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7 ways to beef up your savings account

By Maryalene LaPonsie

Is your savings account perpetually stuck in the single digits? While it might seem inevitable now, there is no reason why your account has to always be on low. Whether you are dreaming of a new car or simply want a healthy emergency fund, here are seven easy ways to build up your stash of cash.

1. Pay yourself first

The best way to increase the balance in your savings account is to make it a priority to put money there. That means you need to stop thinking about savings as something you do at the end of the month after the bills are paid, and instead think of your savings account as one of the first bills to be paid.

Make a point to deposit money into your savings account every pay period. Even better, if your employer allows you to direct deposit to more than one account, arrange for 10 percent of your income to go into an online savings account or other high-yield account. If you think your budget is too tight to set aside that much, remember that at most institutions, money can easily be transferred from savings back to checking accounts. However, once that money is in savings, you might realize how little you really need it.

2. Use cash and save your pennies

A cash-only spending system can be beneficial for a variety of reasons. Some studies indicate consumers spend less with cash, and withdrawing a set amount of money for groceries, gas and discretionary spending can make it simpler to stick to a budget. It’s usually much easier to see how much cash you have left in your hand than to try to do fuzzy checking account math in your head.

Combine your cash system with a good old-fashioned coin jar to give your savings an added kick. Put your coins and dollar bills in the jar each evening. Then, count it at the end of each month and deposit it into your savings account and voila! Painless saving!

3. Save, don’t spend, ‘found’ money

Everyone “finds” money sometimes. It could be literally found in an old coat or the couch cushions, or it could come in the form of a rebate, refund or even that check Aunt Millie sends each year for your birthday.

But rather than sticking that cash in your wallet and letting mocha lattes and vending machines erode it away, store it in your savings account and earmark it for a higher purpose, like that vacation you’ve been promising yourself the last three years.

4. Direct deposit your tax refund

Along those same lines, sock away that check from Uncle Sam you may receive each year. Fortunately, the government offers direct deposit, making it easy to route that money right into your savings account. Because you’ll never see it in your checking account balance, you’ll be less tempted to use it on, say, a treadmill that you’ll use twice.

5. Sell your clutter

Maybe it’s too late and you’ve already bought the treadmill. Don’t despair. Unloading all the useless items from your house can lighten your clutter and fatten your wallet. Excess clothes can go to a consignment shop, DVDs hiding in the dark corners of the entertainment center can find new homes on, and large items can be sold on Craigslist. Then take all that new-found cash to your bank and watch your savings account interest grow.

6. Roll your interest

Whenever you have the opportunity, roll any interest you earn back into your savings. This is particularly true with CDs and other high-yield savings accounts. You may think of CD interest as income to be spent once the CD matures, but it is better to instead lump it into that “found” category to be saved. Keeping it invested will allow you to reap the sweet rewards of compound interest.

7. Reduce spending

Yes, it seems obvious. But spending less really is a great way to free up money for savings. You may think your expenses are fixed, but there is probably plenty of room to cut costs. Consider a cheaper cable package, find a checking account with fewer fees, clip coupons, compare insurance rates, ride the bus or even refinance your mortgage and auto loans. Budget trimming is as much an art as it is a science, and there is virtually no limit to the possibilities for shaving monthly expenses.

If you view it as a priority, saving money doesn’t have to be painful. And once you create a saving plan that you can follow, you may never find your balance lingering in the single digits again.

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