While we could all benefit from having a nice cushion of savings, it can be difficult to know where to start. Ever wonder how you are supposed to be saving money or how to create a financial plan? Consider these tips your personal blueprint on how to help keep more of your money in the bank (or, ahem, credit union!).
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Becoming a pro saver won’t happen overnight, but you can get there faster by thinking through what you want to accomplish and how you are going to get there. A little time spent researching your financial habits on the front end can help you set more relevant goals and make better-informed financial decisions on the back end.
Step 1: Set realistic goals. Create goals that make the most sense for you, your family and your future. Make sure to actually write out your financial goals; by doing so, you are more likely to remember them and stick to them!
Step 2: Track where your money goes. Write down all of your spending. And we do mean ALL of it, from your mortgage to the kids’ lunch money to your latte allowance. Do that for a month so you get a good feel for where your money is going. And think about the bigger expenses that might happen annually or semiannually, like real estate payments and insurance, and build those into your monthly total.
Step 3: Analyze your spending. Take an honest look at what you’re spending money on and see if it matches up with the goals you set in step 1. And look at the timing. Are you spending too much right after payday and then having to pull out the credit card too often to make it to the next paycheck? Try using a budgeting tool like Summit's Climbr. It has loads of great features that can help you track and manage your spending and saving.
GET SAVVY ABOUT YOUR FINANCIAL DECISIONS
Step 4: Spend where it matters. Take what you’ve learned in steps 1-3 and use it to change your habits around spending. The next time you’re ready to buy something, even something small, stop and ask yourself, “Does this match up with what’s important to me?” If the answer is “no,” back away from whatever it is and give yourself a big pat on the back for making choices that matter. Pay attention to where it is going and spend or save it wisely.
Put your plans into action. Your life is busy, and sometimes your financial wellness isn’t the first thing on your mind when you spontaneously meet up for happy hour or a friend talks you into a workout class. Save what you can now, so when life comes up later, you’re still on track with your goals.
Step 5: Cut down on bills. When it comes to cutting costs, the name of the game is budgeting. A helpful suggestion to ensure you stick to your budget is writing down all purchases, which can help you pinpoint areas of spending that you may want to trim.
It also pays to save on little things, like your utility bill. Turn off the lights when you’re not using them, turn your thermostat a degree or two lower in the winter and higher in the summer, unplug electronics when you can or try switching to energy-efficient CFL or LED bulbs. If you live in the city, you can go a step further and consider carpooling or using public transportation. That way, you’ll save on gas, parking fees and maybe even maintenance costs.
Step 6: Plan for your taxes. Calculate your projected income to gauge which tax bracket you fall into. If you see yourself paying more taxes at the end of the season, start saving for that sooner rather than later. Not planning for your tax bill can have major impacts on your budget and ability to pay other bills if you get stuck paying it all at one time.
If you plan to receive a tax refund, be deliberate about how you are going to spend or save it. Your refund could be the extra money you need to finally pay off your credit card bills or the bump you needed to start your emergency fund.
Step 7: Chop your grocery bill. Everyone knows that cooking at home can save a big chunk of change compared to restaurant dining. Aside from being the craze of the day, meal prep can save you valuable time and money. Determine the ingredients you’ll need, make a shopping list and, when you hit the grocery aisles, make sure you abide by the list.
Don’t forget you can save money at the store by buying nonperishables in bulk, planning meals around your grocery store’s weekly deals and taking advantage of coupons. After whipping up your food, save leftovers for the rest of the week or freeze them for later. It’s savvy saving that tastes good, too.
Step 8: Plan for retirement. You may already have a 401(k) set up through your employer. They may even offer benefits like a 401(k) match program. Take full advantage of their benefits by contributing the maximum percentage that they are willing to match. After all, who doesn’t want free money? Learn about their vesting options, aka how long you have to work for them in order to walk away with that “free money.” If your employer doesn’t offer a 401(k), start thinking about opening up an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) at a credit union.
Use our retirement calculators to see if you are on track with your 401(k) savings, if an IRA is right for you or how long your money is projected to last while in retirement.
Step 9: Grow your money faster. Weigh out the risk involved and invest your money in mutual funds, stocks, bonds or a mixture of the three to potentially grow your money faster than you could in a savings account. If you are not comfortable with a level of risk, you could earn higher interest rates in money market accounts or certificates.*
Find out more about how you can grow your money faster with Summit’s investing and competitive savings options.
TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR FINANCES
Feel like you’re still living paycheck to paycheck? Find that you’re using a credit card to pay for things more often than you’d like? This on-demand webinar can help you get back on track. Learn how to make choices that fit the lifestyle you want to live and establish new habits that will set you up for money management success.
Get even more financial tips and tricks:
- Establish a goal
- Track expenses
- Plan where to spend your money
- Watch your progress and adjust accordingly
It’s good to get in the habit of saving, and with these financial planning tips to save money and set yourself up for future success, you will be well on your way to small savings that can create big results. And as always, our Summit financial coaches are here to answer all of your questions about creating a financial plan. Let's talk!
*Money market accounts and certificates are insured by NCUA.