Remember when you told yourself this was the year you were finally going to beef up your savings accounts?
Well, now’s as good a time as any to make good on that promise. It's the start of America Saves Week, an annual campaign from the Consumer Federation of America and the American Savings Education Council to remind us to check in on how our savings are doing, and to motivate us all to keep boosting that amount.
With that in mind, we decided to round up one easy thing you can do every day this week (that’ll take five minutes or less!) to help you make faster progress toward retirement, an emergency fund, a down payment on a dream home — or any other big financial goal you’ve set your sights on.
Monday: Set Up an Automated Savings Transfer
If you’ve had a savings goal on the backburner for a while and haven’t been able to free up the cash for it, figure out how much you can reasonably put toward that goal each month. Then set up a recurring transfer from your checking to a savings account earmarked specifically for that goal. And don’t get hung up on the amount; even something as small as $50 a month will make a difference in the long run. Bonus tip: Consider setting up that account at a bank that’s different from the one you use for checking. That way, it won’t be so easy to dip into your savings to transfer money back into your checking during a month where you overspend.
Tuesday: Up Your Retirement Contributions 1%
According to a 2016 survey conducted by the America Saves Week campaign, 52% of survey respondents felt they were saving enough to maintain a “desirable standard of living” for retirement. If you’re part of the other half who feels like you’re not on track for a comfortable retirement, think about upping your contributions to your 401(k) or IRA by just 1%. You likely won’t miss this amount from your paycheck, and it’ll help you make baby steps toward future contribution increases.
Wednesday: Look for Costs You Can Trim From Your Budget
Sure, we’ve all heard how much we can save if we just cut out our daily coffee runs. But that may not be so easy if that Americano is what makes your morning. If you can’t see yourself going cold turkey on the caffeine, take a few minutes to look through a credit card or bank statement from a previous month to see if there are less-painful costs you can cut that can still make a difference in your spending.
For instance, is there a monthly subscription you don’t really use anymore that keeps getting automatically renewed? Are you paying for features on a cell phone plan that you don’t need? After you’ve done your detective work, you can then start putting the money you’d been spending on those items into a savings account.
Thursday: Set Calendar Reminders to Check in on Your Progress
America Saves Week shouldn’t be the only time you think about whether you’ve moved the needle on your savings. Go ahead and set calendar reminders now for the next couple of times you plan to check in on your retirement account, your emergency savings or your kid’s college fund, for example. Maybe it’s once a month, every quarter or every six months. You can use those future appointments with yourself not only as a check-in on growth in your balances, but also to assess whether it’s time to boost your contributions.
Friday: Come Up With a ‘Phrase to Save’
We all love those quotable quotes that give us daily inspiration on Pinterest or Instagram. So why not have one that can help keep you motivated to save? That’s where a “phrase to save” can come in: It’s a one-sentence mantra or question you ask yourself that helps keep you grounded when you’re trying to decide how to spend your money.
For example, let’s say you’re in the mall during a big sale weekend, but you also want to go to Costa Rica this summer. Your phrase to save could be, “Is this [coat/sweater/pair of shoes] worth more to me than my trip?” Or you could frame it in dollar figures, as in, “This designer watch is equal to 10% of what I have in my emergency fund.” Reframing your purchases in the context of what you’re trying to accomplish savings-wise could help you make wiser money choices in the moment.