As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and more!

Saving

50 Ways to build an emergency fund. Tips, tricks and strategies on saving more for emergencies and where to keep your rainy day money.

emergency fund

There’s a reason Dave Ramsey’s famous Baby Step #1 is to build an emergency fund. It helps people get on track for becoming financially independent.

I don’t agree with everything Ramsey says. But having at least a small emergency fund to begin with can be helpful. A basic emergency fund is a place where you keep cash for true emergencies, such as job loss or a broken-down car that would prevent you from going to work.

Ultimately, you’ll want enough cash in your emergency fund to cover all of your necessary expenses for a 3 to 6 month period. But any amount of money saved is a start.

Beyond the basics, I suggest at least five separate components to a complete emergency plan. Getting to that point presents challenges for many people. When you’re starting out, it can be difficult to assemble even the basics for eventual financial freedom.

Banking Deal: Earn 1.30% APY on an FDIC-insured savings account at Synchrony Bank.

But even if you’re hard-pressed for cash, you can still start an emergency fund. Here are fifty different ways to start saving today:

  1. Open a high-yield online savings account with as little as one dollar. This gives you somewhere to put your emergency funds, which is essential. And you might as well protect against inflation while you’re at it.
  2. Sign up for direct deposit. When you do, have part of your paycheck–as little as a few bucks–deposited right into your new online savings account. You won’t spend it if it doesn’t hit your checking account in the first place!
  3. Empty your pocket change into a jar every night. Then, put the change into your savings account every couple of months. Don’t spend much in cash? Try an app like Acorns that automatically rounds up your transactions to save your virtual change for you.
  4. Add to your jar every time you swear. Trying to break a bad habit? Tax yourself every time you do it. You’ll break your habit more quickly and save money while you’re at it.
  5. Have a garage sale. Selling off things you no longer want or need can get you started on the road to saving. Plus, it’s nice to de-clutter the house once in a while!
  6. Sell on Craigslist or Facebook groups. Bigger-ticket items may net a better price sold individually on Craigslist or your local Facebook garage sale group.
  7. Whenever you purchase groceries with a coupon, deposit your savings into the bank. This works especially well if you aren’t already in the habit of using coupons. Whenever you cut a few bucks off of your typical grocery bill, save the extra. You’ll never even miss it.
  8. Downgrade your cell phone or cable serviceThe best ways to save are options that let you keep saving money, month after month. Just be sure you put the money saved into your emergency fund every month!
  9. Bring your own lunch to the office. Say you typically spend $10 for lunch at work, but you can make a salad at home for $2.50. Every day you bring your lunch to work, put $7.50 into your emergency fund.
  10. Ask for a raise. Pull together your work performance stats for the past year or two. Then, get together with your supervisor, and lobby for a raise.
  11. Save your raise. If you do get a raise, don’t let lifestyle inflation eat it all up. Instead, have it automatically deposited to your savings account rather than your checking account.
  12. Drink soda rather than alcohol when you’re dining out. Buying even one drink at dinner can set you back $5 or more. Every time you downgrade your drink, throw the money you’ve saved into your emergency fund.
  13. Switch to store-brand food items. Get a feel for how much this cuts from your weekly grocery budget. Then save the extra cash.
  14. Switch to generic medication. Many times, doctors don’t mention generics, but you can switch to them if you ask. Again, keep track of how much you’ve saved, and add it to your bank account.
  15. Cut back or eliminate your addiction to smoking. Smoking has up-front costs, of course. But you’ll also save money on healthcare over time if you quit.
  16. Be aware of your ECRD FactorWhat are you spending money on that you could eliminate or cut back on? Find those areas, and then leverage them to save more money.
  17. Start a side gigWhatever your side gig, put any profit from it directly into your savings account.
  18. Use a cash back rewards credit card. Instead of putting the rewards towards extra spending, put them into your savings account.
  19. Save gas by not driving faster than 65 miles per hour. You can also save gas and be easier on your car by not braking too hard and by following other safe driving practices.
  20. Stop using credit cards if you pay interest. If you have trouble not carrying a balance, just stop using your credit cards.
  21. Cancel your Netflix subscription. Actually, look at all of the subscriptions you’re charged for monthly or annually–Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Spotify, etc. If you don’t use them enough to justify the costs, just cancel them.
