Looking over your budget

Kathy Wright of USAmeriBank

Kathy Wright of USAmeriBank

The start of a new year is the perfect time to take a fresh look at your budget. And while you’re at it, let’s look at 2014 as an opportunity to save some money in ways you hadn’t thought of before. Kathy Wright, branch manager of the USAmeriBank 4th Street N office, gives some tips on ways to save money this year.

Start a savings account, if you don’t already have one.

Opening a savings account is often the first step to actively setting aside money. When you have a specific place to set aside money, you’re more likely to save. Take the opportunity to look at how much excess money you have each month and start setting at least some of it aside.

Look for a bank that will be a good financial partner.

When starting a savings account, do your research and find a bank that will best help you with your savings needs. Having a good financial partner can help you manage and maintain your short and long-term goals. They can assist you with looking at the interest rates offered and seeing if those rates fit in with your goals. Choosing a bank that will give you sound financial advice will help you plan for the future and maximize your money’s earning potential.

If you can, set up an automatic payment to your savings account each month.

Much like how you can set up payment of bills, you can schedule an automatic deposit into your savings account on a certain day every month. This turns saving money into a routine, eventually causing it to become a habit.

Cut out unnecessary spending.

Try to spend less on nonessential indulgences. Think to yourself, do I really need it or do I just want it? For example, if you buy coffee at a coffee shop every morning, sit down and calculate how much you would save by making coffee at home instead. Or add up how much you spend on buying lunch every day, to see what you could be saving if you brought your lunch.

If you get extra money you didn’t expect, save it.

Putting unexpected money into a savings account is a great way to ramp up your savings program.  This could include such things as monetary gifts from the holidays, income from a side job, or a bonus at work. As another example, if you have a garage sale, take the proceeds and set them aside for your savings. It may be appealing to spend this extra income, but saving it can help you more aggressively pay down debt at some point, or comfortably make larger purchases down the road.

Keep close track of your spending.

Set spending limits for each month and stick to them. Making a list and budgeting out your spending ahead of time will help you stay on track with your finances. When shopping, whether it’s for groceries, household items, etc., work from a list. This will help eliminate impulse buying.

Set short-term goals.

Sometimes, long-term goals can seem daunting and unreachable. So start out by setting manageable short-term goals, such as how much money you’ll save each month. This will seem more achievable and will add up in the long run. For example, setting aside $50 a month may sound like a more obtainable goal than saving $600 a year, even though that’s what your monthly savings would add up to.

It’s never too early to save.

Even though this seems obvious, it’s important to remember that the sooner you start saving, the more you’ll have down the road. Hold yourself accountable for putting money away.

Kathy Wright is a Senior Vice President and retail branch manager for the USAmeriBank 4th Street N office. Wright has over 30 years of banking experience in retail and wealth management serving the St. Petersburg area. She was born and raised in St. Petersburg. She is a member of Krewe of Princess Ulele, is a member of   the Northeast Exchange Club and chaired Relay for Life in St. Petersburg in 2013 and 2014.

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