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Start saving money better

Almost half of Americans say they wouldn’t be able to come up with $400 for an emergency or an unexpected bill.

America Saves Week encourages you to save, but how do you get started? Saving money isn’t always something that feels easy, especially when you don’t feel like you have enough money to cover all of your bills. But, getting started is the first step to making sure your future is more financially secure.

Almost half of Americans say they wouldn’t be able to come up with $400 for an emergency or an unexpected bill. In fact, according to CreditCards.com, 35 percent of people who have credit card debt say it’s because of emergency expenses. Two of the biggest excuses people use for why they aren’t saving more are: I don’t make enough money, and I don’t know where to start. 

When it comes to saving, Kelly Gilbert from Eminence Financial suggests starting with the way we think about money. In general, people think it’s more important that we earn more money than save money. However, that’s not a good way to look at it. It’s not about how much you make, it’s how you spend it.

The other thing to think about when saving money is to know what you are saving it for. It’s difficult to save money if we don’t know what it will go toward. If you have a goal in mind, like a vacation, a home repair, or holiday gift giving, it’s easier to understand how much you want to save, and why saving it is important to you.

So, where do you start? Gilbert says, start small. Yes, every penny counts. You may have seen the movie Up, where Carl and Ellie save up their loose change in a jar in order to hopefully afford a grand vacation. The idea is a sound one. Start saving your loose change in a jar and at the end of 6 months, deposit it. If you use cash regularly, you can also use the $5 Bill Rule. That means every time someone gives you a $5 bill, you save it. Those can add up quickly if you use cash more often than a card.

If you don’t really deal with cash, you aren’t alone. You can instead use apps like Acorns or Stash to get you started. Acorns connects with a credit card and rounds your purchases up to the nearest dollar whenever you use it. Then, that money is put into an investment account and you can earn money from it. It’s a passive way to save. Stash also puts a set amount of your money into a separate account each month and uses it to buy tiny amounts of stocks. That will also help your money grow.

Part of saving is understanding that money earning interest is better than money that is sitting in your sock drawer. With $1,000 in an account earning 1 percent interest, you’ll have $1,010 when the year is over if you simply do nothing.

Now you need to figure out what you can spend, and what you can save. Start by figuring out exactly how much money comes in each month. Then, figure out what all of your monthly bills add up to. That includes rent, utilities, credit card bills, car payments, groceries, etc. When you’re done you can look at what’s left over and decide how much of that can be saved to meet your other financial goals.

One part of saving a lot of people don’t think about much is a 401(k). Gilbert recommends his clients to save 10-15% of their salaries in a 401(k) each year. If that’s too much, that’s okay. Check with your employer about 401(k) match. If they match up to 3 percent, use that as your guidepost. Then, you’re contributing 3 percent, and they are contributing another 3 percent. That puts you up to 6 percent already! This money comes out of each paycheck so depending on the amount you are contributing you might not miss the $5 or so a week that you aren’t getting in your check. ($5 a week works out to be 10 percent of $26,000 yearly salary.) Many 401(k)s offer the ability to increase your contribution percentage every year. You can set it up to increase by a percent every year and you might not even notice in your day to day life, but your savings will continue to grow.

Mackenzie is a producer at 13 ON YOUR SIDE.

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