7 Ways to Make Your Savings Grow Faster Automatically
By Jim Gold
What are you saving money for?
European vacation? Kids' college tuition? Emergency fund for a natural disaster, disease or job layoff? Or maybe you're dreaming of the perfect retirement.
Sometimes we do better at saving our money; other times it's tough. Collectively in June, the latest month for which figures are available, we socked away $646.3 billion, or 4.8 percent of our disposable income, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. That rate was up slightly from May, but was less than half of its 25 year peak of 11 percent in December 2012.
How much did you put away? Not so much?
"If you have trouble putting money aside in a savings account, maybe the solution is to stop struggling and put things on autopilot," says Money Talks News financial expert Stacy Johnson.
Here are seven tips from Stacy and others to get you going, whatever you're saving for.
1. Pay yourself first. Payroll deduction is the single best idea and one of the oldest. Have money automatically taken out of your paycheck and transferred to a savings or retirement account. See if your employer allows you to directly deposit your paycheck to multiple accounts.
If you can pay your bills on your current income, send any additional income from raises, bonuses, cash awards or other windfalls straight to savings, too. If your air conditioner conks out or it's time to take that cruise, you'll have a nice sum of money waiting for you in the bank.
2. Round up your savings. Some banks, including Bank of America, have programs that automatically round up debit-card purchases and then transfers that amount to your savings account. For example, say your tall, half-caf, non-fat vanilla latte costs $3.50, your bill would be rounded up to $4; the extra 50 cents would be deposited into your savings account. So essentially you get a treat now and "keep the change" yourself to save toward another treat later. That act alone daily would build to a painless $182.50 over the course of one year.
3. We all could use a little change. The low-tech version of the round-up program is stashing your spare change at the end of each day. Keep it in a jar, mug, glass or piggy bank. When your container is full, or on a set schedule, you can turn that change into a bank deposit. Stacy says he turbo-charges this plan by stashing singles as well as coins.
Coinstar will exchange your coins free if you accept your money loaded onto an egift card from sponsoring partners such as AMC Theaters, The Gap, Sephora or Toys R Us. That won't raise your savings account balance, but it will give you the opportunity to save your spare change for a special item.
4. Pay with cash. You'll have more cash to stash, too, if you pay with real dollar bills, 5s, 10s and 20s when you shop. Using cash automatically makes you spend less compared to plastic. An oft-quoted Dunn & Bradstreet study says people spend 12 to 18 percent more when using credit cards instead of cash. McDonald's says a credit card user's average ticket is $7, but cash customers usually spend only $4.50.
Why? If you're worried about schlepping back to the ATM to reload your wallet, you will be less tempted to spend more cash than you planned. You'll be more inclined to pass on a higher-end model of a product you already intended to buy; also, you'll stick to your shopping list and resist in-store temptations to buy more items than you intended.
5. Make charging rewarding. If you must use a charge card, use one that offers cash back or rewards. Then you're earning cash or equivalents without effort.
You can check out who's got the right card for you in the Money Talks Solutions Center.
6. Bank your discounts. What do you do with all the money you save buying bargains? Check your receipts. Most now conveniently tell you how much you saved on a sale item vs. its regular price, or how much you saved by redeeming coupons. Add them up. Did you buy a cheaper generic and save a bundle over a name brand? Track the difference.
Make it a habit to reward yourself by placing all the money saved from those bargains in your savings account.
7. Automate your transfers. Check with your bank or credit union about how to set up automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings account. This is another way of making sure you pay yourself first. You can even set up subaccounts and label them for special goals, like college or new car fund.
Now that your savings are on automatic, relax and watch your balance grow.
Maryalene LaPonsie contributed to this report.
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