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We all hear that saving money is key to breaking the paycheck to paycheck cycle, and ultimately leads to financial freedom, but we still ask ourselves: how much money should I have saved?
This is something that I kept asking myself, so I figured it was time to do some investigating.
A 2017 survey conducted by GoBankingRates found that millennials—ranging between 18 to 24 years-old—had less than $1,000 saved. Almost half of the survey respondents had nothing saved at all, and sadly these statistics defined me perfectly at this age.
I felt broke and had around $50 in my savings account that I would ultimately transfer over because my checking account was overdrawn.
In everyone’s defense, saving money isn’t the “coolest” thing to do, and when you’re starting off it can be downright brutal. The Instagram models promise us flat tummies if we buy teas and there’s always an “amazing deal” being thrown our way.
It’s hard, but what’s even harder is having no money when you need it the most!
Why is saving money even important?
When you save money you’re paying yourself first. Those funds act as your safety net, and wouldn’t it be nice to have that peace of mind that if something goes wrong you have the money to protect yourself?!
According to Bankrate’s financial security index survey, 34 percent of American households will experience a financial emergency over the course of a year. This could be anything from medical expenses to car repairs.
Sadly, only 39 percent of those households will be able to cover a $1,000 blow to their pockets from their savings.
You will be stuck in the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle
You’re living on the edge when you’re stuck in the vicious paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. By on the edge, I mean you’re on the verge of being without lights, a home, etc. So clutch!
If every cent of your income is being gobbled up then you’ll continue working just to pay bills and will never be able to pay off debt or save.
It can keep you out of debt
How many times have you heard that no matter what you do in life you’ll always be in some type of debt? Personally, I’ve lost count.
Like many, I grew up thinking that being in debt was as common as breathing air. It was just a normal part of life and ultimately inevitable.
This is definitely not true.
When you have money set aside you’re not relying 100% on your source of income. If an unexpected expense pops up then you have the funds to pay for it versus running up credit cards, taking out personal loans, and dipping into your overdraft protection.
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Ok, so how much money should I have saved?
This answer is one that will vary from person to person. We all live different lifestyles with different needs, but as a good rule of thumb, financial experts recommend setting aside enough money to cover 3-6 months of expenses.
Intuit’s money expert Kimmie Greene developed this formula to help you figure out if your savings account has enough money in it:
In your 20s: Aim to save 25% of your overall gross pay. This includes 401(k) withholdings and employer matching.
According to Kimmie, your lifestyle expenses should not exceed 75% of your gross income.
By age 30: Aim to have the amount of your annual salary saved.
This includes any retirement contributions, matching funds from your employer, cash, and investments.
By age 35: Aim to have twice your annual salary saved.
By age 40: Have three times your annual salary saved.
By age 45: You need to have four times your annual salary saved.
By age 50: Have five times your annual salary saved.
By age 55: Aim to have six times your annual salary saved.
By age 60: Have seven times your annual salary saved.
By age 65: Aim to have eight times your annual salary saved.
Related reading: Building an Emergency Fund – Save Your First $1,000 Fast!
How to save more money
While the formula above is great for determining how much money you should have set aside, it may also cause you to feel extremely behind. The thought of having my annual salary saved within the next three years nearly sent me into panic mode!
Umm, I’m nowhere near that!
With minimum wage jobs, childcare, medical expenses, and a slew of other financial responsibilities, it’s difficult to put back large amounts of money. I’ve been in that same situation, but I was also not making the smartest decisions.
I mean, I had an auto loan payment that was over $400 but my paychecks were barely $600. Mhm, not cute.
Luckily, after combing through my budget I was able to find an extra $350 a month by cutting and reducing expenses. Before you throw up your hands, check out the tips below:
Pace yourself. Contrary to belief, putting all of your money towards debt is not a sure way to get out of it. When an unexpected expense occurs and you have no money saved then you’re actually putting yourself in more debt.
Cut expenses. What are you paying for regularly that you can do without? Saving money requires making a few sacrifices, but those that are well worth it in the end.
This includes subscriptions, gym memberships, etc.
Lower your monthly expenses. Take a look at what expenses you’re spending the most money on and determine how you can lower them. This is often your rent/mortgage and food.
Before my second child, I was living in a duplex I loved but it was on the pricey side. I needed to free up extra money fast so I swallowed my pride and moved into a cheaper apartment.
It wasn’t as luxurious, far from it, but it did save me $200 a month!
Automate your savings. Automating your savings means that an amount is being placed in your savings account for you. This often happens when your paycheck is direct deposited or you’ve set up recurring transfers via online banking.
When money is being saved automatically you’re more likely to adjust to being without those funds since they were withdrawn before you even saw them. Those “I forgot to save” excuses are no more.
**I use the Digit app for each savings goal in which I allow it to save for me. This app saves your spare change so you’re saving without actually having to do anything! Just link the account you wish to use and Digit will analyze your spending behavior to determine how much it can safely set aside for you. It’s backed by a no over-draft guarantee and if you sign up using this link you can try it free for 30 days before it switches back to just $2.99 a month. It honestly pays for itself!
Snapshot of my Digit account
Make more money. When your income and expenses are equal, you have to increase your income to be able to save. If you’ve cut out and reduced all of the expenses that you could, then you need to find a way to earn extra money. Here are 10 easy side hustles that you can work from home!
Give up large refunds/bonuses. One of the quickest ways to fluff up your savings account is to give up your large refunds and bonuses. This may include tax refunds, settlements, and incentives from your employer.
When I gave up my tax refunds and incentives/bonuses from work I was able to pay off $19,000 in debt which ultimately freed up extra money to save!
Join a money-saving challenge! Saving challenges are great for getting you into the habit of saving while increasing your savings. There’s literally a challenge for everyone, no matter your income or savings goal. I’ve gathered the best six money-saving challenges you need to check out here!
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed about how much money you should have saved then let me put your worries to rest. The savings formula that I found suggests an amount that may not be possible for you at the moment. As I’ve mentioned, I’m not even close to having my annual salary saved and I’ve learned that that’s okay. Use what you’ve learned as a reference, and continue to work hard and do the best that you can.
If you’re a saving beginner, I highly suggest taking my FREE money-saving email course.
- The first step you need to take towards saving (it’s not what you think)
- How to find balance between bills, saving, and debt
- The one thing you need to do to stop withdrawing the money you’ve saved!
- How to keep your head in the game so you don’t wind up quitting…again