3 Ways to Make Saving Easy and Painless

Everyone agrees that it's important to save money, but saying and doing are two different things (especially when it comes to finances). Regularly setting aside money for various financial goals is really hard to do, given all the other things we could be spending that money on now. You can make saving money a lot easier if you use one of these methods for automating the process.

Automatic bank transfers

Nearly every bank nowadays will let you set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account. If you schedule this transfer to happen immediately after your paycheck arrives, you can make paying yourself first happen automatically -- which means that you'll be less likely to let day-to-day expenses eat up the money that's supposed to go into your savings account.

Another way to make saving painless is to do a very small daily automatic transfer instead of one big monthly one. For example, instead of putting $100 a month into your savings account, schedule a daily transfer of $3. That way you won't have a sudden, large drop in your checking balance that could potentially cause overdraft problems if you forget that it's about to go through.

Direct deposit transfers

If you get your paycheck direct deposited into your checking account, ask your employer's human resources representative if you can have the the direct deposit split into two parts: one into your checking account, and another into your savings account. That's an even better way to pay yourself first than an automatic bank transfer, since the savings money never enters your checking account at all. It also works better than a bank transfer if you have an erratic pay schedule, since the savings transfer always works in sync with your paycheck.

Savings apps

Yes, there's an app for that. In fact, there are quite a few apps these days that use various methods to identify the money that you can afford to move into savings and move it for you.

Several different apps, including Acorns and Qapital, round up every purchase you make with your debit or credit card and put the spare change in your savings account. For example, if you spend $3.95 on your morning coffee, these apps will round up your purchase to $4 and move the extra $0.05 into a special account. Acorns invests the money that it saves, while Qapital sticks it into a non-interest-bearing savings account (so you'll probably want to move that money out into a regular savings account to earn a little interest on it).

Digit uses a different approach to help you save. The app uses an algorithm to track your spending and identify how much money you can spare, then moves that money into a non-interest-bearing Digit savings account. You can set a minimum balance to reduce the risk that Digit will get carried away and overdraft your account.

What to do with the money

Whichever automatic savings tool you use, you'll likely end up with a pretty decent balance in savings after a while. Depending on your financial goals, you may want to shift some of that money to a place where it'll earn a little more than your typical bank savings account. Saving for retirement is an important goal for everyone; if you don't have a retirement savings plan already set up, such as an automatic contribution into a 401(k), then definitely consider moving some of the money you auto-saved into a retirement savings account. It's also crucial to have an emergency savings account; this you'll probably want to leave as cash, but consider putting it in an Internet bank savings account to get a somewhat higher rate of interest.

Finally, if you have a long-term savings goal, such as saving for a down payment to buy a house 10 years from now, consider investing some of the money you save in stocks. That's significantly riskier than keeping it in savings, but the returns are likely to be a whole lot higher. And if you have a long time frame, the rewards of stock market investing become worth the risks.

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