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Personal Finance Experts Agree You Should Be Doing This 1 Thing

The Ascent logo The Ascent 12/2/2021 Brittney Myers
Personal Finance Experts Agree You Should Be Doing This 1 Thing © Provided by The Ascent Personal Finance Experts Agree You Should Be Doing This 1 Thing A woman wearing pajamas and sitting on her bed and making a phone call with holiday twinkle lights on the wall behind her. © Getty Images A woman wearing pajamas and sitting on her bed and making a phone call with holiday twinkle lights on the wall behind her.

There's a lot of conflicting financial advice out there. For example, some experts will tell you to use credit cards for everything. Others will tell you to steer clear of credit cards for anything. And still more experts will tell you to get credit cards -- but only use them sparingly.

Despite all the differing opinions, there is at least one thing any financial guru will tell you: You need to have savings. And, in a shocking twist, most personal finance experts actually agree on the best way to save: automation.

The "set it and forget it" saving method

Automating your savings is a simple, no-effort way to consistently add to your savings account. It allows you to save behind the scenes, without having to remember or take the time to manually move money from account to account.

All you need to set up automatic savings is a checking account, ideally with direct deposit, and a separate savings account. Most, if not all, banks will allow you to set up automatic transfers between your bank accounts.

To set up automatic savings, you'll want to determine the following:

  • How often do you want to move money to your savings account?
  • How much money do you want to transfer each time?

For many folks, having a savings transfer occur after every paycheck makes the most sense. So, if you get paid every other Friday, have your transfer go through every two weeks after your paycheck clears.

As for how much to save, that will depend on your budget. Here's a quick chart to give you an idea of how much your savings could add up if you make a transfer every two weeks:

2-Week Transfer Amount Yearly Savings
$25 $650
$50 $1,300
$75 $1,950
$100 $2,600
$150 $3,900
$200 $5,200
$250 $6,500
Source: Author's calculations

Every little bit helps. As you can see, you can still manage to save $650 a year with just $25 saved with every two-week paycheck.

Be aware of your balances

Whatever you decide in terms of frequency and amount, make sure your bank account balance and income can support it. It's better to under-pledge your transfers than overcommit.

If you know you can transfer $50 each paycheck without a worry, but $100 is pushing it -- stick to the $50. You can always manually move more money during times of plenty. Consider leaving a modest buffer in your checking account just in case.

You should also make a budget line or other reminder that the transfers will take place. It wouldn't be good to pay a bill or make a purchase thinking you have more money than you really do because you forgot about your transfers. Overdraft fees are no joke.

Maintain a firm hands-off policy

Automatic transfers can work wonders for your savings. But those funds are only useful if they're around when you need them. That's why it's important to maintain a strict hands-off policy for your savings account.

The best way to determine when you're allowed to dip into your savings is to decide what it's for before you even start. For example, if you don't have an emergency fund, that's a good place to start.

Learn More: Emergency Fund Calculator

Then, stick to your own rules. If you're building an emergency fund, keep out unless you have a real emergency. And we're not talking about that sale that's too good to pass up.

As long as you think through your needs and goals, automatic savings can be a fantastic tool. So fantastic, in fact, that even the normally contrary financial experts can actually agree on it.

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