Common wisdom suggests having an emergency fund ready in case of unexpected expenses. But when so many live paycheck to paycheck, where are these funds supposed to come from? How exactly do you build up enough reserve in your savings account? Here are four ways to get started:

1. Know your budget.
As basic as this advice sounds, not everyone operates on a budget. Knowing where you stand financially, and where there's room for adjustment, is a simple, powerful way to take control of your money. If it seems overwhelming at first, start by simply tracking your spending. Ask yourself where you are overspending. Track that for a while and then target other areas of your finances for improvement. Once you're on a roll, you may sometimes spend less than your budget allows. This could be a great time to funnel the extra cash right into your savings—before you think of some other way to spend it.

2. Pay yourself first.
To pay yourself first means to store away money in your emergency fund before you use that money for any other reason. It means making your future your first priority, rather than the many other things you could spend your money on in the moment.Of course, bills will always seem pressing, and wants will often seem like needs. The easiest way to avoid wrestling with these choices is by making the choice to save first, once and for all. You might set up an automatic withdrawal from your paycheck or an automatic transfer from your bank account into a savings account. This puts your funds into savings before they're ever available to spend. You can start with a certain dollar amount or percentage of your pay. The important thing is that you start.

3. Keep your savings separate.
To avoid the temptation to transfer money back into your checking account when you feel you need it, it may be wise to open a separate savings account that is not linked to your checking. The Ally Bank Online Savings Account offers a competitive interest rate with no monthly maintenance fees. We compound interest daily to help you receive the maximum return on your money. As with most banks, your deposits at Ally Bank are FDIC-insured to the maximum amount allowed by law. An automatic transfer to this type of account can help your savings stay where they belong: available for your future.

4. Trim the fat, little by little.
Of course, a great way to increase saving is to decrease spending. But this is not painless for most. Avoid discouraging yourself by cutting out everything you enjoy. Instead, try thinking of alternatives. Could you rent movies from a kiosk rather than ordering them through on-demand? Could you save your out-of-home eating just for special occasions? Could you split an entree with someone and skip the take-home box, which you may never eat anyway? Small changes like these can make a dent in the amount of disposable income you use here and there. And just like those expenses add up, the savings will too.

At Ally Bank you can earn a competitive interest rate on your emergency fund whether you choose Interest Checking, Online Savings or Money Market Accounts—and you won't pay a monthly maintenance fee. You can use any Allpoint no-fee ATM—plus receive up to $10 reimbursement for fees charged at other ATMs nationwide each statement cycle. Learn more at or call live, 24/7 customer care at 877-247-ALLY (2559) today.

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