  22. Do your own yard work. If you’re currently paying someone to do your yard work, start doing it yourself. You’ll get a workout and save some money.
  23. Visit the library rather than your local bookstore. Bookstores are great. But you can save so much money on reading material by renting it from the local library!
  24. Stock up on non-perishable groceries when they are on sale. Having a well-stocked pantry is essential to keeping your grocery spending lean. Get familiar with your local stores’ sales cycles, and stock up when you can.
  25. Cancel magazine subscriptions. If you have some must-read magazines, subscribing is better than paying more at the newsstand. But if you’re not reading those magazines cover to cover every month, cancel them.
  26. Reuse or repair things instead of replacing them. Then, take the money that you saved by not purchasing new, and put it into your savings account.
  27. Delay vacations until your emergency fund is complete. This is a tough one. But you should have at least some part of your emergency fund saved before leaving on vacation.
  28. Sign up for online bill payment if your bank offers the service for free. This will keep you from missing bills and paying late fees.
  29. Shop around to ensure all your your financial accounts do not charge you extraneous fees. In this day and age, you shouldn’t pay for the privilege of using a checking or savings account!
  30. Always know how much you have in the bank so your accounts will never be overdrawn. Money management and budgeting apps are a great option for helping your manage this.
  31. Use public transportation rather than driving when possible. Alternatively, consider biking to work.
  32. Work a few extra hours at your day job. If you’re paid hourly, you can earn extra to put into savings. If you’re salaried, impressing the bosses could net you a raise sooner rather than later.
  33. Call your insurance provider and ask for an updated quote. In face, you should shop around for insurance once a year. You never know when you’ll get a better offer!
  34. Crawl the web for abandoned and unclaimed property owed to youYou never know what you’ll find. Put any unclaimed cash straight into savings.
  35. If you travel, join AAA; the discounts will often pay for the membership fee.
  36. Cancel your gym membership. You can get a great workout at home with some free weights. And you can always get your cardio in by walking or running outdoors.
  37. Consider refinancing your mortgageIf you haven’t taken advantage of low interest rates, now is the time. You could save hundreds per month, depending on your circumstances.
  38. Cook and brew coffee at home. Cutting out a latte a day may not make you a millionaire. But cooking and brewing your coffee at home can save you a few bucks a day.
  39. Find opportunities for one-time income. Don’t have time for an ongoing side gig? Consider doing one-time income-earning opportunities like babysitting or house sitting.
  40. Check out your memberships. Are you a member of a professional club you don’t get much use out of? A local country club? Consider cutting out memberships that don’t really benefit you.
  41. Save your tax refund. In fact, you can have your tax refund direct deposited to your savings account.
  42. Adjust your withholding. Don’t want to wait until tax time to beef up your emergency fund? If you always get a refund, you could be having too much withheld from your paycheck. Talk to your HR department about adjusting your withholding. Then, put that extra cash from your paycheck right to your emergency fund.
  43. Stop eating out. Commit to only eating out for truly special occasions, such as birthdays. You’ll be surprised how much this could save over the course of a year.
  44. Consider a no-spend month. This Pinteresty trend is actually a great way to save money. You basically eliminate all but your essential spending for a full month. It can be an eye opening way to cut unnecessary spending long-term, too.
  45. Keep track of all of your spending. Sometimes you spend money without actually realizing it. Keeping track of all your spending, either with an app or by writing it all down, can help you pinpoint where you’re over-spending.
  46. Negotiate on everything. Whether it’s a retail store or your cable company, pretty much everything is negotiable.
  47. Share your home. Getting a roommate can really boost your savings. Or you can use Airbnb or VRBO to rent part or all of your house part-time.
  48. Save on energy. Take steps to make your home more energy efficient, and it’ll save you money month after month.
  49. Shop secondhand. Sometimes, you just have to buy stuff, whether it’s new cups to replace the ones your kids broke or a new pair of jeans. But these things don’t have to be brand new. Try shopping at online secondhand stores or your local Goodwill to save some serious cash.
  50. Celebrate milestones. Saving three to six months’ worth of expenses can take a while. So set some milestones–like your first $500 or $1,000–worth celebrating. (Just don’t blow a bunch of money on a fancy dinner out while you’re at it!)

