Savings

If you know anything about us by now, you know we believe that education is power. Our founder Robert J. Handy was a math teacher, after all, and Inspirus was founded on a simple goal: to help other teachers. Today, we’re helping some of the greatest teachers of all: parents. As parental figures or guardians, you’re often the only source of thorough financial education for your kid(s). That means you’re the one who gets to help empower them to make their best decisions. One of the best ways to teach financial literacy at a young age is with a savings account. Today, we’re walking through how to select and set up one for your kid.

Step 1: Do your research when selecting a financial institution

When shopping around for the best financial institution for your child, look for the same things you’d look for in a financial institution for yourself: good rates and no fees. You want the best for your kid, and that applies to savings accounts, too. The better the rate, the more money your child will be able to save over time—that’s the goal, right?

It’s also important to look for an account that’s made specifically for kids. Sometimes, financial institutions (like us!) will provide learning resources for children, which is a great benefit to look out for, especially if, as the parent, you could use a little refresher yourself. Educational newsletters and events are a great opportunity to talk to your kid about finances and establish those good habits early, and they also take some of the weight off your shoulders so you aren’t the only one passing down the information.

Step 2: Choose an appropriate account based on the age of your child

When it comes to opening up a savings account for a kid, there’s a big difference between opening up one for a 5-year-old and opening up one for a 14-year-old. It’s important to choose one that matches the current needs of your child and that will grow with them. Here are the most common age groups or scenarios you might identify with:

The first is a family member or close friend giving savings accounts to children at a very young age—even as young as infants or toddlers. Think grandma sending $10 every month. It, of course, isn’t going to be used for quite awhile, but it’ll build up and earn interest over time, meaning when your child is older, they’ll have a nice little nest to start from. Thoughtful, right?

The second is for children who are old enough to make some decisions or be part of the learning process—we’ll put this at roughly ages 6 to 12. If your child is in this age range, you’re likely teaching them about saving by having them count their quarters for a special toy or treat. (This is the most common age group we see at Inspirus.) At this age, we recommend taking your kid into a credit union or bank, actually sitting down to talk with a financial rep, and opening up an account together, bringing them into the process and fostering a sense of ownership. This is also the age where those benefits like educational resources really help—newsletters and worksheets are great learning tools.

From age 12 and up, it’s less about instilling good saving habits (though that’s always a good thing to be working on) and more about instilling good spending habits and independence. Account drainage is very real, and it’s easier for them to do that when they have no-parent access to online shopping, trips to the mall or the movies with their friends, and, wait for it—driving.

It’s important to choose a savings account that matches the current needs of your child and that will grow with them.

Step 3: Open an account

This step will differ depending on where you decide to open up a savings account, but for the sake of this blog, we’ll tell you how to do it at Inspirus. If it’s at all possible (regardless of where you choose to open a savings account), do it in person. When you come into a branch, your child has the opportunity to be involved in the entire process, learn more, and familiarize themselves with the idea of a financial institution. They say experience is the best teacher, and this is a great way to start.

If you’re not near a branch, no problem. Just give us a call (888-628-4010), or apply to be a member online—it takes 10-15 minutes. Once you’re approved, all you have to do is fund your child’s savings account. If your child is under a certain age, you’re required to be a joint account holder, but it’s nice if your kid is older, too—it allows you to keep a helpful eye on how they’re saving and spending, and makes it easy to transfer money to and from the account.

Where banking benefits education

Step 4: Establish good saving habits early

The earlier you teach your kids about financial literacy, the better habits they’ll have as adults—and the less stress and anxiety they’ll likely experience by feeling inadequately prepared. Here are some ways to start:

