How to Save Even If You Live Paycheck to Paycheck

fishing out saving dollars from glass jar isolated on white background

You know you need to save money, but it can be hard if you’re just trying to make ends meet on a small income. After all, you have bills to pay today, so it’s hard to make saving for tomorrow a priority. Even higher-income people can find themselves living paycheck to paycheck without much room in their budget to set aside cash. Despite what you might think, it is possible to save even when you’re strapped for cash. Here’s how to get started.

Figure Out Where Your Money Is Going

You might have more room in your budget to set aside money for savings than you think. But you won’t know until you track your spending for at least one month. Review your bank statement to figure out how much your necessary expenses — rent or mortgage, utilities, insurance, transportation and food are costing you. Account for credit cards, student loans and other debt payments. Then, add up how much you’re spending on things you can live without, such as cable TV or Netflix, restaurant meals, magazine subscriptions and nights out. Knowing how much of your paycheck is going toward needs and wants will help you pinpoint how much you can afford to save each month.

Pay Yourself First

You should think of saving as one of your fixed expenses that you pay at the beginning of the month rather than waiting until the end of the month to see how much you have left over to set aside. Pay yourself first, then learn to live on what’s left.

One of the best ways to pay yourself first is to automate contributions to savings so you don’t even have to think about setting the money aside. If you opted out of your workplace retirement account because you didn’t want to sacrifice your paycheck, you should opt back in and have contributions automatically withdrawn from your paycheck moving forward each month.

You also need to be saving for emergencies so you don’t have to rely on credit cards or even retirement savings to cover unexpected costs. To build an emergency fund, use the same approach as with retirement savings by setting up automatic monthly transfers from your checking account to a savings account so the money comes out before you have a chance to spend it. But, don’t get discouraged if you can’t set aside that much now. Even a small monthly contribution can add up over time.

Get Free Money for Your Retirement Account

If you can’t set aside 10% of your pay each month, contribute enough to your workplace retirement plan to get the full matching contribution from your employer — if it offers one, because this is practically free money. 25% of American employees don’t contribute enough to get the full match from their employer, leaving an estimated $1,366 of free money on the table each year, according to research by Financial Engines, an investment advice company.

Keep More of Your Paycheck

A tax refund can be welcome windfall when you’re living paycheck to paycheck. But a refund means you’re letting the IRS hang onto too much of your paycheck throughout the year. You can keep more of your money each month — and use it to boost savings by adjusting your tax withholding. Ask your human resources department at work for a new W-4 to claim more allowances, which will lower the amount of taxes withheld from your paycheck.

If you received the average refund in 2016 of $2,732, adjusting your withholding could put $227 back into your paycheck each month. If you invested that amount each month at a 7 percent interest rate starting at age 25, you could have nearly $600,000 by age 65.

Reduce Nonessential Expenses

If you discover you’re spending heavily on things you don’t need, those nonessential expenses are the first thing you should cut to make sure your paycheck can cover necessary expenses and savings contributions. If you gave up buying a coffee and bagel twice a week, you could save an estimated $40 per month. If you were to invest that amount each month instead with a 7 percent annual return, you could have $32,402.87 after 25 years.

Raise Your Insurance Deductibles

Another way to find more room in your budget to boost savings is to cut insurance costs. By raising your auto insurance deductible, you can lower your premium by 15 percent to 40 percent, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Raising your homeowner’s insurance deductible from $500 to $1,000 could shave 25 percent off your premium. You also can lower your health insurance premium by opting for a high-deductible plan. With a high-deductible plan, you also get the benefit of being able to set aside money pre-tax through payroll deductions to a health savings account (HSA). Money in an HSA can be used to cover out-of-pocket healthcare costs.

Lower Your Bills

In addition to insurance premiums, there likely are other monthly bills you can cut so you’ll have more cash to stash in savings (for example – Netflix, cable, expensive gym membership, etc.). If you aren’t using these services, why are you paying for them? If you don’t want to get rid of a service completely, you may even be able to opt for a lower data plan to cut the cost of wireless service and so on.

Let Technology Help You Save

If you don’t have the discipline to save on your own, there are several apps that can help. For example, the free Digit app takes automation a step further by linking to your checking account and analyzing your income and spending habits to figure out how much you can set aside in savings. It then automatically puts that money into savings for you.

Article Source: Cameron Huddleston for Go Banking Rates, https://www.gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/save-live-paycheck/  

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