Sometimes the hardest thing about saving money is just getting started. It can be difficult to figure out simple ways to save money and how to use your savings to pursue your financial goals. This step-by-step guide to money-saving habits can help you develop a realistic savings plan.
Record your expenses
The first step to saving money is to figure out how much you spend. Keep track of all your expenses that means every coffee, newspaper and snack you buy. Ideally, you can account for every penny. Once you have your data, organize the numbers by categories, such as gas, groceries and mortgage, and total each amount. Consider using your credit card or bank statements to help you with this. If you bank online, you may be able to filter your statements to easily break down your spending.
Make a budget
Once you have an idea of what you spend in a month, you can begin to organize your recorded expenses into a workable budget. Your budget should outline how your expenses measure up to your income so you can plan your spending and limit overspending. In addition to your monthly expenses, be sure to factor in expenses that occur regularly but not every month, such as car maintenance.
Plan on saving money
Now that you’ve made a budget, create a savings category within it. Try to put away 10–15 percent of your income as savings. If your expenses are so high that you can’t save that much, it might be time to cut back. To do so, identify non-essentials that you can spend less on, such as entertainment and dining out.
Choose something to save for
One of the best ways to save money is to set a goal. Start by thinking of what you might want to save for anything from a down payment for a house to a vacation then figure out how long it might take you to save for it.
Here are some examples of short- and long-term goals:
Short-term (1–3 years)
• Emergency fund (3–9 months of living expenses, just in case)
• Down payment for a car
Long-term (4+ years)
• Your child’s education
• Down payment on a home or a remodeling project
*If you’re saving for retirement or your child’s education, consider putting that money into an investment account such as an IRA or a 529 plan. While investments come with risks and can lose money, they also create the opportunity for compounded returns if you plan for an event far in advance.
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