  • When we think about learning how to save as children, we likely think of piggy banks. While piggy banks are a good way to learn how to save (there is something to seeing and feeling your money), they’re also a good way to illustrate interest. Or, in this case, lack thereof. The biggest benefit of a savings account is that it pays you. If you put $50 in your piggy bank and go back to check on it 10 years later, it’ll still be $50. If you put $50 in a savings account and do the same, it will have grown.
  • If you do decide to use a piggy bank to teach your kid about money, look for one with three compartments: one compartment for saving, one for spending, and one for giving. It’ll establish good habits up front, and will teach them that when they want to spend money on a video game or a movie ticket, that they’d have to pull from their spending compartment—not their saving or giving compartment. You could even employ the same account-naming philosophy here and label the compartments with specific goals.
  • Make a savings plan. If your kid is saving up for something, help them do the research. Once you know how much the item costs and how much they have to spend, you can help them figure out how to make enough money to purchase it. Maybe it’s saving part of their monthly allowance, maybe it’s getting a job, maybe it’s picking up some chores around the house—whatever it is, working through the process together is a great way to teach the basics. A good savings rule of thumb is 10% to 20% of each “paycheck.” We’re expected to put that amount into our retirement savings as adults, so teach your kids to start paying their future selves now—and watch as the power of compounding interest goes to work.

Like most things, learning about saving—and learning how to teach someone else about saving—is a never-ending process. Do your best, and if you need a little help along the way there are tons of resources out there (including our website and our Your Money Handbook blogs) that can help answer your questions.

Life moves quickly. Save easier and get a great return.

So you’re expecting. Congratulations! Babies are a gift. They bring great joy, but the reality is children also come with a hefty price tag. Before you pick the paint for the nursery, let’s take a look at your financial situation.

The average cost of having a baby in the U.S. is between $5,000-$11,000—and that doesn’t take into consideration all of the financial obligations pre- and post-partum. But with a little planning and intentionality, you can ensure that your family can be financially prepared for your newest addition. Here are a few things to expect when you’re expecting.

It's not just diapers and baby wipes

You will be purchasing more diapers and baby wipes than you likely care to imagine, but there are all sorts of other expenses that accompany your new bundle of joy. There are things big and small that, prior to your growing family, weren’t line items in your budget.

You’ll need to add your child to your healthcare plan, which might increase the cost of your monthly premium. Your average household expenses also go up when you’re buying for another person. One more body, even a tiny one, means a spike in utilities, too. There will be unexpected hospital visits for that high fever (or cough that makes you nervous). And it’s possible, when sleep deprived, you’ll choose convenience over price comparison shopping. You’re likely to buy whatever you need at the most convenient place—regardless of price. Postmates, Caviar, and Amazon Prime offer wonderful convenience, but they all come at additional costs. That being said, preparing for these extra expenses and planning ahead is the surest way to ease yourself into the new financial situation.

You’ll need to add your child to your healthcare plan, which might increase the cost of your monthly premium.

Consider your childcare options—now

It might seem silly to start thinking about childcare when you first find out you’re pregnant, but in the Pacific Northwest, the market is very, very competitive. Some waitlists for childcare exceed the duration of pregnancy—so you want to start your search early. Daycare is not the only option, either. One parent may choose to stay home, and there are nannies, nanny shares, au pairs, and if you’re fortunate, eager mothers-in-law. Regardless of which direction makes the most sense for your family, you’ll want to be financially prepared. In 2016, Child Care Aware of Washington ranked Washington sixth in the nation for least affordable child care for infants, and 10th in the nation for least affordable preschool care—averaging $239 per week for home-based care and $381 per week for center-based care.

Where banking benefits education.
Our Advantage Savings account has no monthly service fees

It’s no secret that college is expensive, and tuition is just the beginning. The cost of college is rising, too—some say as much as a 6.5% annual increase for public universities, and a 4.5% annual increase for private colleges. Suffice it to say: You need a plan to tackle the costs.

Like any worthwhile investment, it’s important to decide what’s right for you, whether you’re paying for college yourself or helping someone else (like your child) pay for their education. There are lots of financial aid options, but it’s wise to consider all the costs before you factor financial aid into the plan. Here are some tips to help you prepare for the expenses that go along with a college education.

Start a 529 plan

Saving for college feels even better when the investment strategy helps you confront (and diminish) the impact of rising costs, because let’s face it—rising costs don’t feel good. A 529 investment plan lets you take advantage of current prices and offers tax advantages as you save for future education costs. A 529 investment plan is available as a prepaid tuition plan or an education savings plan.