With a goal to be financially independent, the first step is securing a cash cushion, accessible in emergencies. During this funding phase, it may be beneficial to make sacrifices that in other situations you would not make. A slight decrease in quality of life in the short term will likely outweigh long-term financial devastation when a future emergency arises.

Original published on April 14, 2008, this article was updated by the Consumerism Commentary editorial team (five of us to be precise) on November 15, 2017.

{ 14 comments }

The best high-yield online savings accounts offer strong interest rates and great customer service, making them a popular option for savers. In addition, studies show online savings accounts come with lower fees.

best online savings accounts

“High-yield” is, unfortunately, a bit of a misnomer these days. A decade ago, interest rates were 4% and 5% among select savings accounts and money market accounts. Today, the best rates are around 1%, but some banks offer rates hovering near 0%! This trend will continue until banks and credit unions need more cash from depositors.

Banking Deal: Earn 1.30% APY on an FDIC-insured savings account at Synchrony Bank.

Interest rates

Interest rates are important because our money shouldn’t lose purchasing power. Ideally, interest rates offered by banks should beat inflation while preserving the balance without risk. I am not aware of any bank offering a savings option with ongoing interest rates high enough to beat inflation, whether measured by the government-reported CPI-U or by any other meaningful measure of consumer prices. Nevertheless, if your savings is at a brick and mortar bank earning below 0.25% APY, choose one of the better options below.

Best Online Savings Accounts

Customer service

When evaluating customer service, there are two important factors to consider. The best banks offer all account maintenance and transfers through a professional, reliable, and easy-to-navigate website. Secondly, live customer service representatives should be knowledgeable, helpful, and available, even if customers should not have to deal with a representative frequently.

Based on my own experiences and reviews from other Consumerism Commentary readers, here are the most-recommended accounts for short-term savings. All of the listed interest rates directly below from our partners and in the table above are current, although interest rates are subject to change by the banks. Although I have nine accounts listed below the table of rates, you don’t need to have accounts with that many different banks. Choose one that fits you the best.


Synchrony Bank Savings AccountAt 1.30% APY, Synchrony Bank offers one of the highest rates available today on an FDIC-insured savings account. With no minimum balance required and no monthly service fees, it’s one of the most popular options. Click here for more details.


ally_120x60-002Ally Bank was selected by Kiplinger Magazine as the best savings account for 2009. Formerly known as GMAC Bank, Ally Bank provides an interest rate for their online savings account of 1.25% APY. Click here for more details.


EverBank has a variety of products including a high yield checking account, a money market account, and world currency CDs. All of these accounts offer top-tier interest rates. For example, first time account holders of Everbank’s Yield Pledge Money Market account earn a new account bonus rate of 1.31% for the first year. After the first year, the ongoing APY is 0.86% for account balances up to $250K. And their Yield Pledge Checking Account for first time account holders for balances up to $100,000 offers a new account bonus rate of 1.31% for the first year and the ongoing APY is a standard 0.86% APY. Click here for more details.


FNBO Direct offers no fees and no minimum balance requirement. It is the online arm of First National Bank of Omaha. FNBO has an interest rate of 1.15% APY. Click here for more details.


Discover Bank offers a solid online savings account with a fast opening process. For example, I opened my account within twenty-four hours. The current interest rate for the Discover Bank Online Savings Account is 1.20% APY. Click here for more details.


CIT Bank was founded in 1908 in St. Louis by Henry Ittleson. Throughout the 20th century CIT continued to grow in all sectors. An FDIC-insured institution, it serves consumers and small businesses with certificates of deposit, savings accounts, and custodial accounts. CIT Savings account offers 1.35% APY on all deposits.


