Savers sock away money. Whether it’s for retirement, a child’s college education, or short-term financial goals, they live by the mantras “a penny saved is a penny earned” and “pay yourself first.” And they certainly know how powerful it is to start saving at a young age, thanks to the magic of compounding.
But when you break it down, what makes a saver successful? How does a saver reach his or her savings goals? And most importantly, if you’re not a saver, how do you become one?
The following are tried-and-true habits of successful savers. Which ones are part of your financial routine already? Which ones are not? Adopt as many as possible and you could grow your savings exponentially.
You live below your means.
It’s hard to grow your savings if you spend more than you make. Members of the Greatest Generation learned the importance of this as they came of age during the Great Depression and were forced to stretch their dollars.
You may not have to pinch your pennies that hard, but knowing when to hold off on a purchase today in favor of savings tomorrow will always serve you well.
Unfortunately, many people don’t have a good grasp of what they’re spending. That’s why a budget is such a powerful tool. It helps you see what’s coming in, what’s going out, and where you’ve got room to cut back and redirect those dollars toward savings.
A 50/30/20 budget can be a great, pain-free system to stay on top of your spending because it prioritizes big-picture financial decisions over tracking tiny expenses.
You have a savings tribe.
Saving is hard enough without suffering a case of FOMO (that’s fear of missing out). If you feel like socializing always requires you to spend money, how do you continue to enjoy the company of the people you cherish the most while still staying true to your savings goals?
Surround yourself with like-minded people. In other words, hang out with folks who understand that a potluck dinner and Netflix is every bit as fun as five-course meal at a hot new restaurant and a Broadway show.
You have numerous low-cost ways to spend time with friends: volunteering, hiking, attending art openings, or hosting a game night, to name just a few. They probably have tons of money saving tips, too.
You put it on autopilot.
The act of moving money from checking (where you can spend it on fun things like eating out and shoes) to savings where it’s less accessible can make you feel like you’re doing without. That’s why, when left to their own devices, many people never get around to saving.
Thankfully, it’s easy to automate your savings. Most banks, including us at Ally Bank, allow you to set up recurring transfers from one account to another, so you can move money from your checking account into a savings account on a schedule of your choosing. And if you participate in a retirement plan at work, you can have contributions automatically withdrawn from your paycheck.
When the money is out of your checking account, you’ll be much less tempted to spend it. And having it automatically deposited into savings eliminates you having to consciously (and maybe, painfully) do without something, since the cash is now out of sight, out of mind.
You save for a rainy day (or week, month, or year).
One thing you can always expect is the unexpected, whether it’s a blown tire on your car, a major dental procedure or a period of unemployment. Saving for these eventualities can prevent a nuisance from becoming a financial crisis.
Conventional wisdom calls for an emergency fund to contain three to six months’ worth of expenses. If your job is unstable or you have a large amount of student loan debt, err on the higher end of that range. Our calculator can help you figure how much you need to set aside.
It may seem daunting to save such a large amount, but if you start small and make saving a priority, you’ll soon see results.
Consistently set aside what you can each month. Any amount, even $20 a week, is a great start! Use your success to help motivate you toward bigger savings goals.
If you’re not making as much progress as you’d like, consider getting a side hustle to free up additional funds for saving.
You go shopping (yes, really).
It’s not just how much you save, but also where you put your money that can have a big impact on your bottom dollar.
Just because a savings account is called “high interest” doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get the best interest rate by stashing your savings in it.
To find a top-notch rate, it’s important to shop around. Online banks, like Ally Bank, can offer competitive rates because they don’t have the overhead expenses that traditional brick-and-mortar banks do.
Consider a certificate of deposit (CD), which can offer higher rates than savings accounts, to help grow your money faster. Keep in mind that in exchange for a higher rate, you will need to leave your money in the cd account until the maturity date, which can range from a few months to several years. Withdraw it early and you may have to pay a penalty, which would eat away some (or all) of your earnings.
Speaking of which. . . it’s also essential that you research any potential fees. Some savings accounts charge monthly maintenance fees or ding you with an additional expense if your account balance dips below the minimum balance requirement. These individual charges may not seem like a lot right now, but over time, they can add up and erode your earnings.
Even if you’re not a saver right now, you can practice one—or all—of these habits at any point and progress toward becoming a successful saver. Make them part of your financial routine and they can help you achieve your short-term financial goals—and those big, long-term ones, too, by growing your savings exponentially.
At Ally, we’re over 8,500 teammates committed to doing it right. That means helping you build the savings habits you need to reach your goals. Learn how you can save more with us.