Thirty-nine percent of Americans don't have enough money in savings to cover a mere $400 emergency. If you're one of them, it's a sign that your savings need a serious boost. The good news? If you follow these tips, you might find that saving money isn't so difficult after all.
1. Follow a budget
It's hard to build savings when you have no idea where your earnings go from month to month. On the other hand, if you set up a budget and stick to it, you'll see what your living expenses are costing you, and you'll be better positioned to make changes as needed to ramp up your savings efforts.
To create a budget, list your recurring monthly expenses. Then, factor in expenses that only pop up once a year, but that you still need money to cover, like your annual professional license renewal or warehouse club membership fee. From there you can compare your total spending to your earnings, and if there's no room left over for monthly savings, you'll know how to cut corners to change that.
2. Stay out of debt
It's common to have debt in the form of a mortgage, and if you're a fairly recent college graduate, you may have some student debt left over as well. But one type of debt you should really avoid is high-interest credit card debt. The more of it you rack up, the more money you end up throwing away on interest. And that's money that could be going into the bank instead.
3. Never spend your raises
Many people who get raises are quick to spend that extra money. But if you pledge to save it all, that alone could work wonders for your bank account. One thing to remember when you get a raise is that that money isn't cash you're used to having or spending. Therefore, if you manage to keep your living expenses the same (meaning, don't go out and rent a more expensive apartment), you should have little trouble banking the extra cash in your paychecks.
4. Make the process automatic
It's hard to spend money that never lands in your checking account. If your savings need a pick-me-up, try automating the process. You can arrange to have a portion of each paycheck you receive go directly from your checking account to your savings account so you're not tempted to spend that money. And if you have a nice amount of money in the bank, you can sign up for your employer's 401(k) and have funds for that retirement plan deducted automatically from your paycheck. You can even find an IRA that does automatic transfers if you work for a company that doesn't sponsor a retirement plan.
Saving money isn't always the easiest thing to do, but it needs to be done. Without near-term savings, you risk racking up debt the next time an unplanned expense pops up. And without retirement savings, you risk struggling financially during your golden years. Neither is a scenario you want to be a part of, so follow these tips to improve on the savings front.