SmartyPig currently sports one of the better interest rates you can find online at 1.15% APY. You can also convert your savings goals into gift cards and earn an additional bonus for each gift card conversion. SmartyPig is not a bank by itself. It is a goal-oriented savings vehicle, a layer, that can be compared with other savings accounts.


Click here to start saving with Capital One 360!Capital One 360 offers no fees and no minimum balance requirement. Like ING Direct before it, Capital One 360 also has a great website and excellent customer service. I’ve found that managing your money with Capital One 360 is just as easy as it was with ING DIRECT. Capital One 360 offers a current interest rate of 0.75% APY .


Barclays is a large, international bank that has been around for 300 years, and operates in over 50 different countries. Barclays offers a 1.30% APY on all deposits, with no minimum balance and no monthly fees.


HSBC Advance offers no fees and no minimum balance requirement. Formerly HSBC Direct, it entered the race with one of the highest interest rates ever available at 6% APY. HSBC Advance Online Savings Account has an interest rate of 0.05% APY for $15,000.


Lending Club Investing offers a significantly higher return than most banks. Lending Club is a social lending site where you can invest in loans issued to individuals and businesses. The most recent average net annualized return for notes by grade A to C is between 4% and 6%. These investments are not FDIC insured, but Lending Club’s higher rates may be an alternative worth considering.


What is your favorite online savings account? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

{ 280 comments }

10 Easy Ways to Save Money

This article was written by in Saving. 22 comments.

This year, I’ve spent more money than ever. I’ve been able to swing these extra expenses — including lots of fun new gadgets I’d put off buying for years — without hurting my budget. But now, I’m ready to pull back and start ramping up my savings again.

We all know that Americans are generally terrible at saving for retirement. But it turns out that we’re also pretty bad at saving in the short term, too. In fact, nearly 60% of Americans don’t even have $500 in savings. Yikes!

Here’s the reality, though: saving a bit of money doesn’t actually take much effort. I’m planning to use these ten low-effort ways to save money over the next year. Want to join?

1. Automate your savings

Chances are you already use direct deposit for your paycheck. If not, it’s time to get with the program. With direct deposit, your money goes straight to the bank. It’s more convenient for you and your employer. Plus, it lets you automate your decision-making about savings.

Instead of deciding how much to save each payday, you can set your account to automatically move money from checking to savings. Your paycheck will hit your account, and your savings will disappear from that account almost simultaneously. It’s much easier to save money that you never see in your checking account!

Even if you start by moving only $5 or $10 per paycheck to a high-yield savings account, you’ll have more saved at the end of the year than you would have otherwise.

2. Collect your excess coins

I enjoy looking through circulating coins, on the off chance that I discover a rare specimen, such as a silver quarter. No, it doesn’t happen often; most of the good stuff has been removed from circulation by other collectors or knowledgeable bank tellers.

But while I’m saving my daily change in a glass jar, I’m also saving myself from spending that money. Every so often, I roll the coins with free sleeves from the bank and take them in for deposit.

What if you don’t typically spend cash? If you usually swipe your card instead of spending cash, you may not have any loose change to save. In this case, check out apps like Qoins.

You can connect this app directly to your checking account. Each time you spend, it’ll round up to the next dollar and “save” the change from that transaction. Once you reach a certain threshold amount, the app will put that change towards a debt.

Other similar apps, such as Digit and Acorns, use this concept to sock away change in a savings account or investing account. These apps act like a virtual change jar, putting the dregs of your daily transactions towards important financial goals.

3. Use goal jars

You’ve seen those jars in country shops. They are short, wide-mouthed clay pottery or stoneware jars with cork tops.

On the outside of the jars, they are labeled using varying levels of wit. In these jars, you can set aside money you’d like to budget for “retirement,” “kids’ education,” “dreams,” or the “Harley fund.”

Again, these are a great option if you typically spend with cash. You can make them even more powerful if you dedicate certain “leftover” money to these jars.

