This is the time of year when we reflect on our lives and make resolutions to change. My resolutions have ranged from healthy eating, reading more books, watching less TV, exercising more and of course, a few financial goals. Now is a great time to take a look at your finances and make some changes. You’ve received your 1040 form, your year-end bank statements and you may have just gone through benefits enrollment. You have the perfect information available to make a change you can stick to. If you’ve made a resolution to save, but haven’t quite figured out how to start, here are a few ideas.
Round up savings programs
Many financial institutions offer a “round up” program. Debit card transactions are rounded up to an even dollar amount and the difference is deposited into your savings account. For example: If you spend $19.41 at the grocery store, $20.00 comes out of your checking and $.59 is deposited to your savings. Contact your bank or credit union and see if they offer a “Round Up” savings program.
- Once enrolled, there is literally no effort required. The savings just adds up.
- It’s easy to balance your account when working with even dollar amounts and having an accurate balance can help with budgeting as well as avoiding overdrafts.
- The number of transactions and the amount transferred will vary from month to month. It is unpredictable how much will come out of your checking, which can create budgeting issues for some people.
- Before you enroll, read the fine print. There may be very specific account requirements to avoid monthly or transactional fees. E-statements, direct deposit, or a minimum number of transactions are just a few examples. If you fail to meet these requirements, the monthly fees could range from $2 to $5. Make sure to ask for a fee schedule for both the checking and savings accounts.
- How much will you save? I took a look at three of my recent statements to see what I would have saved. My number of transactions ranged from 56 to 83 to 106 (yikes!) and my savings deposits would have ranged from $24.36 to $52.35. Over the course of a year, I would have accumulated about $475 in my savings account.
Create your own savings program
There are easy ways to set up your own automatic savings program.
Does your employer offer direct deposit? If so, ask if you can split your payroll into multiple accounts. Are you up for a raise? Do you receive bonuses or commissions? Divert that extra payroll into savings and you won’t even notice it.
If direct deposit is not available, visit your financial institution and create an automatic transfer from your checking to savings account every payday.
- Again, once the direct deposit (or automatic transfer) is set up, there is no further effort required.
- You can potentially open multiple savings accounts—one for emergencies, one for holiday shopping and one for that dream vacation.
- When reviewing your account, that monthly transfer can be a reminder that the extra funds are there. Avoid the temptation to dip into your savings.
How much will you save? Add a direct deposit moving your $.25 per hour raise into savings and you’ll save over $500 a year. Add a direct deposit (or automatic transfer) of $20 per week into your savings account and you’ll have over $1000 saved in one year. If you are thinking about diverting bonuses or commissions, check your final December paystub to get an idea of how much you’ll save.
52 Week Savings Challenge
The 52 Week Savings Challenge is designed to train yourself to save. Unlike automatic transfers or round up programs, this one is all about you.
Week one—deposit $1 in your savings account, week two—deposit $2, and so on. Basically, each week you spend $1 less than the week before.
- Making a deliberate change in your behavior can be a good thing. Once you complete the challenge, savings is likely a habit that will continue.
- Starting small and easing your way into savings can be less overwhelming to the budget.
- This does take a personal commitment and more effort than setting up something automatic. It’s easy to forget a deposit or to get off track.
- During the last month of the challenge, you’re depositing $202 which may be difficult. People who start the challenge in January can be derailed by holiday shopping.
- How much will you save? In one year, you will have saved at least $1378. However, most people who successfully complete the challenge end up saving much more.
Visit your financial institution for a “check-up”
How long has your account been open? Unless it was opened recently, your life has probably changed. Something as simple as buying a home computer can save you money if your financial institution offers discounts for e-statements. A new employer offering direct deposit can save you money too. Visit a representative at your bank or credit union and review your account.
How much will you save? Think of it this way, in one year, a $5 monthly fee on a checking account is $60. A $500 CD would take 11 years at current rates to earn that back. Avoiding fees is a great way to save, too.
For more ways to save money visit www.westerracu.com/value
This post was written by Chris Hardenberger, a branch manager at Westerra Credit Union. If you’d like to submit a guest post, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org