by Maurie Backman | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on July 19, 2019
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Are your savings falling by the wayside? It's time to stop making excuses and start making changes.
Are you in the habit of making excuses for why your savings aren't growing?
You're not doing yourself any favors.
Here are a few common justifications for not saving money that don't hold water.
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Many people attribute their lack of savings to limited earnings. To be fair, it should, in theory, be easier to save money if you earn more. But if you're smart about managing your limited income, you can eke out some savings regardless.
First, set up a budget. It'll help you manage your money and keep tabs on your spending.
Next, automate your savings. Make a small amount of money go directly from your checking account to your savings account each month. That can be $20, $40, or $100 -- whatever you can afford. The key is to work with the income you have and prioritize savings above other bills.
The amount you should save each month depends on what your goals are. If you don't have an emergency fund, that should be your first priority. Your emergency fund should contain enough money to cover three to six months of essential living expenses, like rent, transportation, food, utilities, and healthcare. Just the things you absolutely can't live without.
If you're good on emergency savings, you can move on to other goals like retirement. Ideally, you should aim to sock away 15% to 20% of your income for retirement each year. If that's not possible, do what you can.
Either way, don't give up on saving money because you're not sure what to aim for. There's no such thing as having too much money in the bank or in a retirement plan.
If you're not sure how to narrow down a savings target, go with saving as much as you can. Consider enlisting a financial advisor who can help you narrow down your goals and get more focused.
Stop blaming your bills for monopolizing your income. Instead, start lowering them. There are probably some expenses in your budget you can reduce or cut out completely.
For example, if you rent an apartment for $1,000 a month, downsizing to a smaller space might reduce that bill to $850. If you pay $40 a month for your gym, drop your membership and get outdoors instead -- walking and running are free.
If you really can't bear to cut back on expenses, get yourself a side hustle. Having a second job boosts your income and makes it easier to add to your savings.
You might think you don't need savings. Conceivably, there's the option to charge expenses you can't pay for on a credit card. But what happens when you max out your credit limit and can't get approved for more because your credit score is in the dumps?
That's just one reason you need savings on hand. Here's another: The more you charge on a credit card, the more costly interest you'll accrue. And the more you risk damaging your credit in the process.
We all need savings for various reasons. If yours haven't been growing at all, it's time to rethink some habits.
Rather than make excuses for not saving, start following a budget, automate your savings, map out some goals, cut back on recurring bills, and get a second job if necessary. It's the best way to protect yourself from life's many financial unknowns.
Many people are missing out on guaranteed returns as their money languishes in a big bank savings account earning next to no interest. The Ascent's picks of the best online savings accounts can earn you more than 8x the national average savings account rate.
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