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If you’re working your butt off just to make ends meet, saving money each month can feel completely out of reach. Between necessities like rent and food and other expenses like student loan payments, starting an emergency fund or putting cash away for a big purchase down the line can feel really daunting.
Believe it or not, however, saving money each month doesn’t have to feel so hard. While you may not be able to save as much as someone who is farther along in their career or in a different profession than you, you can probably save just a little something each month. And make no mistake about it, over time, those little savings can and will grow into something bigger.
Every new year, lots of people resolve to save more money. If you were one of those people, maybe you were off to a great start in January. Right about now, though, is when most resolutions fall to the wayside. But don’t completely abandon your goal! Saving money is a skill that everyone should put into practice, even if it feels hard at times.
To help kick-start your commitment to being a better saver, we talked to Karen Bennett, a deposits writer at Bankrate. Below, she shares some of her top tips for saving money, even if you’re on a tight budget.
How To Save More Money
1. Make a budget. This is the first and easiest thing you can do to start your savings journey. While some people may be intimidated by making a monthly budget, Bennett says it doesn’t have to be scary. “It can be as simple as making a spreadsheet on your computer or writing it down on a piece of paper,” she says. Begin by writing down how much money you’re bringing in each month, then write down what you’re spending. Bennett suggests using categories like housing, transportation, groceries, insurance and entertainment. “Add that up and see what’s left at the end of that. That’s the money you’re able to save every month, and seeing it will help you not spend it on impulse buys,” Bennett says.
2. Pay yourself first. Think of this one as a mind trick you can play on yourself. In the budget mentioned above, create a line item specifically for savings. “This makes it as official as your rent or mortgage,” Bennett says.
To ensure that box next to savings is checked on your monthly budget checklist, Bennett recommends automating your savings. “A lot of banks allow you to have automatic transfers between your checking and savings account on a recurring basis so you won’t forget to transfer that money because it’s getting done for you. You also won’t be tempted to spend that money.”
3. Choose your bank wisely. When choosing a bank for your savings account, it’s essential to look at the Annual Percentage Rate (APR). These rates can vary a lot from bank to bank. For example, some banks offer APR rates as high as 0.55%, while others are as low as 0.01%. Bennett says people looking to get serious about their savings should seek out an online bank like Ally or Marcus. They’re often able to offer higher APR rates because they don’t have to pay the costs associated with maintaining brick-and-mortar branches.
While lots of people choose to have their checking and savings accounts at the same bank for ease and convenience, Bennett says this is worth reconsidering if you’re worried about dipping into your savings. “You might try putting your checking and savings account in completely different banks,” Bennett says. “That will make it that much harder to access that money.”
One last note about choosing the right bank: Be sure to look into any fees associated with maintaining the savings account and any minimum balance requirements.
4. Create an emergency fund. Life can be unpredictable, and that’s precisely why it’s critical to have an emergency fund. This is money you have set aside in case you lose your job or face an unexpected expense like a car repair or medical bill. “A rule of thumb is to have six months or more of what your monthly expenses are in an emergency fund,” Bennett says. If you’re a person who is self-employed or you have chronic medical conditions, Bennett suggests having more than six months worth of expenses saved in your emergency fund.
5. Set financial goals. Want to take a trip or move into a new apartment? These are perfect short-term goals that can help motivate you to save money every month. “Figure out now how much you can put aside each month, so when it comes time for the trip, you’ve paid off that vacation and you’re not going to go into debt,” Bennett says.
6. Resist online shopping temptations. So many stores make it so easy to buy things online these days. To help curb unnecessary spending, create hurdles for yourself when shopping online. Here are some tricks to try:
- Wait 24 hours before making a purchase. You may find that something you couldn’t live without yesterday, you no longer want or need as badly the next day.
- Unsubscribe or turn off from shopping notifications. Not only are these alerts distracting, but they can tempt you to spend money that you could be saving.
- Don’t save your credit cards in store accounts. Just getting up from the computer and having to retrieve your debit or credit card from your wallet is often enough to deter people from making a mindless online purchase.
7. Live within your means. If you only make one lifestyle change on your quest to save more money, this is the one Bennett says is most important. “Take control of your finances by looking at your budget, logging into your bank, looking at where your money is going and paying close attention to that. This will help you avoid being up at night worrying about your bills.”
Bennett also adds, “Don’t charge more on your credit cards than you can pay off every month!”
If you liked this story, check out how to get back on track if you have a lot of debt.
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