It’s all about saving during America Saves Week, and saving is something we all can do better. Just 40 percent of U.S. households are doing a good job saving money, according to an annual survey by Consumer Federation of America, which started the nationwide saving initiative in 2001.
“America Saves Week reminds people across our country of the value of developing a financial plan and saving to help achieve their goals,” says Thomas J. Curry of the U.S. Treasury Department on the AmericaSavesWeek website.
Saving tips and tricks
America Saves offers 54 ways to save on everything from entertainment to home heating and cooling.
Among the tips are six ideas to save by smartly using credit and debit cards:
1. Track your spending. Every month, sit down and review your credit card statements and other records, and analyze your purchases. Decide if some of your discretionary spending can go toward an emergency fund instead.
2. Limit your credit card purchases. Buy things on credit only if you’re able to pay them off in full before interest accrues.
3. Watch those overdraft fees. Never rely on your debit card’s overdraft option.
4. Bring your credit card debt down by $1,000, which can save you up to $200 a year, and a lot more if you’re paying high penalties.
5. Make your card payments on time. Those late fees add up and can really take a toll on your credit score.
6. Save around $150 a year by using only ATMs in your network.
Create a plan for successful saving
The America Saves survey found that those who have a “savings plan with specific goals” are more successful. Eighty-four percent of respondents with a saving plan spend less than their income and save the difference, compared to 46 percent of those without a plan. Over half of those with a plan reported “making good or excellent saving progress,” compared to less than a quarter of those without a plan.
To get started on your own savings goals, America Saves invites you to “take the pledge.” The online tool allows you to enter a savings goal and a set length of time to achieve it. America Saves will send you regular text messages containing tips and reminders to help you along the way.
Never too late to start saving
One of the central messages of America Saves Week is that it’s never too late to start saving. Even as America Saves Week (Feb. 22-27) is ending, you can start setting some financial goals — for a vacation, an emergency fund or your retirement.
“It’s a common theme to see expenses and debt get in the way of retirement savings,” says Kathy Stokes, director of the American Savings Education Council, in a news release. “But even saving just a small amount can add up over time.”