$$ Easy Ways to Start Saving Today $$

By Cordell Thomas, Chief Impact Officer, United Way of the Inland Valleys


Our inability to save is making its rounds in the news, especially as federal employees (who are not getting paid) are indicating their concern through demonstrations and social media conversations about the furloughs and work without pay. Banks have stepped forward and offered zero to low interest loans to federal employees. Restaurants are offering free meals to federal employees.

It does bring to light how important having an emergency fund is for everyone. Emergencies are unplanned events – that’s why they become emergencies. Planning for the “just in case” is always prudent advice.

What would you do if had to go without pay for a month?

What’s on my mind now is this question: Is it because we are not in the wealthy class that we don’t save? Or is it because we don’t save we are considered not wealthy?

Recent data shows that 40% of Americans do not have even $400 saved for an emergency (link).

We also know that over a third of Riverside County residents are not making enough income to pay for just the basics in housing, food, child care and transportation without having to go into debt. And, it's not just those on minimum wage or low wage work. A family must make $68,789 a year to cover just the basics in Riverside County. More information can be found at: https://uwiv.org/real-cost-measure/.

This, indeed, is the most pressing issue – what changes can we make to our system to make sure that all people are financially stable? Email me with any ideas!

In the meantime, the financial literacy program that I lead helps foster young adults, college students, and young families maintain their housing, prepare for the unexpected, and save for their goals and for retirement. Best of all, it builds our community residents up to feel good about themselves – and less stressed!

One of the main objectives of financial literacy is to live within your means, but more so to save money so that you can have at least a 3-6 months emergency fund. Imagine if you had 3-6 months of an emergency fund – or imagine if you didn’t have 3-6 months of emergency funds – how would life be different for you? What decisions might you make? We would all sit more comfortably knowing that we had the means to take care of ourselves and our families through the development of a budget and a simple savings plan.

Here are my top ways to save for emergency:

  1. ESTABLISH your financial and life goals.

    One of the primary prerequisites to saving is establishing goals… short, mid & long-term. With established, written goals, you are more likely to achieve your objectives. What are your goals for the next year, next two year, next 10 years, how about retirement?

    2. Set up a BUDGET!

    With goals in mind, it is important to understand your spending patterns and establish a plan for spending and saving. With the budget you are more likely to reach your objectives. Search for free online budgeting tools and apps – or create your own. Look at your past spending through your online bank or keep track for one month.

    3. ALWAYS Pay yourself first.

    When you receive your paycheck, automate your savings by paying into your savings account first. You can track the amount you place into savings as based on your budget. Get in a new practice of saving consistently every month. Start small: how about $10 sent automatically to your savings account, or opt in to rolling up your purchases to be added to your savings, or saving up the change from every cash purchase? And, ask your bank about ways you can save – they are there to help!

    4. Live BELOW your means. Spend less than you make. That is what your budget plan is meant to do. As Americans we are an optimistic bunch. Most of us believe tomorrow or next year will be better than last year. That’s not always the case and an unexpected recession, lay off, or reduction in hours can always happen. Practice living below your means.

    5. Don’t follow the crowd. Looks can be deceiving. Following someone else based on the outward appearance doesn’t provide the reality of their lives. Many are in debt, and are living in the moment.

    6. Don’t let others decide what you can afford. Friends can really over-reach by telling you what you can and cannot spend your money on. It’s your money. Spend it based on YOUR decisions & your budget, not theirs.

    BONUS TIP

    7. Save aggressively now.

Kimberly StarrsComment