6 easy steps to save money in 60 minutesby Katie Oelker
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- If you're new to saving money or just need to break old habits, I have a six-step strategy for automating your savings that's sure to work for anyone.
- The first step is to understand how much money you have coming in and going out. Look at your take-home pay, then examine your last three months of bank and credit card statements and figure out your fixed expenses.
- From there, decide on an amount you can realistically save and set up automatic transfers from your checking to your savings account.
- See Business Insider's picks for the best high-yield savings account »
When I was growing up, my parents rarely used their credit cards, and instead paid cash or wrote checks for most things. I have memories of my mom sitting down at our kitchen table to balance the checkbook and write out checks to pay the bills on a weekly basis.
Fast forward to today's society. Most of us have and use credit cards regularly, purchasing things online is incredibly easy, and there is more online shopping being conducted than ever, especially with the pandemic we are living through.
It's certainly more difficult to keep track of finances with all the swiping and clicking.
It doesn't have to be that way though. If you make a plan to increase your savings and then automate it, the ability to save becomes a lot easier.
So how does one set up a savings plan without fail? It takes two key factors: automation and budgeting.
Before setting up an automatic transfer from your checking to your savings account each month, it's important to know how much money you have available to save. If you start by choosing an amount to transfer but neglect all of your other expenses, it's likely that you will need to pull that money out of savings to cover those bills. This is what you want to avoid.
Instead, by working out a budget that details your income and fixed expenses each month, as well as what's leftover, you can accurately determine what amount you can regularly transfer from your checking to your savings account. Without having to worry about transferring it back.
I have a simple six-step strategy for setting up your savings that takes about an hour to complete.
Understand how much you make vs. how much you spend each month
The easiest way to do this is to first write down (or type up!) your take-home pay for each month.
Second, you will need to go through all of your bills. I recommend pulling the last three months of your bank/credit card statements and combing through them to make sure you don't miss anything.
Once you have these amounts tallied up, you can then subtract the total from your income. This is the amount you have leftover to budget for discretionary spending and saving.
Evaluate your fixed expenses
If after you pay all of your bills you don't have anything left to save, take a look at your fixed expenses. Is there anything you can negotiate down or cut out? It's impossible to save money if you're living paycheck-to-paycheck or spending more than you make each month.
Budget an amount to save
After you've accounted for all of your bills and have cash leftover, assign a specific amount to transfer from your checking account to your savings account at regular intervals.
This is in line with the "pay yourself first" philosophy: If you don't make it a priority to save before you start spending, it's unlikely you will have anything leftover to save at the end of the month.
If needed, determine ways you can make more money
If you've evaluated your expenses and can't further cut out or lower any of your bills but still don't have any money leftover to save each month, it's time to consider increasing your income.
You can do this a multitude of ways, including asking for a raise, looking for a higher-paying job, negotiating your salary, or even taking up a side hustle. There are plenty of ways to make money on top of a full-time job, such as driving for Uber/Lyft, walking dogs, selling items online, tutoring, or providing childcare.
Make sure the amount you're saving is doable, to start
When determining an amount you want to start automatically saving, it's important to not take on more than you can manage financially.
The worst thing you can do is start automatically saving more money than you can afford. If more money is being pulled from your checking to savings than you can afford, you will end up having to transfer the money back to your checking.
If you're new to saving money regularly, I recommend starting with a smaller amount. You can always increase the amount you save once you get comfortable with the money being unavailable for spending.
Set up the logistics
Most banks, especially online banks, will allow you to set up automatic transfers from your checking to your savings account.
In addition, if you are enrolled in direct deposit through your employer, it's likely you can also have your check split into two, a portion that goes into your checking account and a portion that goes into your savings account. The key here is that the saving is happening automatically.
When putting together a savings plan, it's important to make sure that it will actually work for you. Automating your savings and building it into your budget is a surefire way to make sure you start saving and stick to it so you can reach your financial goals.