Prepaid tuition plans allow you to buy credits at today’s prices which can then be applied towards future tuition and other mandatory fees at participating colleges and universities (usually public and in-state). It’s worth noting that prepaid tuition plans don’t typically account for future room and board expenses at colleges and universities, and they don’t allow you to prepay for tuition for elementary and secondary schools.

Education savings plans, on the other hand, provide more flexibility. This 529 investment account allows you to save for future expenses at qualified colleges and universities, which includes room and board along with tuition and other mandatory fees. Withdrawals from your education savings plan can generally be used at any college or university—including international institutions. You can also use your education savings plans to pay up to $10,000 per year per child towards tuition at any public, private, or religious elementary or secondary school.  Flexible investments are one great way to build in options for your child’s future.

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Open a savings account or add to the one you already have

From creating a budget to buying groceries (and toiletries) wholesale, there are lots of practical ways to build an investment that grows over time—and setting up a savings account has never been easier. It’s good to start by sitting down and forecasting college expenses with family members you’d make other major decisions with. Communication will help set expectations and inform a savings plan that is unique, adaptable, and tailored to the needs (and realities) of your family.

Saving for college can feel overwhelming, but like most challenges, a plan can prove to be a huge step towards achieving success. By practicing proactive communication, staying persistent when it comes to saving, and exploring tax-advantaged resources, you and your loved ones can chart a course that will lead to a more stress-free college experience. (Sorry, we can’t help you with homework.)

Life moves quickly. Save easier and get a great return.

Saving on a tight budget might seem like an oxymoron. We get it. When you’re just trying to get by week to week (or day to day), the thought of stashing away even a small amount feels daunting. Don’t be discouraged: All financial goals are achieved one dollar at a time.

Saving shouldn’t have to be inaccessible—and we’re here to help. Inspirus Credit Union offers low- to no-fee accounts, so you can get started with our regular savings account with as little as $5. And with these three tips for saving on a tight budget, you can turn that $5 into exponentially more.

Buy wholesale

Buying wholesale is a great way to save money, especially for shelf-stable items like toilet paper and paper towels. A Costco Gold Star membership costs $60, but the annual savings can easily exceed the investment. If $60 is a stretch for your budget, consider going in on a Costco membership with a few friends (or you can purchase items in bulk through an Amazon Prime membership which can be similarly shared with a friend or a roommate). Smart Foodservice (formerly Cash&Carry) doesn’t require a membership, and if you’re okay with items scarcely past their prime, Grocery Outlet is a great option, too.

Buying wholesale is a great way to save money, especially for shelf-stable items like toilet paper and paper towels.

Account for everything

From online banking to budgeting software, technology has changed the way we think about, access, spend, and save money. This is both good and bad. It’s good because there is less distance between each of us and our assets. It’s bad because debit and credit cards make it easier to swipe our way into financial trouble. But the more you know, the better you can protect yourself.

There are a variety of apps available to help manage your money. Clarity Money is one of our favorites—primarily because it gives you a full view of your financial picture. Clarity Money also helps you cancel those pesky unwanted subscriptions and uses data science and machine learning to offer insights on how to save better (or spend less).

If you’re looking for a low-tech option, pick up a notebook and start tracking every single expense (yes, even that soda from the vending machine at work). When you have a sense of where every penny is going, you can identify new opportunities for savings.

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Try the cash diet

In Seven Steps to Smarter Savings, we suggest trying the cash diet. The cash diet means ditching your debit and credit cards, and opting to use cash for your expenses. Some people like the envelope method, while others prefer pulling from a single stash. It’s up to you.

Once you’ve accounted for everything—rent, debts, savings, etc.—see how much you have left over. Let’s say you have $1,000 a month available after bills and savings. (We know that sounds like a lot, but round numbers are good for guesstimating.) Next, withdraw that cash, divide it over four weeks, and use $250 each week for all your daily expenses. You’ll likely be surprised by how quickly it goes—a latte here, an extra soda there. But using cash for daily expenses will help you pace your spending habits against what you actually have available. By taking advantage of these simple strategies, you’ll create newfound financial flexibility and be able to have a savings account that really grows.