Say you normally spend $125 for a weeks’ worth of groceries at the grocery store. One week, you get creative with meal planning and couponing and you only spend $115. Put the extra $10 — which you normally would have spent — into a goal jar.

You can do this virtually, too. More and more banks are offering free savings accounts, and some checking accounts offer unlimited free “sub-accounts.” Open several, then label them for specific goals.

Related: Variety of Savings Accounts: Where I Keep My Cash

You can split up your extra money at the end of the month to these accounts, or just throw in “saved” money whenever you can. For instance, if you usually spend $10 on your work lunch, but bring a lunch from home, toss the $7 you saved into one of your savings accounts.

4. Form a budget, but budget for fun

A budget can be the most depressing part of personal finance if you let it be. I tend to avoid budgets, but if my income fails to meet my expenses, I’ll have to reconsider this approach.

The key, though, is that budgets should be flexible. Budgeting isn’t about limiting yourself to only the most frugal spending. It’s about realizing that sometimes you have to sacrifice in one category to pay for another.

Want to eat out more? Great! Be a super frugal grocery shopper when you do eat at home. Want to travel? Awesome! You may have to give up purchasing some of those new electronic gadgets.

A budget that saves you money is usually one that has at least some “fun” spending built in. You can only seriously restrict your spending for so long before you make yourself more likely to go on a spending binge. So, make sure you write in some fun — whether that’s dining out, saving up for travel, or working on a hobby. Then, stick to it!

If you need a jump start, here are the best budgeting tools to track your money.

5. Find ways to make your hobby cheaper

Hobbies can be expensive. Just ask anyone with a Faberge egg collection! Many hobbies require materials and monetary investments, and this can really add up over time.

Just like budgeting for your “fun,” though, you should budget some money for your hobbies. Of course, moderation is key here. Try not to spend too much, especially to the detriment of the rest of your budget.

Here are some tips to help you manage that hobby spending:

  • Get good at finding your supplies on sale or secondhand. If your hobby is crafting, sign up for coupons from all the local craft stores. You can often save 50% or more on your craft materials. Into biking? Consider buying your gear secondhand to save big.
  • Figure out how to make money from your hobby. Turning your hobby into a side business is an excellent way to make money. But even if your hobby doesn’t turn a profit, selling what you create can cover most or all of the expenses associated with your hobby.
  • Make the most of what you have. It’s easy to overspend on your hobby thinking you need the next big thing. If you sew, it’s tempting to upgrade your machine every couple of years, whether you need to or not. And if you hike, adding on ever more cool gear is tempting. The truth, though, is that you can probably enjoy your hobby without these things. I’d suggest instituting at least a one or two month waiting period before you can spend on pricey hobby-related items. In that time frame, you might just find that you don’t need the upgrade after all.

6. Sell stuff online

If you were thinking of having a yard sale, think again. By selling your unwanted items online, you’ll reach a much wider audience, including more of those who appreciate what you have to offer. Plus, online buyers will often pay more because they’re looking for exactly what you have.

Luckily, you’ve got a ton of options for selling online. Don’t want to mess with shipping heavy or bulky items? Check out your local Facebook sale group to make sales locally. Or list your items on Craigslist.

For smaller items that are easier to ship, you often don’t even have to take them to the post office for shipping. You can set up a package service to pick up the item from your home after you print the label. This makes selling items on eBay and other sites easier than ever.

Some sites, such as Swap.com and Thredup, will pay you for your old, lightly-used clothing and accessories. Swap gives you a shipping label to use, and Thredup will actually send you a bag for shipping your items in.

7. Start a new hobby

Are you currently working on an expensive hobby that’s draining your money? Consider starting a new one that actually makes money.

