If you’ve heard it once, you’ve probably heard it a hundred times. You need to save. You need to save. You need to save.
We all know that saving is important, but so few of us really take the time to do it. What’s the deal?
Usually, we think life gets in the way. There’s so much to take care of now, who has time to worry about later? But that’s when we get into trouble. The 35-year-old who didn’t have time to save becomes the 70-year-old who is still working full time with 20 years of mortgage payments remaining.
The key is to make saving a priority right now, no matter how old you are.
Here are a few tips to help you get started.
1. The Baby Emergency Fund
Start by saving $1,000 for a “baby emergency fund.” Sell stuff. Work overtime. Do whatever you need to do to get that $1,000 as fast as you can. Put it in a basic money market account. This is your cushion. When you get a flat tire, when the little one needs to go to the ER, when the friendly officer pulls you over for going 55 in a 45, this savings account will keep you from using credit cards and going into debt.
After you save up that $1,000, it’s time to get out of debt using the debt snowball. Basically, it’s just a matter of paying all of your debts in the order of smallest to largest. You pay like crazy on the smallest one. When you’ve paid that off, use all of the money you were paying on it to put toward your second smallest debt. Follow that process until you’re out of debt. Then you can start saving in…
2. The Fully Funded Emergency Fund
At this point, you’re out of debt and you still have your $1,000 emergency fund. Now it’s time to throw all the money you were using to pay off debt into a bulkier emergency fund. I recommend saving three to six months of expenses. That way, you’re covered for the much bigger stuff—like maternity leave, getting laid off at work, and more serious medical bills.
3. Retirement and College
Next up, your retirement and your kids’ college funds. Sit down with a financial advisor you can trust, someone who has the heart of a teacher, and make sure you are saving enough to allow your kids to go to college and you to retire without debt. Related: When Do You Start Planning for College?
4. General Savings
Vacation, a car, Christmas, new furniture—these types of things aren’t emergencies. Christmas will always be on December 25. So no surprise there! Save up for this stuff ahead of time so you’re not tempted to plop down plastic. Related: 4 Ways to Vacation Without Debt
If you’re really trying to get out of debt and stop using credit cards, then saving is the place to start. You have to make it priority number one—saving up that first $1,000—before you do anything else.
Just the process of getting started saving money gives you momentum. Plus, it allows you to get your head above water and begin finding some financial peace in your life.
If you aren’t saving, don’t beat yourself up. Just get started today. You won’t regret it.