Our Advantage Savings account has no monthly service fees

One of our seven rules for money management is to set realistic goals. In fact, when Robert J. Handy founded (what’s now) Inspirus back in 1936, it was his first rule. But a goal isn’t realistic if it’s not S.M.A.R.T.—specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. That means it’s not enough to say “I want to save money”—you have to say, “I want to save X amount of money in X amount of time.” Today, we’re breaking down the best ways to save $100, $1,000, and $10,000 so you can meet your goals, whether it’s treating yourself to a nice dinner out, paying off your car, or investing in your kids’ college funds.

First, start with the basics and check out our steps to smarter saving for a crash course in, well, saving smarter. Read it? Great. Let’s explore even more ideas that’ll help you save better.

Best Ways to Save $100

There’s a terrible saying that goes something like this: there’s more than one way to skin a cat. We’ll let you dig into the origin of that one on your own time, but the meaning is simple: there’s more than one way to achieve a goal—for instance, saving $100.

The first thing to do, no matter how much you want to save, is to set a realistic timeline. If your goal is vague—spoiler alert!—you’re probably not going to hit it—at least not in a timely manner. If you’re strapped for extra cash, maybe saving $100 over 60 days is a realistic timeline. But if your week is full of dinners out and trips to Target for toothpaste that end with no toothpaste and, instead, a gazillion things you didn’t need, saving $100 in seven days is definitely doable. Find the sweet spot between something attainable and a good challenge, and you’ll feel deservedly proud and accomplished once you’ve reached it.

When it comes to saving, there are tons of methods you could employ. You can trim the fat—do you really need to grab a Starbucks breakfast sandwich every morning? You can make one at home for a fraction of the cost, saving you double-digits each week. If you carry cash (a good idea if you’re trying to save—it helps to see and feel the money you’re spending), physically hide away any loose change or single bills leftover at the end of the day for a month or two. If you save $11.03 on your weekly grocery run thanks to your super-saver card, transfer it to your savings. Saving $100 can be easy if you’re willing to be strategic and make small sacrifices.

Find the sweet spot between something attainable and a good challenge, and you’ll feel deservedly proud and accomplished once you’ve reached it.

Best Ways to Save $1,000

Saving $1,000 is obviously a little harder than saving $100. When it comes to timeline, you’ll likely have to push it back a bit—maybe three months is a good fit, or maybe it’s a year. Here are some ways to consider pocketing up to a few hundred dollars each month so you can book that trip or have an emergency fund on-hand:

  • Designate no-spend days. It’s easy to head out the door without homemade coffee or lunch and join your coworkers at happy hour later in the day. But that’ll cost you $20 daily, if not more. Challenge yourself to a few no-spend days a week, and watch as your bank account rewards you.
  • Cut back on nights out. Dinner, drinks, and a movie for two can easily cost $100—not to mention the added expense of a babysitter if you need one. Reconsider what an evening of entertainment looks like for a month or two.
  • Cut unnecessary bills and refinance. Have a loan? An insurance bill? A spendy phone plan? Cable? Shop around for rates and see if you can find a better deal on those bigger monthly expenses.
Where banking benefits education.

Best Ways to Save $10,000

This can feel like a lofty goal, but it's attainable—even in a year!

  • Save bonus cash. If you got a raise or raked in some extra money thanks to a freelance gig like dog-walking or Airbnb, pretend like you didn’t. Transfer that money to your savings, and watch as the number climbs over time.
  • Sell your car. Depending on where you live, a vehicle might not be a necessity. Public transportation, ride-sharing, carpooling, and your own two feet are great ways to get around. Absolutely need a vehicle? Consider trading yours for something older or smaller, and put away the difference.
  • Keep “paying a bill” you no longer have. Maybe you used to put $750 toward now-paid student loans every month—act like that payment still exists, just pay yourself instead. Automatic deposits are easy to forget about. While cutting those forgotten ones is usually one of our first steps to smarter saving, forgetting you’re paying yourself can work to your advantage here.

