When times are tight, it can feel as though putting even a few dollars away every month is next to impossible. How can you save money when you have a low salary and so many expenses?
There are ways to get that needle moving in the right direction — even for those who are new to working full time and living on their own. Here’s a look at three simple strategies that can help you save a little more from every paycheck.
Taking Advantage of the Employer Match
Concerning but true: A full 27% of people who are 59 or older have no retirement savings, according to a recent survey from Credit Karma. Thankfully, it’s never too late — or too early — to start putting money aside for retirement. Enrolling in your company’s 401(k) plan can be a great place to start, and they may even offer matching contributions.
Not every employer offers a match — or a 401(k), for that matter — but if it’s a perk that you can take advantage of, getting more information about how your plan works could open up an avenue for saving more from your salary.
Employers differ in their matching contributions. Some employers might contribute a dollar for every dollar or a percentage of every dollar an employee puts into their 401(k) plan, up to a designated percentage of the employee’s salary.
Plans are frequently set up so that employee contributions are taken directly from their paycheck, so the decision to contribute is automated instead of being something to think about each month.
Preparing a Budget and Following It
If the idea of a budget seems daunting — or past attempts have been less than successful — it might be because your approach to budgeting is too complicated. It’s not necessary to create a complex set of spreadsheets. In fact, when you’re new to budgeting, a simple approach often works better.
One easy budgeting framework you might consider is the 50/30/20 rule. This approach streamlines expenses into three categories so you don’t have to monitor every single expenditure to make it work. Instead, you divide your take-home pay (what you make after taxes are taken out) into three main categories: needs, wants, and savings. Here’s how it works.
• Put 50% of your money toward needs: This includes housing, utilities, groceries, transportation, insurance, prescription medications, minimum payments on credit cards and other debt, and any other expense you have to cover. If you require a cell phone or other equipment for work, that might be a need, but if it’s the newest, most expensive model, you may be slipping into the wants category.
• Put 30% toward wants: Here’s where everything from vacations to vending machine snacks can come in. If it isn’t essential, it goes into this chunk of your budget, so you’ll want to look at what you are currently spending on wants and see if you can find places to cut. Are you paying for streaming services you rarely watch? Are you a member of a gym you never go to? Could you cook one or two more nights per week and spend less on takeout? It’s all your call — but these costs all must fit into the allotted amount of money.
• Put 20% toward savings or paying extra on your debt: This category allows you to siphon off some of each paycheck to build your emergency fund, save for other short-term goals (like buying a car or going on vacation), and fund your retirement account. If you’re carrying high-interest debt, you’ll want to use some of this money to pay it down by making payments beyond the minimum.
• Feel free to tweak: The 50/30/20 guideline is just that — a guideline. You may want to adjust the breakdown if the cost of living is particularly high in your area, and you need to spend more than 50% of your take-home pay on needs. On the other hand, if you’re in a hurry to pay down debt, you might want to cut back on your wants spending to make it work. The key to budget success, however, is to stick with it. So you don’t want to come up with a spending plan that is so austere you can’t maintain it.
Automating Your Savings and Payments
Once you come up with a framework for how much you will spend and save each month, it’s a good idea to put as much of the plan on autopilot as possible.
Setting up autopay for your regular monthly bills, for example, eliminates the risk of missing payments and racking up late fees. In addition, you may want to consider automating your savings — this way, you won’t have to remember (and, quite possibly, forget) to transfer some money from your salary to savings each month, or be tempted to spend that money.
There are two different ways to automate savings. One is to split your direct deposit into two accounts. For example, you might have the majority of your paycheck go into your checking account and a smaller percentage into a high-yield savings account. If a payroll split isn’t an option, you can set up an automatic transfer from your checking to your savings on the day your paycheck clears. This way, the money gets whisked away before you have a chance to spend it.
A savings plan doesn’t have to be complicated — or painful. In fact, you can start saving more from your salary by making just a few simple changes. These include: making sure you are putting some of your paycheck into your retirement plan at work (at least up to any employer match), coming up with a basic spending plan (such as the 50/30/20 breakdown), and putting your savings on autopilot. Before long, budgeting and saving will likely become a habit you don’t even have to think about.
If you’re looking for more ways to simplify your finances, you might consider opening a checking and savings account where you can spend, save, and earn all-in-one product. With a SoFi Checking and Savings account, you’ll earn a competitive annual percentage yield (APY) and pay no account fees, both of which can help your money grow faster.
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SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.
SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.
SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.
SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.
Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.
Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.
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