Saving money can be a challenge. The secret is two-fold: uncover new sources of "found money" and then make that cash, as well as whatever you’re already saving, work harder for you. Here’s how to do it.
Step 1: Prepare a budget Prepare a budget: Write down a list of your monthly expenses -- rent or mortgage, car payments, utilities, groceries, and other costs -- and compare that to your monthly take-home pay. If you’re spending more than you’re earning, figure out where you can make cuts.
Step 2: Make savings a fixed expense Determine how much you can direct into savings each month and make that a fixed expense -- one that must get paid every month, no matter what, just like any other non-negotiable expense.
TIP: To make saving easier, set up an automatic deduction from your paycheck into a savings or retirement account.
Step 3: Evaluate your expenses Take a close look at your expenses, thinking creatively about which ones you can reduce or even remove. Re-direct that found money into savings.
Step 4: Save pre-tax dollars Check if your employer offers a plan that lets you save pre-tax money. Contributing pre-tax dollars allows you to make larger contributions because you don’t have to pay the taxes on money that you save right now.
TIP: If your employer matches your retirement plan contributions, take advantage of it! It’s a risk-free way to increase, or even double, your contributions.
Step 5: Start early Start saving early, even if you can only make small contributions in the beginning. A person who begins saving for retirement at age 25 has to save less money than someone who starts at age 45, because they’ll not only be earning interest on the money they save, but interest on that interest! The power of compounded interest can dramatically accelerate your savings growth over time, and help secure your financial future.
FACT: $18 per week saved and invested for 25 years in a tax-deferred account, like an IRA, could grow to nearly $50,000.
You Will Need
Fixed savings amount
Pre-tax savings plan
Automatic pay deductions (optional)
Retirement plan with matching contributions (optional)