Do you have enough savings?

56% of Americans say they wouldn’t have enough money in savings to cover a $1,000 expense, according to a survey conducted by Bankrate. And, another survey by GOBankingRates found that 40% of Americans have less than $300 in savings. Yikes! That’s not very much.

The takeaway from these statistics is a good-news/bad-news story. Good news: If you’re light on savings, you’ve got a lot of company, so don’t be disappointed in yourself. Bad news: While building an emergency fund is important, it’s clearly not easy or more people would be doing it! And, rising prices are making it even harder to keep up with your saving goals this year.

What can you do about it? The key, experts say, is careful and disciplined budgeting.

How much should you have in your savings account?

Before talking about how to increase your savings, let’s figure out how much you should strive to accumulate.

A good rule of thumb is three to six months of living expenses. How much is that? You can estimate your savings goal by adding up a month of your essential expenses and multiplying by three for a minimum target, or by six for a more comfortable cushion. Your monthly expenses should include:

  • Housing – Rent or mortgage payments, home or renter’s insurance, property taxes, household repairs, homeowner association fees, etc.
  • Utility bills – Electric, gas, water, phone, internet, cable, garbage/recycling
  • Transportation – Gas, car payments, car insurance, public transit, ride shares
  • Food – Groceries, take-out, and restaurant dining
  • Debt – Payments toward credit card balances, loans, and mortgages
  • Health care – Health insurance, medical bills, prescriptions, dental bills, vision care, etc.
  • Other expenses – E.g., child care; personal needs such as clothing, toiletries, etc.; leisure and entertainment; etc.

Once you add that up and multiply by three or six, don’t be discouraged if it feels like a daunting number to achieve. Remember: Any savings is better than no savings, so start small and watch it build up over time.

How to build more savings

Unless you win the lottery or receive another unexpected windfall, the way to build savings is to cut spending. And that’s a bummer because spending money is fun! To help you make the shift from spending to saving, keep these two critical concepts in mind:

  • Wants vs. needs: As you review your monthly expenses, think hard about which ones you might be able to give up. For example, you might want to have access to the full package of cable TV channels, but could you get by with just one or two streaming platforms instead? Similarly, you might want a newer car or new sofa, but do you really need it? Your end goal is to create a monthly budget that meets your needs, but leaves a little left over to put into savings.
  • Setting priorities: Think in terms of “this OR this” instead of “this AND this.” For example, what’s more important to you, buying a new piece of clothing OR going out to dinner? It can also be helpful to set a schedule. Looking forward to a planned event in a couple months can make it easier to forgo outings in the meantime.

Tips and tricks to save more

Here are some other ideas that may help you boost your savings:

  • Open a separate savings account (maybe even at a different financial institution from your checking account) — an “out of sight, out of mind” approach might help you keep your hands off your emergency fund.
  • Set up automatic deposits into your savings account — either directly from your paycheck or from your checking account. When you automate your saving, it becomes effortless. Start with an amount that feels manageable and then increase it as you’re able.
  • Sell unused items — if they’re just taking up space, why not make some money off them? Look for clothes that don’t fit well, extra electronics, and other household items that aren’t really needed. Have a yard sale or sell items online through websites like Swap.com, Mercari, Craigslist, or many others.
  • Get an energy efficiency audit — you might be able to make some low-cost changes to your home that save you money on utilities month after month. Start by asking your energy utility company how to get an audit done, or you can conduct one yourself following online “how to” guides.
  • Shop around — look at your monthly expenses and find out if there’s a less expensive option. For example, you might be able to find cheaper car insurance, a lower-priced gym membership, etc.
  • Use coupons (paper or electronic) and buy on sale — planning your weekly meals around whichever groceries are available at a discount is a great way to save money while also ensuring variety in your diet.
  • Buy food that’s in season — it’s cheaper and fresher. You can find a list of in-season produce in this seasonal food guide.
  • Start a change jar — put any loose change you find in and watch every penny add up. When it’s full, take it to a coin collection machine to convert it into meaningful savings.
  • Set a challenge — decide that you will give up spending money on a particular category (new shoes, for example) for a certain period of time. Having a firm rule in place takes away the temptation to “just browse” and then somehow end up with $100+ in charges at the register.

 

Source(s):
“12 Ways to Build Up Your Savings Account,” Well Kept Wallet (www.wellkeptwallet.com), Laurie Blank, August 4, 2022
“56% of Americans can’t cover a $1,000 emergency expense with savings,” CNBC (www.cnbc.com), Carmen Reinicke, January 19, 2022
“Americans’ Savings Drop to Lowest Point in Years,” GOBankingRates (www.gobankingrates.com, May 21, 2021
Emergency Fund Calculator, www.fool.com