The hardest thing about saving is actually doing it. However, there is a simple solution to this problem: pay yourself first before paying others. That’s the key to saving, says J.D. Roth, founder of GetRichSlowly.org. “It took years for me to understand what ‘pay yourself first’ really meant, and by that time, I was already in financial trouble,” Roth writes. Paying yourself first means this: Before you buy groceries, pay your mortgage or run out to buy the latest designer handbag, set aside a portion of your income for savings (around 10%) and then go on about your business. It’s the easiest way to save, without having to consciously remind yourself to put any leftover funds into your savings account after each paycheck. Here are some simple ways to pay yourself without trying so hard: 1) Automatic Transfer to Savings: Many banks offer automatic transfers from one account to another. Sign up to have a certain amount, say $100 every month, sent from your checking account to your savings. You won’t even notice the money disappear from your checking, and you’ll get used to seeing your funds set aside every month after you’ve received your paycheck and before you’ve paid your bills. 2) Get a High-Yield Checking Account: This is not only a way to save, but to get “free” money. High-yield checking accounts by design earn greater interest on the funds you deposit, which means you’ll make money from letting a bank store (and trade) your money. Every month when the interest on your account grows, store that interest income you’ve earned into a separate savings account, where you can then reinvest it elsewhere. Many high-yield accounts are available via online banks (check out bankrate.com for a list of popular accounts) and offer interest rates upwards of 1% APY. Some may have account minimums or worse, fees that can eat into your profits, so make sure to read the fine print. 3) Bank Savings from Coupons and Discounts: We mentioned before that clipping coupons is a sure-fire way to save. But instead of spending the money you’ve saved from coupons, sales and discounts, store the funds away into a savings account. Let’s say you’ve saved $25 this week in grocery shopping for your family by using coupons and buying generic. Instead of spending it, put that $25 you would have otherwise spent into a separate savings account, and watch how easily you grow your savings without thinking about it. 4) Save Your Extra Paycheck: Yes, that’s right – there are two times a year where we are typically paid more than twice a month. October and April are months that have five weeks in them, and if you get paid every two weeks, you’ll get an extra paycheck in those months. Instead of running off to spend your windfall, save the money immediately and act like you never received it. That way, you’ll be putting a large lump sum into a savings account, and since it’s an extra paycheck, you’ve already budgeted around it, so you don’t actually need it to cover your monthly expenses. 5) Keep the Change Program: For those who really struggle with saving every month, consider signing up for Bank of America checking and savings accounts in order to take advantage of their Keep the Change program. Every purchase you make with your debit card will be deducted from your checking. If you spend $4.42 at Starbucks every day, Bank of America will round up to the cost of your purchase and transfer $0.58 into your savings account. Your wallet will think you’ve spent $5 on Starbucks, but in reality, you’ll have saved part of that money without even trying. For more information about saving for retirement, check out the Essence Women’s Conference website and register to attend.
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