COLUMBIA, MO (KFVS & U of MO EXTENSION SERVICE) - Money is so easy to spend; it slips through fingers like water. Even with the best intentions to put a little money aside every month, we often find there's nothing left when the month comes to a close.
But saving doesn't have to be hit-or-miss. There are simple tricks that can help you pay yourself first. A great place to start is with your annual income tax refund. You can use some or all of it to start on the road to a lifetime of saving.
"A lot of people, especially low-income people, get a fairly sizable tax refund," said Brenda Procter, state consumer and family economics specialist for University of Missouri Extension.
"That's the one time of year when they actually have some money to think about. So it's a perfect time to think about paying yourself first."
You can set aside some of your refund to build an emergency fund. "Research shows that a $500emergency fund is enough to keep most people out of trouble if something goes wrong," Procter said.
Another tip: When you pay off a loan, continue to make that payment, but pay yourself rather than the creditor.
"When you do little tricks like that, you'll be amazed at how much you can put aside without really feeling it or without it having an effect on your family," Procter said.
There are so many ways in day-to-day life in which nickels, dimes and dollars slip away unnoticed. Sometimes dropping a habit can keep money from leaking out of your budget. Eating
out is probably one of the biggest thieves of loose change and small bills.
"Let's say one person in the family is spending $5 a day eating out. If you didn't do that for a
year, you'd have almost $2,000 by the end of the year," Procter said.
Little by little, it all adds up. Saving for an emergency, retirement or a financial goal is a worthwhile pursuit.
With the U.S. savings rate at half what it was in the late 1950s, University of Missouri Extension is joining forces with America Saves to encourage Missourians to set aside funds for the future.
To help Missourians get into the saving habit, Feb. 20-26 will be designated Missouri Saves Week by Gov. Jay Nixon. Every MU Extension region will have activities to show people in the Show-Me State ways to build good saving habits. Contact your MU Extension office to learn of activities in your area.
Today, many Americans are not saving for retirement, and most low-income households do not have enough emergency funds to adequately deal with emergencies.
For more information, see "Getting Started Saving" at http://missourifamilies.org/features/financearticles/saving.htm.