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Starting a Savings Plan

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If you'd have trouble coming up with $500 in a pinch, you're in good company. Six in 10 Americans don't have $500 in savings they can use to pay for an unexpected expense. Instead, they'd be forced to borrow the money from friends, family or lenders.

This isn't a new development: The American personal savings rate has declined significantly in recent years and is now at its lowest point since the Financial Crisis of 2008.

The truth is that life is full of unplanned expenses, so it's imperative to practice good financial habits. Designing and implementing a smart savings plan is one of the best ways to make this happen.

With that in mind, let's review some tips and tricks for getting your budget on track.

How to start your new savings plan

When it comes to making important changes for the better, the first step is often the hardest. Once you get the ball rolling and start seeing tangible progress, however, you'll feel inspired and confident about your prospects.

To help you get there more quickly, consider the following tips for creating an effective savings plan:

  • Keep a detailed budget tracking your spending. This will help you identify areas where you're overspending and ensure you have a clear picture of your finances.
  • Visualize your savings goal. Are you saving for retirement? A home? A vacation? By identifying your savings goal, it becomes real rather than theoretical, and you can begin charting your progress toward your ultimate goal.
  • Pay yourself first. This is a savvy technique for helping you save money. Each time you get paid, put a percentage of your salary into a savings account. By treating this like any other bill, you'll quickly build a nest egg.
  • Don't be afraid to start small. If you can only save $10 or $20 each week or month to begin with, that's fine — the important thing is to begin developing positive new habits.
  • Take advantage of automation through a savings app. These services can automatically transfer money from your checking to your savings and even round up your daily purchases and deposit the difference into your account.
  • In the same vein, if you're not invested in the stock market, consider using a low fee, easy-to-use apps that are designed to help beginning investors navigate the market.
  • Pay down high interest debt. Every dollar spent on paying interest each month is a dollar that could be drawing interest in a savings account or generating returns in an investment portfolio.
  • Refinance your loans and negotiate better deals. Shaving a point or two off your home and auto loans can free up considerable cash. The same thing applies to negotiating better terms with your cable company, cellular provider etc.
  • As your earnings rise, keep your lifestyle the same. People often remark that even though they're making more money, their finances haven't really improved. That's because as we earn more, we tend to buy more — a concept called “lifestyle inflation.” By reinvesting your raises into your savings or investment account, you can start making real progress.

Taking actionable steps such as these is critical to getting your savings back on track. It's also important to remember that creating and implementing a savings plan isn't an overnight process. By setting small, measurable goals for yourself and charting your progress, you can build momentum and start cultivating the kind of smart financial habits that lead to financial independence.

The takeaway

The ability to save effectively is a critical life skill. By following the tips outlined above, you'll be able to work to help put you in a better position for those unexpected expenses and achieve your long-term financial goals faster.

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