Some hobbies are great micro businesses. Maybe yours won’t make loads of money. But even if your hobby can pay for itself, you can have your leisure for free. Here are some ideas for hobbies you can turn into extra cash:

  • Building or fixing computers: This one’s easy to turn into a money-maker. Just become the local go-to guy for fixing or customizing computers.
  • Arts and crafts: Any sort of art or craft hobby likely has a market. And these hobbies can be expensive, so it’s a good idea to try selling your wares as you make them. Again, even if you just cover the cost of your materials to start, that lets you enjoy your hobby without spending loads of extra money.
  • Gardening: You can, of course, save some money for your family by growing fruits and vegetables you’d otherwise buy. But if you’ve got an eye for planning out beautiful flower beds, too, offer your services at installing and maintaining others’ landscaping.
  • Pets: One or two pets are great, but pets get expensive. If you love to spend time with animals but can’t afford to add any more to your family, consider starting a pet-sitting or pet walking business.

8. Ask for a raise

Sometimes it’s that simple. If it’s been a while since you’ve gotten a raise, or if you’ve recently taken on more responsibility, now is the time to ask.

First, put together your list of recent accomplishments. Hard numbers will often do more than anything else to actually get you that raise. Then, set up a meeting with your supervisor to talk specifically about your raise, or what you can do to earn one if you’re not quite there yet.

Of course, if the goal is to save more money, you should know what you’re going to do with that raise ahead of time. Adding it to your paycheck is a good way to start frittering away that extra money without even knowing where it’s going.Instead, consider directing that money straight to your savings account or 401(k), before it even hits your bank account.

9. Negotiate to work from home

More and more businesses are allowing or even welcoming their employees to work from home. And working from home can help you save loads of money.

Here are just some of the expenses that you can cut back by working from home, even one or two days per week:

  • Gas and car maintenance
  • Parking, if yours is paid daily, and toll roads
  • Dry cleaning or other clothing expenses
  • Less wear and tear on your more expensive work clothes
  • Eating out for lunch, work coffees, etc.
  • Time is money — if you cut out your commute, you have more time for side hustles or hobbies, and less time with the kids in childcare.

Plus, when you work from home, you can often find time to get extra things done around the house, which is just an added bonus!

Resource: Ten Tips For Cutting Car Expenses

10. Cut back on your monthly bills

Saving on things like groceries and dining out is great. But it takes a concerted effort and planning month after month.

An easier way to save right away is to cut back on those recurring monthly bills that you barely think about paying. This includes things like car and home insurance, phone and internet bills, recurring monthly subscriptions, cable, and more.

These are the types of bills that you should price shop at least once a year. So if it’s been more than a year since you last made sure you were getting the best possible rates in these areas, take a few hours to shop around. Start by calling your current providers and asking what they can do to lower your bill; sometimes, you can get a new discount just by asking for one.

Saving on these bills will save you money month after month. Just be sure to keep a running total of how much you’re saving, and then direct that amount to your savings account each month!

Learn More About Cutting the Cord

How else are you saving? Let us know in the comments.

{ 22 comments }

A while back, I wrote about the opinions of Scott Adams on his eventual success as the creator of the comic strip Dilbert. I focused on the failure aspect of the article he wrote for the Wall Street Journal and I wanted to revisit the topic, as only touched lightly on the success factors. Specifically, I want to talk about systems — a methodical way of approaching any particular effort — as one of the core components of success.

A household uses systems all the time. For example, you may have a system for effective grocery shopping. Perhaps you keep a notepad and pen on the refrigerator, write down anything you need to purchase when stocks are low, and take the list with you on your shopping day. For the most part, this should prevent you from veering away from the list too much when you shop.

Or, you might have a different system for grocery shopping. You may schedule an automatic shipment of groceries to be delivered to you from Amazon.com every two weeks, each time with the same basic order.

Can You Save With Amazon Subscribe-and-Save or Amazon Pantry?

If you read Consumerism Commentary regularly, it’s likely you have at least one system in place to improve your savings over the long-term. It’s a concept I’ve discussed many times in the past. And it’s such a basic piece of financial advice that you’ve no doubt heard of it even if you haven’t been reading my writing for long.

So, why automatic savings? And how can you set up this sort of system for your money? Let’s talk about that a bit today.

You must make your savings automatic.

