The 8th annual America Saves Week, celebrated Feb. 24-March 1, is a reminder to organizations and individuals to set and achieve their savings goals.
MANHATTAN, Kan. – The concept is “pay yourself first.” Putting money aside that you planned to save before spending it elsewhere means that you managed your savings goal up front. Then you don’t have to mentally account for saving money again until the time comes to make the next self-payment.
“Savings is a challenge for many of us, but it can be easier if we set a goal,” said Elizabeth Kiss, assistant professor in the Department of Family Studies and Human Services at Kansas State University and family resource management specialist for K-State Research and Extension. “We can’t just leave it to, ‘I’ll save whatever is left over.’”
America Saves Week is an annual event in its 8th year that provides an opportunity to bring awareness to organizations and individuals about examining their savings status, managing their savings and promoting good savings behavior. It will take place Feb. 24-March 1.
The America Saves website offers many savings success stories and tools to help people set and manage their savings goals, Kiss said. Kansas Saves, which is coordinated by Kiss, is a website specifically for Kansas residents and also offers the opportunity to pledge to save. Participants can opt-in to receive text message reminders to make contributions to their savings, according to their goals. The websites are not the saving vehicles, but rather can serve as motivators to save.
“The America Saves and Kansas Saves (websites) are available all year round, but America Saves Week is always the last week in February,” Kiss said. “That’s a really good time to think about saving. Christmas is over. It’s also a time people are thinking about their tax refunds and what to do with that money.”
According to America Saves Week’s annual national survey assessing household saving in 2013, only about half of Americans reported good savings habits. The survey found that 54 percent said they had a savings plan with specific goals, 43 percent had a spending plan that allowed them to save enough money to achieve their savings plan goals, 50 percent of those not retired said they save for retirement through work plans, 41 percent said outside of work they save automatically through regular preauthorized transfers into savings or investments, and 49 percent knew their net worth.
Picturing the end result, Kiss said, can help people become savers. People might think about putting a picture on their refrigerator or desk of an item they are saving money to purchase.
“It keeps the motivation in the front of your mind and makes it easier to follow through with it,” Kiss said.
Sharing a savings goal with one of the websites or another person makes people more accountable to meet their goals, but Kiss said people should remember that just because they say a goal out loud, doesn’t mean they have accomplished it. For those who haven’t started a savings plan yet, it is important to remember that each person’s goal will be different and must be realistic.
“You have to look at your situation,” Kiss said. “You need to know where your money is currently going, if you are satisfied with that, and if not, what changes you would like to make.”
Many times people have the idea that they need to save a lot of money in a short period of time, she said, especially those who don’t have a savings habit already in place.
“If you’re not currently saving, it’s probably not realistic to think in those terms,” Kiss said. “What really does work for most people is to set a small, achievable goal, even if that goal is $5 per week or $20 per month. Once you do achieve it, you’ll feel successful. It’s all about changing the mindset from ‘I don’t save’ to ‘I’m a saver.’”
Many times savers will be less stressed and have more peace of mind, Kiss said. Part of having that peace of mind is building up an emergency fund before saving for anything nonessential. Nearly all people will encounter an emergency where the extra money could help.
“Research has shown that fewer than half of Americans could come up with $2,000 within 30 days to meet an emergency,” Kiss said. “If you don’t have $2,000 set aside that you can access fairly readily, then an emergency fund might be a good place to start.”
Getting high-interest debt paid off while saving, and finding an effective balance for both, is another way to increase net worth, Kiss said. Cutting back on spending leaks—those small, sometimes $10 or less routine purchases—can help manage that balance.
“For people who don’t have a lot of savings and also have credit card debt or consumer loans to pay off, one way might be to save a bit and pay a bit more when paying off debt,” she said. “Try to work on them both simultaneously.”
Saving more for retirement is another item to consider, Kiss said, and depending on age, retirement is a hard visual for many people.
“If it’s several years away still, it’s hard to see what it looks like,” Kiss said. “Save earlier for big goals like that, so what you save grows over time. If you start young and set aside even small amounts, it adds up.”
Kiss said ultimately where you put your savings is a personal choice. People have many options to transfer funds into savings accounts, money market accounts and certificates of deposit, for example, including automating the transfer through an employer or automating it personally from a checking account. Many savers find it works to keep the savings funds separate from a checking account used for everyday purchases.
America Saves Twitter chats, sponsored by eXtension allow for public social media discussions about saving money. The next chat will be Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. CST. Find out more here.