It's payday—finally! Now, it's time to get ahead.
But after you pay all your bills, it's sometimes an impossible game of catch-up to save money and still be a functioning adult; one who treats herself to a happy hour cocktail every so often.
While saving money may feel like an endless cycle of going nowhere, there are tips to help you see the light at the end of the where-does-all-of-my-money-go tunnel.
Lisa Cargill, CRPC, CDFA, Financial Advisor with Ameriprise Financial Services, notes that though saving money can seem like an uphill battle, creating a budget that details essential and discretionary expenses is a great place to start.
"If there is nothing left over once you've created your budget, review your discretionary expenses and make adjustments."
That could mean taking a look at your current lifestyle and making some hard choices when it comes to wants and needs. For items such as eating out at restaurants, groceries and going to the movies, use actual envelopes to store your discretionary budget for that pay period. That way, you can physically see how much you have left to spend. Once an envelope is empty, you're done spending for the time being.
Cargill also recommends that those trying to save have savings automatically deducted from their paycheck or bank account, so they are not tempted to spend it.
Bring in the Pros
When starting to think about the bigger picture, don't let the anxiety-ridden thoughts of, "How will I ever get to where I want to be?" keep you from contacting a financial advisor. They're the professionals for a reason—and they can offer insight through which you could walk away feeling confident.
"Meet with an advisor who can prepare a financial plan that will incorporate long-term retirement savings; mid-term goals, such as saving for a house; and short-term goals, like obtaining a healthy cash reserve for emergency purposes," said Cargill.
Looking for a general rule of thumb to get you started? Cargill shares her favorites.
The 50/30/20 Rule
- 50 percent of net monthly income should go toward needs such as groceries, housing, utilities, health insurance and car payments.
- 30 percent should be allocated for wants such as dining out, hobbies and shopping.
- 20 percent is to be saved. Seriously: Don't touch it!
The 28/36 Rule
Households should look to spend roughly 28 percent of monthly gross income on total housing expenses and no more than 36 percent on total debt service—including housing and car loans.
Don't Be Fooled
We've all been in the grocery store or at the mall when a "Buy 3 Get 1 Free!" sign jumps out and grabs our attention. You may think to yourself, "Wow. What a deal! I should definitely take advantage of that." But Cargill says to pump the brakes.
"Grocery store gimmicks may sound like a good deal initially, but you'll wind up spending more overall than what you had budgeted for."
Put the blinders on. Get only what's on your list, in the amount you need. Sure, I wouldn't mind having three extra bags of pizza rolls in my freezer, but does my budget—and my apparently teenage appetite—need it? That's a hard no.
Apps for Money-Saving Success
- Qapital: This allows you to set specific goals. It rounds up change from purchases to the nearest dollar and moves that into savings. Though accumulated in small amounts, this adds up nicely over time.
- Tip Yourself: Cultivate positive habits while saving by "tipping yourself" for things like hitting the gym, getting enough sleep, and more. You deserve it!
- Acorns: Here's a way to micro-invest automatically, using your spare change. Acorns does all the work for you!
Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for West Michigan Woman.
This article originally appeared in West Michigan Woman.