Quick and Easy Ways to Start a Savings Plan Today

It is nearing that time of year when we sit down to plan out next year’s resolutions. Two of the most popular New Year’s Resolutions are to lose weight and to save money. Why wait? You can start a savings plan today in just a few easy steps.

  • Identify your savings goals. Have you ever heard that expression, “If you aim at nothing you’ll hit it every time?” I know it is a bit cliche, but when it comes to savings plans, it’s true. Those who find the most success saving money do so because they are committed to a plan–they have a goal in mind. It could be a down payment on a home, an emergency fund, a new (used) car, a sunny day fund, or even as far out as retirement. Most plans are a combination of both short and long-term plans.
  • Consider an online savings account. I have never been a saver. I like to save money, and I whole-heartedly agree with the importance of saving money, but every time I begin to amass some savings something happens that wipes me out. That was until I discovered ING Direct. I opened an Orange Savings account with them and began moving just $25 a paycheck (every two weeks) into an account. I’ve since opened four more “sub-accounts” there with specific savings goals and put a little in each account out of my paychecks. The money is still accessible, but it is far enough away that it is “out of sight, out of mind.” Check out my reviews of the other best online banks.
  • Sign up for direct deposit. I mentioned that I automated the transfer of money from my checking account to my online savings account. To take that a step further; visit your payroll office and ask if you can split your deposit into two separate accounts. Most employers allow you to identify a percentage of your check to go into a primary checking account, and the remaining percentage to go into a second checking or savings account.
  • Start small, and slowly increase the amount you save. Whether you decide to use direct deposit, automated transfers, or manually write out a check each month, start with a small amount to get used to the idea. Elect to have 1% of your pay diverted to savings, or move $25 a paycheck to your online savings account. Trust me, you are not likely to miss these small amounts, and if you are like me, you probably used to spend this on eating out each paycheck cycle. Now I just brown bag lunch and pocket the savings.

Advanced Savings Strategies

Once you are comfortable with your established system of saving money you can graduate to more advanced concepts.

  • Pocket your store savings. It goes without saying that to be in position to save money, you must first reduce your expenditures. One way to flip the switch is to pass on something you would normally buy in the store and pocket those savings immediately. For instance, the other day I was looking at video games and saw a new one that looked like fun. It was $49.99. The old me would have tossed the game in the shopping cart and moved on without much thought. The new me put the game back on the shelf, made a mental note of how much it cost, and went home and scheduled a $50 transfer from my checking account to my savings account.
  • Keep windfalls as far away from your checking account as possible. If you are lucky enough to receive small windfalls, such as birthday money, tax refunds, money from the sale of items on eBay, etc, be sure to put that money directly in your savings account. If it finds its way into your checking account it will likely be frittered away.
  • Save one dollar bills. Most dedicated savers have a coin jar at home where they dump change. Consider adding a dollar-bill box where you save all one dollar bills (with the exception of keeping a few around for tipping purposes). I heard of this idea on a radio show several years ago. The show’s host saved all one dollar bills he came across for years and presented them to his daughter on her 16th birthday. Up until that point she and the host’s wife had made fun of him unmercifully for his weird savings habit. After opening the box with sixteen hundred one dollar bills they no longer made fun of him.

Hopefully, I have given you some ideas for jump starting your savings plan, but you are the one that has to do the heavy lifting. Saving money is a function of spending less than you earn, and storing the difference. It does not matter how much, or how little, you earn. If you find yourself unable to save money because of low earnings, consider finding a side hustle, or selling some items to supplement your savings plan. The bottom line is to simply get started saving something, today!

Comments

  1. Great post. I especially like how you break it down into more manageable steps. And I have the out of sight, out of mind approach with my online high yield savings account as well. You sort of forget the money’s there…

  2. Couldn’t agree more regarding those ING Direct accounts, and starting with a little bit. It’s a step in the right direction for sure.

    Also use your bank’s regular savings account as an instant emergency fund if you have to write a check when your checking account doesn’t have sufficient funds, and then you have the money available to move into it. Of course this is for an emergency, not for a meal out or a new DVD!

  3. Thanks for the ideas on savings. I’ll be looking into ING Direct–I have a trip I want to take in 3 years with the family and this may be just the way to do it!

  4. The “pocket your store savings” tip is one I always think about and try to implement in my spending habits. However! It never seems to work out for big purchases. I can stop myself from buying coffee and feel good about saving those dollars. For things like clothes or anything big, I’ll decide against buying something but that money will end up being spent on something else, because I’ll justify that I didn’t buy the other thing. Catch-22…

  5. This is very good advice that everyone should take advantage of. With the largest job market decline in quite sometime, it is almost a must that you have an emergency fund ready for your disposal in case you were to get laid off.

  6. I think the idea of saving dollar bills is silly. Sure it might be cute, but if you deposited say $100 per year for 16 years like the post suggested, you could have made well over $600 in interest in a 4% yield money market account.

    Lest we forget the time value of money over 16 years. I cash in my change bin at least every 6 months.

    I’ve been an ING Direct member for years, don’t forget the sign on bonuses!

  7. @DigitalFool: I agree with you, and I suspect the radio show host didn’t literally save every single dollar bill, rather he deposited them on some regular basis and then withdrew 1600 singles to present to his daughter. At least, that’s what I hope he did!

  8. I would recommend opening up a savings account with a local credit union or bank without online access. I find it easier to save when I am not onstantly looking at my balance because when I see my Savings balance I think about how I can spend that money.

    - Neko

  9. My wife and I have numerous ‘side’ accounts that get $25 or $50 deposits each week (I get paid weekly). It might seem all for naught until a day like today, when my car goes into the shop for snow tires (hey, it’s Canada here, OK) and it ends up being a $1,000 touch. Luckily, most of that is in our car emergency fund.

    I highly recommend people have these ‘untouchable until needed for their designed purpose’ savings accounts.

  10. I have a big jar for pocket change on my desk, and am always amazed at how much turns out to be in there at the end of the year.

    Regarding the online savings account, I’ve been looking into Venture Bank Direct (http://www.venturebankdirect.com), which offers a bit higher rate than ING, currently 3.80%.

  11. My wife and I do the dollar bill and change thing throughout the year, cashing it in in August – it pays for our two girls’ elementary school book rental for the year (about $250 total), our annual fall camping and canoeing trip with extended family down in southern Indiana, and there is always a little bit left over to have a nice dinner (with drinks) at our favorite local Mexican restaurant. A very painless way to handle two expenses we have that come up at the same time every year (tuition and vacation).

  12. Going to your payroll office and setting up automatic deductions is the best move you can make to begin saving. It is so simple because you do not have to do anything. I have forced many of my friends to do this because they complained about how it was impossible to save money. The only thing that changes is that you have less money to work, so you have a chance to get creative and find ways to stretch a dollar.

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