Whether you have your eyes on $100, $1,000, or $10,000, there are tons of ways to achieve your goal—like most things, the key to it all is discipline and patience.

Life moves quickly. Save easier and get a great return.

In theory, saving money is easy: simply squirrel away more of it than you spend.

In actuality, it’s hard—it’s really hard. And it’s even harder for millennials, who are not-so-secretly stuck in higher education debt and lower employment rates than the generation that raised them. Millennials have sky-high rents to pay, loans to make disappear, and food to eat.

And while people may joke that avocado toast is to blame for it all, there is a (sprouted) grain of truth to be found: we’re spending a lot of money on things we don’t need, often with a single swipe. So, how do we save?

While there are lots of little things you can do to cut costs—like wearing an extra layer in the winter instead of cranking up the heat or hosting friends for a potluck brunch instead of going out—it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by exactly where to start. Today, we’re giving you seven easy tips that’ll make a big-time difference—and help you reach your savings goals.

Evaluate your statement

As it happens, refusing to look at your current spending doesn’t make your current situation any better—it makes it worse. Take a both-eyes-open look at your latest statement and scan it for two of the most common savings-sucking culprits: daily indulgences and forgotten recurring payments.

A $10 lunch out every workday will cost you $2,600 over the course of a year. Cutting it down to once a week means you’ll have enough leftover lunch money to fund a European getaway—or, even better, pay off any debt. A seemingly innocent morning latte will put you back over $1,000 annually. That workout app you optimistically downloaded last January and then deleted because your phone’s storage was full? You never canceled your subscription, and now you’re down another $200.

A $10 lunch out every workday will cost you $2,600 over the course of a year.

Indulging every once in awhile isn’t bad. Indulging always, however, is harming your financial health. Trim the fat, and save more over time.

Shop smarter, not cheaper

It turns out that spending money on a pair of shoes you don’t love, but hey, they’re cheap!, isn’t actually a wise investment—it’s an impulsive one. Purchasing something that’s a good deal just because it’s affordable is costing you more in the long run—it’s also the first step to a closet or pantry filled with, well, junk you’ll almost certainly never use.

From capsule wardrobes to the KonMari Method, minimalist trends abound—and for good reason. As Marie Kondo says, you should keep—or in this case, purchase—only those things that speak to your heart or that serve a specific purpose. If the thing happens to be on sale, secondhand, or generic-brand, even better.

The next time you think, “Oh, this [insert unnecessary item here] is only $8, I could use that for [insert unnecessary purpose here],” rationalize yourself right out of that and save the $8. It’ll quickly pay off—we promise. On the other hand, if you do need something, go for the most cost-effective option. There’s a good chance you won’t be able to tell the difference between a generic pancake mix and the fancy kind, so save yourself the dollar or two.

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Sell your old stuff

Back to capsule wardrobes and Marie Kondo for just a minute: decluttering isn’t only incredibly cathartic, but it has cash benefits. Resale retailers like Buffalo Exchange and thredUP will purchase your gently used clothing and donate the rest. Craigslist and OfferUp are great resources for selling retired electronics and furniture. Take inventory, ask yourself if you really love or need it—and answer honestly—then enjoy the bonus money that took practically no effort to earn.

Track your spending and stick to a list—or try the cash diet

When people turn to experts for weight loss advice, the expert will almost always suggest keeping a food journal. Writing down everything you eat not only raises your awareness (turns out you’ve been mindlessly eating 100 calories every time you grab a handful of trail mix), but it holds you accountable. Over time, you’ll curb the snacking and won’t need to keep the food journal.

Managing your money is no different. Write down everything you purchase in a day, and you’ll notice the extra little things here and there that add up. Stick to a list, and don’t stray (we will defeat you, Target).

Or, try the cash diet. Look at your monthly expenses—rent, bills, debts, savings, etc.—and identify how much you have left over. Let’s say you have $1,000 a month. Divide that over four weeks, then only take out $250 each week for all your daily expenses. You’ll likely be surprised by how quickly it goes, and more apt to think twice before making a purchase. It’s amazing what a little awareness can do.

