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12 Ways to Get into the Savings Habit

Piggy bank
  1. Establish goals—Need to set up an emergency fund (a minimum of three months' pay)? Pay off debt? Save for a new car? Pay cash for all holiday gifts? Retire at 50? It's easier to get somewhere when you know where you're going.
  2. Pay yourself first—Determine what you can put in savings, then budget to live on what's left.
  3. Use Direct Deposit to save systematically by assigning a portion of your net pay to your savings account. Many find this "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" method to be pretty painless.
  4. Look for "found" money-you won't miss it because you haven't been seeing it anyway:
    • redirect to savings the payment for a paid-off car loan
    • deposit pay raises and bonuses in savings
  5. Always keep your savings a little out of reach in a separate account from your checking.
  6. Don't spend the coins you receive as change from a purchase. Collect them over a period of time, then deposit in your savings.
  7. Likewise, set aside the money you save with cents-off coupons.
  8. Contribute as much as you can to your 401(k) or Thrift Savings Plan. At a minimum, save enough to get your employer's full match—it's like free money!
  9. Upgrade to a higher interest-earning account as soon as you've saved enough to meet the minimum. Certificates generally pay higher dividend rates than regular savings accounts. Some have minimums as low as $100. Earnings are guaranteed and insured up to $250,000 against loss by the federal government at most financial institutions.
  10. Consider stocks and bonds (start with mutual funds) to earn greater, but not risk-free, returns.
  11. Start the kids out early. Help them identify goals—a new computer game, a DVD, new sporting equipment, even a movie ticket. Open a savings account for them so they can deposit cash gifts and allowance in a dividend-earning account. Then help them set up a simple budget. To give them a jump-start, consider matching the amount they put into their account.
  12. When life gets more complex—you're earning more, looking to buy a home or you're married and wondering how you'll get your kids through college—seeing a financial planner can be a smart move at any of these junctures. They can help you:
  • update your spending plan
  • start an investment portfolio
  • select the mortgage program that's best for you