If you have no savings, life can be stressful. When you have a financial emergency and your first thought is 'I have no savings,' it can be a scary moment. As a matter of fact, a growing percentage of Americans have no savings either and so this feeling is quite common for many.
In addition to the stressful feelings of having no savings, if you are starting from scratch, the idea of building a solid financial future might seem daunting. The good news, however, is that it is possible to build savings from any point even if you have none right now.
It's important not to beat yourself up over your past financial mistakes. Instead, focus on moving forward and taking control of your finances.
If you are ready to learn more about building your financial future, then continue reading.
1. See where you stand
The fact that you want to work to improve your financial future is a big step in the right direction. Now that you are ready to take control of finances, it is time to take a closer look at your financial life.
In order to better understand your current financial situation, it is critical to calculate your net worth. First, layout any debts that you have on the table. It is important to see all of your liabilities, or debts, in a single place. Next, tally up your assets. Then simply subtract your liabilities from your assets.
You might be surprised to discover where you stand. If your net worth is negative, that is okay. Many people start building a successful financial future from a negative net worth. If you find that you have a positive net worth, then you are in a better financial position than you thought because you must have savings built-in somewhere.
No matter where you are starting from, it is good to be realistic about your financial future. If you are starting from 0 or a negative net worth, then you should not expect to clean this up overnight. In fact, building a better financial future may be a long road. However, the sooner you start the process, the faster you will reach your destination.
2. Assess your lifestyle
After you have taken a closer look at where you stand, you need to understand how you’ve come to the point.
Dive into your spending habits to understand your financial position better. Are you spending more than you should? Your first step should be to create a plan that ensures you are not spending more than your income. Otherwise, it is easy to rack up debt quickly.
If you find that you are spending more than you should, then look for ways to cut back without sacrificing your quality of life. Unfortunately, you may need to make some adjustments to your spending. However, you should look at this as a new challenge to be creatively frugal instead of cutting all of the fun out of your life.
You need to understand where your money is going in order to start saving money successfully.
3. Make a budget
A budget is critical to get your finances on track. Although it might seem restrictive to start budgeting, you’ll need to find a budgeting method that works for you in order to start saving successfully.
A budget can be difficult to start, but it is important. Luckily, there are a variety of ways to budget. You just need to find out which one works best for you. If you are having trouble getting started, then consider taking our budgeting course. It will walk you through different ways to budget and help you find the best fit for you.
As you build your budget, you’ll need to find new ways to save money. A few ways to dial back your expenses include shopping around for new car insurance and cutting out any subscriptions you no longer use. Additionally, you can start cooking more at home and hitting the stores with coupons in hand.
4. Build an emergency fund
An emergency fund is the first type of savings you should build. After all, it is your first line of financial defense against the emergencies that will inevitably come your way. Whether you need to fix a flat tire or a medical emergency pops up, you’ll have the funds you need to weather the storm.
If you are just starting out, then this should be your first priority. Start by building a fund of one thousand dollars. It will provide the cushion you need to cover unexpected expenses.
After you have a better handle on your finances, then build out your emergency fund to at least 3 to 6 months worth of expenses. You should have this amount of money safely tucked away in your savings account.
Once you have a fully-funded emergency fund, you’ll be able to breathe a little bit easier. Whatever life throws your way, you’ll be financially prepared.
5. Pay off your debts
If you have a large debt burden on your balance sheet, then it can hinder your other financial goals. If you want to save money for the long-term, then any debt is only going to hold you back.
Since you are ready to build a better financial future, that starts with eliminating your debt. You’ll need to find a debt pay-down strategy that works for you. In some cases, the snowball method in which you tackle your smallest debts first works best. In others, the avalanche method in which you tackle your debt with the highest interest works better. Take a minute to find out which strategy will work best for your situation. Then dive into your debt repayment journey.
Once you’ve paid off your debt, it will be easier to save for long-term goals. Not only will you eliminate monthly payments, but also avoid racking up interest charges that can derail your financial future.
6. Save for long term goals
If you are starting to save from nothing, then large savings goals may not seem attainable. For example, retirement may seem like a distant vision for the future without any concrete retirement savings. However, it is critical to start saving for your long-term goals now.
If that is retirement, then you should take advantage of tax-advantaged saving opportunities such as your 401k or an IRA. The amount you are able to save in these accounts will vary each year based on IRS limits. Other long term goals might include making a down payment on your first home. Consider that in your budget as you start to increase your savings.
How to stay on track with your savings goals
As you increase your savings, it might feel difficult to stay on track. Like all habits, you’ll need to provide some positive reinforcement to ensure that you continue on your savings journey.
Even when things start to look better, you should continue to save. Hold on your budget even when your financial life is easier.
Remember to adjust your savings goals to your life, in some seasons you will be able to save more than others. Although you can adjust your budget throughout your journey, make sure that you are always aware of what you are spending.
If you are having trouble staying on track, then think about the reasons behind your spending. Carefully align your spending with your values. Once you find alignment between your values and your spending, you may find more joy even without overspending.
Find a Side Hustle
If you are having trouble meeting your financial goals, then you may need to increase your income. A side hustle is a perfect way to increase your income. A side hustle offers flexibility on the amount of time you commit and the amount of money you can earn. Whether you want to work from home in your free time or pick up a second job, you can increase your income with the power of a side hustle.
Put your savings on autopilot
Once you’ve worked out your budget, you could choose to automatically transfer your savings into a separate account each month. With this, you’ll be able to save the money you plan to without needing to resist the urge to spend down your checking account.
If you have trouble sticking to a budget if the money is readily available, then move it to a separate account that is slightly less accessible. With that, you’ll be forced to think about your spending actions before you swipe your card.
Additionally, you can have your retirement savings pulled right out of your paycheck. In this case, you wouldn’t have to worry about spending your retirement savings because they would never touch your regular checking account.
Don’t focus on a deadline
Yes, setting savings goals are important. However, it is important to not get too caught up in your deadlines. As long as you are making progress towards your savings goals, missing a goal by a few hundred dollars is not the end of the world.
Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged and stop saving altogether. Instead, continue to save based on your plan and watch your savings grow over time. You might be surprised how quickly they add up once you have the right systems in place.
The bottom line
If you are starting from the bottom, then you have the perfect opportunity to build a solid financial foundation. After all, you need to understand the base of your financial success in order to sustain it over the long term. Instead of looking at saving money as a cumbersome challenge, look at it as a way to redefine your future on your own terms.