Conversely...

Use your credit card—but pay it off

Credit cards are both a blessing and a curse. If you don’t abuse the privilege that is a credit card, you can rack up points or earn cash back just for using it. Paying it off on time will spare you late payment fees and interest while upping your credit score. On the flip side, a credit card is the easiest way to spend with abandon. If you’re in the red or have a tendency to live far beyond your means, give the credit card a rest and pay off that debt.

Keep the bulk of your money in savings—and name your account

If you’re able, keep as much of your wealth as possible in your savings account versus your checking account. There, it’ll earn interest, and even if it’s nominal, it’ll make a difference over time. At the very least, it’ll help you make it a habit. And there are great options, including certificates, if you’re able to secure your money in an account for a longer term to take advantage of better rates on your savings.

Then, name your savings account. There’s a reason stories stick more than stats do—a character with a goal and an obstacle is relatable. A number is not. Change your savings account from “#123456” to “Italy Vacation!” or “Way Overdue New Car,” and you’ll remember your own goals every time you overcome your own obstacle: unnecessary spending.

Hang in there

There are endless ways to spend—and save—smarter each day. Like most things, getting better takes work, and there will undoubtedly be some hiccups along the way. The key is to simply start, and with consistency and patience, you’ll only get better.

Save time and money with a Visa Platinum Card

Interest. You’ve heard the word before, especially when it comes to credit cards, loans, and savings accounts. But what is it? The definition of interest is “money paid regularly at a particular rate for the use of money lent, or for delaying the repayment of a debt.” But let’s unpack it, because there is a bit more than meets the eye. And the more you know about interest, the greater the likelihood you’ll see increased savings at the end of each year—especially when you know you have options other than a traditional savings account.

Know you interest rate

When the savings rates are high, it’s harder to borrow money. When the savings rates are low (like now), it’s easier to borrow money. But that also means you get less of a return on the money you do have. Interest rates are dependent on things like the issuer’s assets and the rates set by the Federal Reserve for financial institutions. If it sounds complicated, that’s because it is—there are a lot of factors that determine interest rates, and they are generally a signal of larger economic trends. What matters most for this conversation, however, is that you know your options regardless of interest rates, because even though a high-yield savings account isn’t common now, interests can always change.

If you have a decent amount of cash in your savings account, the low rates are not optimal, but they’re OK—because the more money you have in your account, the more interest your money will accumulate over time. But the reality is, we’re not all sitting on thousands and thousands of dollars in our savings accounts. And in that, we have to be a bit more creative when it comes to saving more money with interest.

The interest rate on your savings account is probably close to zero. In fact, you’re lucky if your bank can provide a rate on your savings account above 1%. But you’re not alone. Interest rates are very low right now, meaning smaller returns not just on your cash, but on everyone’s cash.

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How a certificate of deposit helps your savings

Certificate

That’s where a certificate of deposit (CD) comes in. A CD allows you to build wealth over time because it offers higher rates of interest—even when rates are low. A CD has preset terms ranging from one month to several years, and the issuer pays fixed-rate interest on your savings over the course of the term. You can get small payouts, or you can earn interest on your interest (that’s called compound interest). The earlier you switch to a high-yield savings account like a CD, the earlier you start to earn interest on your money.

There are a few things to keep in mind when considering a CD: your current financial situation, your risk tolerance, and your short- and long-term financial goals. A CD is not liquid like cash. With a savings account, you have access to your cash at all times. A CD works differently. If you need to withdraw from your CD before the agreed-upon term ends, you will pay a penalty—and that often means you end up losing money rather than getting the benefit of the higher interest rate. You want to ask yourself: Can I comfortably be without access to the money I put into a CD for the length of the term? Do I have enough savings built up that I can confidently say I won’t need that $1,000 for 18 months? Another consideration is that CDs often require a minimum balance to open, so these are really only a viable option if you have at least $500 you’re willing to stash away for a while.

