When asked what they'd do if unexpectedly required to come up with $1,000, the vast majority of Americans say they would look to means outside of their own savings, according to an August 2011 survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Indeed, only 36% said they would draw money out of their savings account to cover an unplanned expense of $1,000. This means that a staggering 54% of us do not have sufficient savings to cope with a $1,000 bill.
It's not rocket science – we all know that having a savings account ensures you are set for these unforeseen circumstances. It is true that times are tough, and interest rates on savings accounts are at an all-time low, but you can still make saving pay.
Anything you can put aside will make you more secure in the coming months and year – keep in mind that saving just $10 a week is $520 by the end of a year.
And always remember the value of compounding. At the moment, interest rates are unusually low – which means that savers aren't getting much of a return on their money. But that will certainly change in time, and when it does your savings will suddenly benefit from the wonder of compounding. Put $1,000 in an account paying 2% for five years and you'll have $1,104.08 in the end. But if the interest rises up to 5%, you'll have $1,276.28. After 10 years you'll have $1,629 if the 5% interest remains. (For more, check out It's Never Too Early To Start Saving.)
So how can you make a start as a saver today? Here are our top ways to start that saving account, that are easy to implement and won't be too painful to your lifestyle.
The first thing to do is open the best savings account you can. Bestcashcow.com offers a comparison of the best rates on savings accounts. You can also compare accounts in your state. Check this out to ensure that whatever savings you do have are making you the best possible return.
The problem with saving is that you can 'miss' your money – but you can't miss what you haven't had, right? Complete a budget of what you absolutely need to live off of – bills, food expenses, etc. Then, as soon as your paycheck arrives, sweep the rest off into a savings account. If this money is never in your account, you won't feel you're losing out. Of course, this step requires accurate budgeting to work out what you need on a month-to-month basis. So, go through your previous bank statements so you'll have an accurate picture.
At the end of each day, or each week, empty your change into a jar. Go through your pockets and bag - because those quarters really will add up, and even if you just accumulate $2 a day, that's $730 by the end of a year. If you pay this change into the bank each month, then you'll have the interest to add on top of this. Keep remembering that every dollar counts and you won't go wrong.
If you're prone to impulse buys and money tends to burn a hole in your pocket, it might be helpful for you to work out what your post-tax wage is per hour. Once you know this figure, you should look at everything you intend to buy with this in mind. If you're considering a $50 pair of shoes and this is five hours of your pay, you might start to think they're not quite worth it after all. This is a great technique to stop spending – and what can you do with this money you save? Invest it in savings of course!
Look for Deals
Now, nobody is suggesting that you stop spending money altogether, but perhaps it is time to look at becoming more frugal. Do you need to pay full price for everything? Probably not. You can use coupons at the grocery store, and use restaurant vouchers to enjoy a treat for half the price. There are excellent bargains to be found on eBay.com, and don't dismiss getting items for free from freecycle at freecycle.org. It really is true that one man's trash is another man's treasure, so shun your preconceptions and consider thinking outside of the box when you need new items for your home and family. By being more frugal in your spending, you are freeing up dollars that can be directed into that savings account.
The Bottom Line
We know we should save, but it often seems like an impossible feat - difficult to start because the end point seems such a long way away. With these steps you can see that small changes can make a huge difference when you look at the growth over a year.
By starting small and watching your savings grow, you'll ensure you're ready should an unexpected expense come your way. (To learn more, read The Top States For Saving Money.)