There are a lot of demands on your money, even before your paycheck clears the bank.
Between your housing costs, food, gas, and utilities—and perhaps even your children’s sports and school tuition—it is easy to be left scratching your head every time you look at your account balance. And although you know the best practices when it comes to saving for retirement, “paying yourself first,” and building up your own emergency savings, it can be hard to actually follow those practices.
However, having an emergency fund is vital to staying on track for the retirement you have been planning for years. Without one, an unexpected expense or medical bill can have you tapping into your nest egg.
So if you are looking for new strategies to reach the recommended 3-6 months' worth of essential expenses, or if you need to kick-start your savings, here are five easy ways to start building some real momentum toward hitting your goal.
1. Set it and forget it.
After meeting your monthly obligations, make sure you are paying yourself first before you begin to spend money on your “wants.”
Many banks—and even potentially your employer's payroll system—offer tools to set up automatic transfers or deductions from your paychecks. You can use such a tool to transfer a set amount of money from each paycheck into a savings account to pay yourself first.
2. Stash it away.
With so many online banking platforms, it is easy to set up a new account and manage it online without even having to visit a branch in person.
Using the automatic transfers from the first tip as well as any other savings you have available, consider stashing your savings in a separate account. This will lessen the temptation to tap into the funds for normal, everyday expenses. Until a real emergency happens, forget the money is even there.
Want to take this one a step further? Put those one-time or special sources of income—such as tax refunds, gifts, rebates, or bonuses—straight into the bank, too.
3. Put your skills to use.
If you have a special talent or a unique hobby and some extra time, consider picking up a short- or long-term second form of employment.
This can look like working an established job, such as seasonal work or a position as an independent contractor; setting up an online store on a platform like Etsy or Fiverr; or even offering to care for pets or help out at local events.
Even a few weeks of “side income” can mean a big boost to your emergency fund over time.
4. Let go of unused possessions.
There are probably a lot of things in your home, storage unit, attic, and garage that you just aren’t using anymore. However, it can be difficult to let go of old favorite items that may hold nostalgic value.
If you’re having trouble letting go, try this rule: If you haven’t used it in the last six months, consider converting it to cash. Exercise equipment, power tools, electronics, and unique toys can easily be sold online via local resale sites. Also, canceling streaming or subscription services is often as easy as a few clicks online.
5. Streamline your budget.
Look at your financial plan, and find items that do not align with your goals and vision for how you want to spend your time or be there for those you care about. Zero in on these expenses and develop a plan to cut them out of your spending habits.
And for those little indulgences in life, find creative ways to reduce the cost. This can be as simple as having your favorite dessert or coffee at home instead of out, finding new ways to use or wear existing items, or attending free or sponsored events through a local organization.
Stores like Amazon and eBay have also come a long way with certifying resale items and guaranteeing that they will arrive in good shape, meaning you can enjoy like-new products while still saving some money.
Keep building momentum.
There is nothing better than the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have an emergency fund in place for when trouble comes knocking—especially when you’re preparing for retirement.
Hopefully, with these tips and a healthy dose of proactive financial planning, you can avoid having to tap into your retirement fund and enjoy your golden years.
If you want to focus on living life and enjoying the moments that matter, we would love to get to know you. We welcome you to learn more about the Harvest Wealth Group team here and to read our complimentary resource, 10 Things a Smart Investor Should Consider in an Economic Downturn.
About the Author
Garrett German* founded Harvest Wealth Group with the aim to create a meaningful experience that will impact his clients, in a significant way, both personally and financially. After your first meeting with our team, you’ll be on your way to financial clarity and confidence.