It’s important to be prepared for when you need cash immediately (think about replacing the tires on your car or paying a medical bill). That being said, a CD can be a great option for saving money with interest, as long as you understand the risks and make it part of a well-rounded financial plan.

Our Advantage Savings account has no monthly service fees

When Sumner High School math teacher Robert J. Handy started (what’s now) Inspirus with just five dollars back in 1936, he had a simple mission: to help other teachers. He did this in many ways, but one of our favorites was producing the Teacher’s Money Handbook, which featured a list of guidelines for money management. Things look a little different today, but Mr. Handy’s principles are the same. Here are our top seven tips for better money management.

Make a budget

Making a budget is about as basic as it gets, but reminding ourselves of the foundational rule of budgeting doesn’t hurt. In theory, it’s simple: look at how much money you’re bringing in each month, track it against all your expenses, debt, and savings goals, and figure out how much money you’re able to spend—and where. Then stick to it! Thanks to the tiny computer in your pocket and about a gazillion money-tracking apps, budgeting has never been easier. All you have to do is start.

Set realistic goals

This was Mr. Handy’s first rule, and it’s just as relevant and important today. More specifically, we advise setting realistic S.M.A.R.T. goals—specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Whether you subscribe to the S.M.A.R.T. acronym or not, the point is that the more acute your goal is, the more likely (and motivated) you are to achieve it. For instance, if your goal is simply to save money, that means putting a dollar away is just as good as saving a few hundred dollars. Saving is saving, right? Not so much. If you have a specific goal—a realistic $75 a month for the next three months so I can buy that purse or that gadget I’ve really had my eye on—there is no budging. That’s how goals are met.

Name your accounts

Speaking of specificity, there is a lot of power behind naming your savings accounts. As we’ve mentioned before, there’s a reason stories stick over stats—a character with a goal and an obstacle is relatable. A number is not. When you make the (very minimal) effort to change your savings account from “#123456” to “Rebecca Minkoff Julian Backpack,” “iPhone 8,” or “A House in the ‘Burbs,” you’ll think twice before blowing money on something unnecessary and make the smart choice to invest in your future self’s wants instead. And remember: it’s never too late to start saving. Start today, and start small.

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Have more than one checking and savings account

With naming your accounts, it’s important to keep in mind that there is no rule that says you can only have one checking account and one savings account. Have a handful. For instance, you could have one savings account for a big purchase, like a car or a trip to Europe. You could have one for everyday fun things, like dinner with friends or a Friday night concert. You could (and should) also have a rainy day fund for the not-so-fun emergency stuff, like a busted transmission. In a perfect world, you should have enough savings to cover your cost of living for three to six months in the event of a serious emergency—it’s a lofty one, but one worth keeping in mind. And don’t forget about retirement savings, either: most employers offer some type of incentive, which translates to free money. Match what you can to make the most of this.

Look at your spending regularly

With online banking, you have no excuse to not know what you’re spending your money on. It’s so easy to log in and take note of every purchase you’ve made, and when you’re logging in regularly, you’ll start to notice your habits—like spending 20% of your income on eating out or monthly haircuts that could be spaced to every six weeks. It’s fine if you want to spend your money in X, Y, or Z way, as long as it’s intentional. Just know where it’s going, so you’re not surprised when it’s suddenly gone.

Pay yourself first

When you start a new job or earn a raise or bring in some kind of extra income, it’s easy (and tempting) to spend that money. It’s bonus cash, right? Hold on. You owe your future self money. So if you have a goal to save 20% of every $1,000 paycheck, pull $200 into your savings the same day it’s deposited. When you pay your future self, you never get a check for $1,000—you get a check for $800. Isn’t that thoughtful of you?

Be patient

The challenging thing about finances in general is that there are lots of ways to do things, and what works for one person might not work for another. There is no one true prescription of what’s right when it comes to money management, especially when we all have different comfort levels and relationships with finances. There’s a lot of emotion tied to money and management, so if you’re feeling lost or overwhelmed, know you’re not alone! A small, smart step is a good way to start—and we’re here to make it easier.

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