If you live paycheck to paycheck, covering your monthly bills is tough enough as it is. Building up your savings? That can be difficult to imagine. Even if you do have a little money left over at the end of the month, it might seem like it’s too little to make a big difference in your savings account.
But dismissing this leftover income can be a costly mistake over time. Although your current ability to set money aside might seem insignificant, saving is a long-term strategy and every bit adds up. Even just $25 per month can add up to $300 a year and $3,000 over a decade. And if you put that money into an interest-bearing account, it could be even greater.
Plus, as your income grows over time, you can increase your contributions to accelerate your savings, building upon the early progress you’ve made when you could only set aside small amounts. But it all starts with building good habits and that means making whatever contribution you can afford, even on a tight budget.
Here are four saving habits to get you started.
1. Use an expense tracking tool to identify excess spending
Better awareness of your spending is an important step towards becoming a better saver. Tracking tools like Money Manager link directly to your Credit Union account and organize your spending into budgeted categories. This offers an easy snapshot of where you are spending wisely and where you can improve. With tracking tools at your disposal, you’ll learn a lot about your own spending behaviors that will inform better decision-making.
2. Scale back down on non-essential spending categories
Saving money doesn’t have to mean cutting out an entire spending category, such as entertainment or restaurants. Aim to carve out additional savings by reducing spending, even just a little bit, from every category.
A little extra planning and awareness can help you cut costs without affecting your lifestyle in a drastic way. Examples of scaling back can include going to the movies during a matinee rather than in the evening or skipping the dessert when you go out to eat. These small changes will make extra room for saving and also establish good habits that will improve your money management.
3. Pick up a cost-cutting hobby
Eating out too much? Spending too much on fitness? If you’re motivated to free up more of your monthly income to commit to savings, it might be the right time to embrace a new hobby or activity that helps you cut back on spending.
Examples of this savings strategy include:
- Make cooking your new hobby. Use YouTube, online recipe blogs, and even your city’s recreation center for free cooking demos and classes to teach you skills in the kitchen. You’ll save on eating out and learn a new skill while you’re at it.
- Use home fitness equipment or other at-home workout routines and cancel your gym membership.
- Join a walking, running, or biking group. You’ll improve your fitness and eventually be able to walk, run, or bike everywhere, saving on gas or public transportation costs.
- Plant a garden to save on groceries while eating healthier, fresh foods.
With this proactive approach to money management, you can take the expenses that you cut and put them into a savings account or emergency fund.
4. Set up automatic contributions to your savings account
Struggling to put money into savings? You’re not alone. Building that discipline isn’t easy, especially when you’re doing it for the first time.
With automatic savings contributions, you automate saving while treating it like you would any other expense. Automatic contributions can be managed through several different options:
- Direct deposit your paycheck directly into a savings account – this is an excellent option if you have a second job or side gig you’re using to fund your savings.
- Automatic transfers that move money from your checking to savings account on every payday.
- Direct debit from your checking account to fund an investment or retirement account.
By having that money go directly into savings, it becomes a natural expense you plan for in your monthly spending – and your savings account will reap the benefits.
No matter how daunting it may feel to save, a little creative thinking and discipline can help you free up money and establish a savings routine that pays off in the long run. Remember: it’s never too early to save, and even small amounts add up to something big over time. Get started by opening a savings account today.