit of saving money first. It’s important to save toward:
Separate your savings goals into different accounts.
By having individual accounts, you’re better able to prioritize your money. If your savings all goes into one account, it’s easy to justify “borrowing” money for a large purchase. This leaves you low on cash in an emergency and sets you up for not having enough money during retirement.
There may be times when one savings goal takes priority over another – and that’s OK! Your goals will change with time, and it’s important to be flexible and do what makes sense for you and your family.
Save more by spending less.
Once you have your savings goals outlined and accounts established, you can begin to assess your spending. Look for places you can cut back and funnel more money into your savings account.
Do you spend a lot of money eating out each week? Cut back by establishing a set budget for fast food and restaurants. Save the difference. Challenge yourself and make a game out of trying to spend as little of your “eating out” budget as possible and then save the rest.
Stop charging things.
There is one very important step toward saving more money that a lot of people miss. Charging your credit card is spending money, too. You may think that it’s OK to charge large or unexpected purchases since you can make a low monthly payment.
But over time, the interest adds up. As you establish the good habit of saving, break the bad habit of swiping your credit cards. Slowly pay down debt you’ve accumulated. At first, this can seem like a daunting task. Commit to slow progress.
Similar to saving, your first goal is to simply break the habit of relying on credit cards. Eventually, your efforts will pay off as you pay down your debt and save more toward paying cash for large purchases you want to make.
If your credit cards have high interest rates that make them seem impossible to pay off, consider a balance transfer. By transferring your current balance a card with a lower interest rate, you can accelerate paying down your debt.
Don’t get discouraged.
It’s so easy to fall off track. A fun event pops up, and you spend more than you planned. You wake up the next day filled with regret because the goals you’ve worked so hard toward seem diminished.
But it’s OK to have fun! It’s OK to spend a little extra here and there. Just start a new day, get back on track, and continue to strive toward your goals.
Here’s a little secret about saving: You’ll never be done! Saving money is an ongoing habit – not an end goal to be reached. Even when you check off your first goals, you’re not finished yet. There will always be bigger, better savings goals around the corner to strive for.