By Obioha Okereke, College Money Habits
Let’s face it, saving money is hard. Whether you’re dealing with rising living costs, unexpected emergencies, or employment challenges, finding the opportunity to set aside extra funds can be extremely difficult.
Throughout this article, you’ll read about important lessons from Kort Kamacho, manager at Kaman Auctions, and what he’s learned on his savings journey that helped him purchase a home and his dream car by the age of 27. Here are four great strategies to help you boost your savings:
1. Start by Creating a Budget
It doesn’t matter if you’re planning on buying a home, car, or a new cell phone, setting a budget helps you identify your financial picture and create a realistic timeline for achieving your goals.
To create a budget, identify your income and your expenses.
Kort Kamacho shares, “It is extremely important to map out how much you are making and where you are allocating the funds. It is much harder to save when you are unaware of how much money is coming and going.”
When you calculate your discretionary income, it allows you to budget based on how much money you have left over every month after paying your expenses. After you’ve created your budget and identified how much money you can save, try automating your savings.
What does this mean? An easy way to automate your savings is to set up an automatic transfer between a checking account and a high-yield savings account.
Tip: Opening a high-yield savings account is a great way to boost your savings. On average, a high-yield savings account offers roughly 10x more in interest than a regular savings account. In some cases, they can offer up to 20x more in interest! Similar to a regular savings account, you have the ability to transfer money between your savings account and other bank accounts. Keep in mind that these transfers can take up to 4 days. Due to their higher interest rates and daily compounding, high-yield savings accounts (HYSA) will help you increase your savings much faster than a regular savings account.
Need help creating a budget? Check out How to Create a Personal Budget and The 50-30-20 Budget.
2. Establish an Emergency Savings Fund
An emergency savings fund is a savings account for unexpected emergencies, such as medical bills, car or home repairs, or job loss. By establishing an emergency fund, you create a reserve that allows you to cover unplanned expenses, while staying on track with your financial goals.
Kamacho says, “Saving an emergency fund has helped me live comfortably by allowing me to cover unpredicted situations without stressing.”
To set up an emergency savings fund, identify your living expenses (groceries, rent/mortgage, utilities, etc.). The size of your emergency fund will vary depending on your lifestyle, hobbies, and bills. An emergency savings fund should total three to six months of living expenses.
For example, if your living expenses are $3,000 per month, you would want to set aside between $9,000 to $18,000 to deal with emergencies. If this sounds overwhelming, start by setting a goal of saving $1,000. Or, try saving a little each month. If you save $20 a week in an emergency fund, by the end of the year, you will have set aside $1,040. And, if you save $50 per week, this would become $2,600 after one year!
An important benefit of building an emergency savings fund is feeling financially secure and self-confident. Knowing that if an emergency occurred and you are well positioned to deal with it can reduce your stress levels and put you on a positive path towards preparing for the future and planning for retirement.
Wondering where you should set up an emergency savings fund? Check out 7 Best Online High-Yield Savings Accounts by NerdWallet.
3. Set Realistic Goals
Setting short and long-term goals can be a great way to give direction to your managing finances and keep you motivated.
Being specific about your goals is very important.
For example, rather than setting a goal to “save more money,” you can be more specific by setting a goal to save an additional $100 every month . When pursuing goals like purchasing a car or home, a financial plan helps create actionable steps for you to take.
“I set a savings goal for each month. Not only did I set a savings goal each month, but I increased the savings target each year,” says Kamacho.
To help set realistic goals, make sure to consider your discretionary income — your income after paying for taxes and necessary expenses. By taking this number into account when setting goals, it allows you to create a plan based on your true ability to save and can assist you with creating a realistic timeline.
Curious how you can use your discretionary income to set realistic goals? Read 3 Money Lessons That Helped Me Save $100,000.
4. Start Investing
Investing is arguably the best method to build wealth today. There is plenty to learn when it comes to investing and no shortage of online resources and tips on how to get started and mistakes to avoid, so let’s talk about why it is important.
Investing gives your money the opportunity to grow and compound over time. The earlier you start, the more time your money has to grow.
Important note: Make sure you have an emergency savings fund before you start investing. When you invest, you are putting your money at risk, so it is very important to approach with caution and to develop a strategy. By creating an emergency fund first, you provide yourself with protection in case the market experiences a downturn and your investments begin to lose value.
Another way to invest is through a 401K retirement plan, which many employers offer and allow you to invest a percentage of your income in the stock market. Often, employers will “match” your contributions, which is free money for you and a great way to rapidly increase the value of savings and investments.
What is an employer match? Let’s say your employer offers a match of 4% on your retirement contributions — this means that for every $1,000 you invest in your work retirement account, your employer will invest $40 on your behalf. Doing this regularly for several years can have tremendous impacts. It is important to note that employer matches will usually apply only to a certain percentage of your income and won’t be applied to all of your retirement contributions.
Last year, I contributed $11,438.67 to my 401K plan. During that same period, my employer contributed $1,967.95. This means I earned almost $2,000 in free money in just one year.
Taking advantage of employer 401K plans is a great way to increase your savings over time, as well as build financial security and freedom.
Tip: If you don’t know if your employer offers a 401K plan or you’re unsure how to contribute, ask them! Be sure to also ask about their match policy and what investment options you have.
To learn more about getting started with investing, check out Getting Started by College Money Habits.
Looking for actionable steps to help boost your savings? Make sure to set goals, map out a plan, and most importantly, be intentional about your spending habits.
On your savings journey, it is important to recognize the impact of all your financial decisions. Stick to your budget and use strategies, such as automating your savings to help you consistently set money aside.
Lastly, remember that all good things take time! Keep a long-term perspective and don’t be afraid to celebrate the small wins. Every time you hit a goal — ‘small’ or ‘big’ — reward yourself for your dedication and consistency.
If you have any questions regarding these personal finance resources and/or general questions about managing your personal finances, contact Obi Okereke from College Money Habits at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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