One of the most important components of a solid financial plan is establishing a savings account.
Of course, this is something that is exceedingly important in a tough economy, but equally difficult.
Still, there are things you can do, regardless of how much money you make or what the state of the economy might be, to start putting money away for when you will really need it.
For example, Aaron Forth, vice president and general manager of Intuit Personal Finance Group says,
Most people who buy small items every day aren’t aware of how quickly these small purchases add up. Realizing how much you spend in certain areas encourages you to make changes like not eating out or shopping less regularly.
He continues by saying “it is important to manage everyday spending [but] also important to save up for long-term goals like retirement, education, or buying a home.”
CFA and Bankrate.com senior financial analyst Greg McBride agrees that monitoring expenses is really the key to improving savings. He says
By holding yourself accountable to your spending, you’ll give yourself further opportunities to save.
McBride also says “The biggest barrier to saving is failing to be in the habit of saving. The best way to establish that habit is to pay yourself first.” Indeed, this is something that many people struggle with but it is one of the easiest things you can do once you understand it.
Basically, you need to put a portion of your paycheck away every pay period as though you were paying a bill. Get into this routine and pretty soon you’ll adjust to the slightly smaller income but you’ll find that you have more money in the bank.
Another way to ensure that you are doing the most to increase your savings is to avoid excessive withdrawals. Some people are constantly hitting the ATM or selecting cash back at the grocery store.
This is a behavior that will quickly drain your checking account and, thus, negatively affect your ability to save. This becomes exceedingly harmful after you withdraw more than what Federal Regulation D allows and the bank starts charging you. McBride says, regarding this:
In this low interest-rate environment, incurring an excessive withdrawal fee just once can wipe out many months of accrued interest.
In light of recent credit reform, banks are starting to restructure their payment and fee schedules in order to continue maximizing profits and compensate for what might be lost through the new rulings.
Because of this, McBride advises that account holders pay very close attention to their accounts, especially the terms and minimum balance requirements as they might have changed since you originally signed up.
A higher minimum balance requirement is a stealth-fee increase. Many account holders will not be able to maintain that balance and will begin to incur new fees.
Accordingly, “utilizing free email or text alerts can help to ensure you are taking advantage of the ability to maximize your earning potential.”
Finally you should keep in mind that a strong savings account is also a favorable backup plan for your checking account. When your checking account is supported by your savings account you will probably avoid extremely expensive overdraft charges should an overdraft occur.
In a 2011 Checking Account Survey, for example, the average overdraft fee was determined to be $30.83. Most banks offer savings account overdraft protection which only charges you a few bucks per occurrence.
Having a link between your checking and savings accounts is your lowest-cost line of defense against overdrafts. In the event of overdrawing your account, this is a matter of moving your money from one account to another instead of borrowing from the bank.