By creating a system that handles your savings automatically, you eliminate or greatly reduce the chance of not reaching your goals. It’s a technique that someone at any income level can put into practice. Having a bank account (or an account at a credit union) makes it easier because financial institutions have technology that assists in this approach to money management.

Every once in a while, if you read about money management, you might come across a rule of thumb. “You should save 10 percent of your income” is one such common refrain. You can look at this either as a position to start or as a goal that might take some time to accomplish due to other factors. Even starting a savings system with 1 or 2 percent of your income is better than haphazardly setting money aside.

The point here isn’t setting your sights on a particular percentage. The point is to make a habit of savings, even if it’s only a few dollars a week. Luckily, there are plenty of easy ways to make that happen, including:

Direct deposit of your pay. The fewer hands that touch your money from the moment you receive it to the moment it is used, the better. Most modern employers offer direct deposit. Rather than receiving a paper check, you provide your banking information to the employer, and the company sends an electronic payment directly to your bank. In most cases, you receive your pay as much as a business day sooner, so you have the opportunity to pay bills or collect interest faster.

Today, about 82% of workers are paid through direct deposit. Luckily, that makes it easy to build savings. Often times with direct deposit, you can split your income between two or three different bank accounts. So you can have some percentage sent to your savings account before you even see your paycheck.

Even if you can’t sign up to split your check between accounts, moving your money straight to your checking account makes it easier to take advantage of the following options for automating your savings.

Automatic bank transfers. Almost every bank with which I’ve had an account — and that number is likely around forty — has some method of creating automatic transfers.

Let’s take my Wells Fargo account. When I sign in, the option to schedule an automatic transfer is one of the primary options in the menu. With income directly deposited into your checking account, and with a savings account earning at least a little bit of interest, you can create a savings system that you set once and forget about. After a few weeks of regular transfers (completed behind the scenes by the bank’s software), you won’t even notice the money isn’t in your checking account.

But a brick-and-mortar bank might not be the best option for savings. Sometimes your checking and savings accounts will be at two separate banks. In fact, often it’s better to separate these accounts so you can keep your savings in a bank that you’re not tempted to visit every day, like an online bank.

Related: The 4 Savings Accounts Everyone Should Have

Online banks often offer better interest rates, anyway. Over the last few years, the lines between online banks and brick and mortar banks have blurred. More traditional financial institutions are offering accounts you can only use online, for example.

The great part about many of these online banks, such as Capital One 360, is that you can link your online banking account with an account from another bank. You can then schedule automatic transfers to your online savings account, just like you would if your savings and checking accounts were with the same bank or credit union.

Value-added services. A few years ago, Bank of America introduced its “Keep The Change” program. When introduced, it was one of the first programs of its kind. Now, there are numerous banks doing the same thing, but they’re all a great hands-off savings option.

Here’s how it works: Every time you make a purchase with your debit card, the bank will round the transaction up to the nearest dollar and transfer the remainder into your Bank of America savings account. The bank’s savings account earns paltry interest compared to some other banks, but this systematic savings could still be substantial.

It’s like the old coin jar at home. At the end of the day, when you used to take the change out of your pocket and place it in your coin jar, saving your remainders. Since more people have moved away from cash transactions and started exclusively using plastic — credit cards and debit cards — the coin jar doesn’t receive as much attention as it used to.

See How Albert, Another App, Can Save Your Money Automatically

This, despite all the problems with Bank of America, was a clever extension of the coin jar metaphor into the digital age. Keep in mind, though, any interest you earn on savings in a bank account can be easily negated by account maintenance fees. You need access to free banking, especially if your savings isn’t large enough to produce interest that outweighs those fees.

Third-party services. Several penny-rounding and similar apps and services have popped up in recent years. These operate on a similar principle as the Keep the Change program, but are created by other entities.

One such option is Digit. This app tracks your bank account spending to watch for trends and habits. Then, it will transfer small amounts out of the account when you can afford it, to begin building a savings stash. When you’ve built up a little stash of cash (or on a weekly, monthly, or other regular basis), simply transfer it to your savings account and begin earning interest.

