Most people know they need to save, but sometimes it can feel like an uphill battle. If you are struggling to juggle the bills and make ends meet, putting money away for a rainy day may be the furthest thing from your mind. But if you make paying yourself first a priority, you may find that it’s easier than you realized.
A recent study by the Federal Reserve reaffirmed a long-term trend that about 40% of Americans couldn’t afford a $400 emergency from savings. Considering that the average car repair, water heater or furnace replacement, or medical bill can easily exceed $400, every household should work to have at least that much in savings. If you don’t know how to put $400 away, these tips will help you get on the right track.
Pay yourself first
If you read personal finance blogs or books, you probably know the phrase “pay yourself first.” But what does this really mean and how can you do it? It’s easier than you might expect.
The idea of paying yourself first means you should allocate money to savings and investments before spending it on other needs and wants. If you have access to a 401(k) at work with automatic payroll contributions, for example, you can use this account to pay yourself first.
You can also set up recurring transfers to savings and investment accounts to ensure you continue to fund your long-term goals. Of course, this may mean sticking to a tighter budget. But if you can get in the habit of saving, you’ll get used to living without that money in your monthly spending plan and won’t have to worry about not having any money for those $400+ emergencies, or other goals like a down payment or retirement.
Make saving automatic
Even if you have the best of intentions, manually moving money from your checking account to savings every payday, every month or on some other schedule is usually not sustainable. It’s easy to forget to save or it may be tempting to use the cash for concert tickets, a night on the town or that gadget or fashion accessory that’s been grabbing your attention.
With Evati, you just have to set up your goals and the app takes care of the rest. For example, if you want to save $400 to start an emergency fund, you can create that goal in the app and automate your savings plan. Using Evati’s round-up feature, you can round up a debit card purchase to the next dollar and automatically save the difference.
What’s most important is that you set up that goal to start and turn on automatic savings. Whether it is your employer-sponsored 401(k) or your Evati account, it won’t work if you don’t sign up and start.
It’s okay to start small
If you are like the 78% of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck, putting away $100 may seem like an insurmountable challenge. But you don’t have to put away $100 at once. You don’t need to save even $20 at a time. If you can start with just $5 per month, that’s better than nothing.
Consider finding a way to save $1 per weekday to save. That’s about $20 per month in savings. Once you get started, even with something small, it is a lot easier to grow your savings rate in the future.
Also, take a look at your budget for places you can cut expenses and save more. I cut my cable in 2011 and have since saved $70 per month on that expense. A new cell phone plan and new car insurance cut those expenses in half. And avoiding getting a new car saved me about $300 per month in payments.
Everyone’s money looks a little different. Don’t worry about what other people do with their money. Just focus on your household, your savings goals, and your financial plan. You have the power to start saving today. Take advantage. Your future self will thank you.