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Personal Savings 101

Saving money can be difficult, but there are a number of personal savings strategies that can make the process less onerous.

It can be helpful to step back and think about what the term personal savings really means.  Personal savings is a direct and conscious effort to allocate or set aside money for future use.  This direct and conscious act is were most of us fail.  We spend time thinking about how to spend money and very little time thinking about how to save money.

It is important to note that personal savings requires that we take action and this action is best taken sooner rather than later.  This action requires some forethought or planning.  This planning can be a fun experience and it presents an opportunity for individual growth and for families to work together to achieve their goals.

The planning component consists of determining how much, how often, and where is the money going to come from and go to.  Absent a large monetary windfall, this process starts by developing and adhering to a sensible budget.  The budget will identify discretionary cash flow that can be saved rather than consumed.

Once the individual or family discretionary cash flow is identified, some thought must be given to where and how to invest or otherwise hold the money.  Many experts recommend that savings be placed out of easy reach and that the money be deposited or transferred automatically and on a regular basis.

Direct deposits from employer paychecks or automatic payments from an online bill pay services are usually good candidates.  Investing in forced savings vehicles such as employer-provided retirement plans, certificates of deposit (CD), or treasury or municipal bonds can help curb the temptation to spend down savings as account balances accrue.

If individual or family savings exceed the targeted goal, the individual or family should consider spending the excess to reward the saving behavior.  This expense can be viewed as an investment, as it can provide positive reinforcement and it can foster further savings efforts and it can go a long way in ensuring that the savings process continues over the long term.

Even small savings now, if made regularly and consistently, can produce big results over time.

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