Another option is Acorns. This app hooks up to your bank accounts to track your spending. It rounds up the amount of each transaction to the nearest dollar, just like Keep the Change. When you get to a certain level of savings in the queue, it uses those funds to invest in low-cost EFTs.

Acorn is a little more sophisticated than past savings apps, since it invests your money rather than putting it into a savings account. With a $1 per month fee for accounts under $5,000 or .25% fees on balances of over $5,000, you could probably find lower-cost investments elsewhere. But if you have trouble saving, this could be an easy way to start investing without having to change your habits much at all.

There’s a drawback to automatic savings.

The advantage of creating this system for saving money can also create a money management problem. Once you stop actively making one particular decision with your income each pay period, it’s easy to forget what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. You need to continue to look at your financial status on a regular basis. Frequently evaluate whether the choices you made and set into motion with an automatic system continue to be the best options for you.

How Much Should You Be Saving? Check Out the 50-20-30 Rule

If you started by saving 2% of your income but your situation improved, have you also increased your savings rate? Can you get to 10% two years after starting your system? If you have been saving 10% and don’t feel any stress, is it safe to move to a 20% rate of savings? Once your system is a natural piece of your process — so much so that it is invisible to you — you could be giving up some control or awareness of your financial situation.

Personal finance is about making conscious choices with your money. That includes not using money without considering the circumstances. The present scenario changes over time, and a system does not relieve you of the need to see every pay check as a money-saving opportunity.

Automatic saving leads to success.

With that said, automating your savings could lead you to better success with your personal finances. With more savings, you can avoid expensive debt and reach financial independence sooner. Just set a reminder in your calendar to check back on your automated savings plan at least once a year, if not quarterly.

With review and tweaking, a system like automating your savings can make your personal finances less stressful and more successful.

How do you automate your savings?

{ 7 comments }

FNBO Direct Savings Account — Opening and a Review

by Luke Landes

While I’m generally happy with my Capital One 360 account for a good portion of my savings, I’m looking to spread the money around to take advantage of some higher interest rates. One of the banks I’ve targeted is FNBO Direct, the online arm of First National Bank of Omaha, currently offering 1.10 percent APY as […]

13 comments Read the full article →

Trump’s Childcare Plan: How the DCSA Will Affect You

by Stephanie Colestock

Whether you’re taking care of multiple children, a disabled spouse, or elderly parents, you’ve likely experienced the high cost of dependent care firsthand. With expenses from babysitters to after school programs, it can be difficult to stay ahead of all your other financial obligations while spending on dependent care. To help make dependent care more […]

2 comments Read the full article →

Financial Upgrades You Need After Becoming Parents

by Robert DiGiacomo

New baby? No doubt this new arrival has turned every aspect of your life upside down in the best possible way. Now is the time to make sure your financial house is in order. Here’s a 10-step account and financial checklist to lay the groundwork for your little one’s successful future. New account checklist for […]

5 comments Read the full article →

New 529A Plans Help Disabled People Save Tax-Free

by Luke Landes

Now that the government backed down on its proposed changes to 529 plans for future education expenses, we can expect the same tax benefits present for education to be applied to families and individuals who face expenses caring for disabled people. Families will be able to deposit funds into special savings accounts, called 529As, and […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Prize-Linked Savings: Win Money For Opening a Savings Account

by Luke Landes

Since December, federal banks and credit unions have been allowed to offer savings accounts that include a raffle element, after some states have allowed accounts like these for some time. The goal of these lottery-like accounts is to encourage more people to save money, particularly those households with low and moderate incomes. This was the […]

0 comments Read the full article →

What Is the Best Savings Rate?

by Luke Landes

People like rules of thumb and quick answers. When a complicated question can be answered by an authority with a simple response, the reaction is likely to be one of two possibilities: a feeling of well-being and satisfaction if the questioner is meeting the requirements, or motivation to improve if the ideal situation is not […]

3 comments Read the full article →
Page 1 of 1012345···Last »