Writer: B.E. Conrad
A recent report revealed that more than 60 percent of Americans could not cover an unexpected $1,000 expense without borrowing money from friends or going into debt. While financial experts were shocked by this statistic, the men and women struggling to make ends meet were far less surprised.
They know how hard it is to save money and how quickly the weekly paycheck evaporates. They also know how important it is to save money and cut expenses, and getting started is often the hardest part. If you want to save money and beef up your emergency fund, now is the time to get started. Here are five relatively painless ways to start saving money today.
1. Pay yourself first
Whether it is $1, $5, $10, or a percentage of your weekly salary, paying yourself first is a great way to get a jump-start savings. Just set the designated amount aside and have it sent directly to a savings or money market account.
If your employer offers direct deposit, simply split your paycheck between the two accounts. If not, it is easy to set up a recurring transfer from your checking to your savings account.
2. Bank your raises
The next time your boss gives you a raise, bank part of that extra cash. Instead of ramping up your spending to meet your new income level, continue to live as you have been and put the extra money aside.
You do not have to deprive yourself entirely to boost your savings. After all, you worked hard for that raise, and you deserve the money. Feel free to splurge, but save part of the money as well.
3. Save part of your tax refund
The yearly tax return is the largest single chunk of cash many people see, but all too many of those taxpayers waste that money. While there is nothing wrong with a yearly splurge courtesy of the U.S. government, there are much better ways to spend that tax refund.
If you want to beef up your emergency fund and jump-start your savings, bank half of your tax refund this year and use the remaining 50 percent for fun or a project.
4. Freelance for extra cash
Bringing in extra income is a great way to beef up your savings, but what if you do not have time for a part-time job, or the inclination to work all those hours? If you want to bring in some extra money without being tied to a set schedule, consider freelancing.
No matter what your skill set, chances are there are ways to turn it into cash. If you work full-time as a programmer, take on a few side projects in your down time. If you are a great driver, sign up for a ride-sharing service and bring in some extra cash. When you put all of that extra income in the bank, it will surprise you how fast your emergency fund coffers grow.
5. Trim your fixed monthly expenses
Finding new sources of income helps build your savings, but so will cutting spending. Start by reviewing fixed monthly expenses, things like your cable or pay-TV bill, your phone bill, and so on.
Chances are there are feature you no longer need, cheaper alternatives to the package you have now, or other ways to save. This simple step could save as much $100 a month that goes strraight to the emergency fun.
It is not easy to save money, but having a solid emergency fund is very important. If your emergency savings are looking a bit anemic, it is time to get serious and get going. The five tips outlined above can help you get started, but the rest is up to you.