PAY YOURSELF FIRST TO ACHIEVE YOUR FINANCIAL GOALS
Whether you’re planning for a hard-earned vacation or a new car, or if you want to boost your retirement and emergency funds, saving is key.
No amount of money is too small to begin squirrelling away, said Bill Brady, managing principal at Hilton Head-based CrossRoads Financial Group.
“Minor adjustments can lead to major improvements,” Brady said. “Are you sure you need that $5 Starbucks coffee every day?”
In addition to taking small steps to cut spending in minor ways every day, there’s another way to work on your financial goals: Pay yourself first.
Following this strategy means you automatically set aside money from your paycheck that’s earmarked for your goals before you spend on things like groceries, the mortgage, rent, or loans and bills.
Tracking your spending will help you better identify where the money is going.
You can have “your” portion of your paycheck go directly to a savings account via direct deposit. Or you can schedule automatic transfers that will move money to your savings account at a specific time. No matter how you do it, the point is to put the money somewhere you’ll save it, not spend it.
Dorothea Bernique, executive director of the nonprofit Increasing H.O.P.E. Financial Training Center in Charleston, suggests using a separate bank for your savings — and no debit card associated with your savings account — so you are not tempted to use that money.
The key to the strategy is having the discipline to always put the money aside. Bernique said the first step in saving money is making sure you have the resolve to do it.
“Once you do it, that in itself will motivate people,” she said. “Make it a discipline in your life.”
Increasing H.O.P.E. Financial Training seeks to help educate people in personal finance, according to its website, and Bernique said she advises people to make paying yourself first a line item in the budget.
The amount of money saved isn’t important (it can be $5 or $500) — it’s about building a routine based on putting some funds into savings.
“Just establish the habit; make it a part of who you are,” Bernique said.
Saving money is a challenge for some Americans, according to Yahoo Finance. In a report last May, Yahoo Finance said a GOBankingRates.com survey found that 58% of the more than 5,000 people surveyed in 2018 had less than $1,000 in savings. The percentage of those surveyed who reported having no savings was 32%.
Bluffton resident Ilo Tefft said paying herself first has helped relieve the stress and anxiety of paying bills.
Tefft, who is retired and said she’s on a fixed income, said that about six years ago she became financially conscious. With the aid of everydollar.com, which helps you create a monthly budget, Tefft said she knows exactly how much money she has each month. She said she puts some of her money into an online savings account — separate from her bank — so she’s not tempted to spend the funds.
Tefft has savings as a category in her budget and she also has a category for grandchildren, of which she has seven.
“They are important parts of my life and I want to spend money on them,” she said.
Brady and Bernique said it’s important to outline your financial goals and also scrutinize where you are spending money. Can you cut out a night of going out to eat? How many cable channels or streaming services do you really need?
Tracking your spending will help you better identify where the money is going. Mint and YNAB are apps recommended by Yahoo Finance that help consumers track their expenses and manage money.
“If you are forced to review something, most times it makes you think,” said Brady, who has been in the financial field for 42 years. “If you know you are spending needlessly, scale back a little bit. Stop and think: Do I need it, or do I want it?”
Tefft, who has a budget category for restaurants and groceries, said it’s important to keep emotions in check when thinking about purchases: “I won’t do it if it’s not in my budget,” she said, adding it’s also important to stay committed to being fiscally responsible.
“If you don’t have a plan, then your money is gone,” she said. “You have to have some goals. Set a budget.”