Saving is easiest when it’s done automatically

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Even if you’re not the type to make resolutions, the new year is a good time to make changes. It’s a neat dividing line between the old and the new.

That’s especially true when it comes to money. The new year comes on the heels of the holiday season, probably our most indulgent–and expensive–time of the year. A lot of us have stretched ourselves to accommodate our generosity during the holidays. Nothing wrong with that, but that stretch has a way of focusing the mind on money matters.

So, if your mind is focused, a good place to start is to look at making the most of your money in the new year. One of the best ways to do that is to automate savings. Saving doesn’t come naturally to most of us, but if you get in the habit, it’s easy—and saving money is easiest if you don’t have to think about it. Here are four ways to do that.

 

Embrace automatic deposits

Chances are if you can see money, you’ll probably spend it.  If you keep a lot of money in your checking account, it can tempt you and lead to a free-spending mindset. If that money is tucked away in a savings account or CD, it creates another step to gain access to it—and you’re doing your future self a favor.

A good way to get started or boost your savings is to have a portion of your paycheck automatically deposited into your savings account. You still have access to your money if you need it, but it can be the start of something bigger—a regular savings routine. Starting with savings first is better than waiting until the end of the month to see what’s left over.

Another automatic savings option is OCCU’s Change Jar, which rounds up debit purchases to the nearest dollar and deposits the difference into your savings account. It’s easy, automatic and painless.

 

Manage your savings with ease

In this ‘there’s-an-app-for-that’ age, you can find a lot of digital tools to help you save.

A convenient way to enhance your savings is the Savings Goals tool on MyOCCU Online & Mobile. You can establish different savings goals, like ‘Emergency Fund’ or ‘Vacation,’ and then make deposits into them either automatically or manually. You can prioritize your savings goals or fund them all equally. The Savings Goal tool tracks your progress and gives you visibility on your progress. With that visibility, your savings goal becomes more real to work towards.

 

Take full advantage of retirement plans

A 401(k) retirement plan is another automatic way to save. The money comes directly from your paycheck and chances are—you won’t even miss it. If your employer offers to match a percentage of your 401(k) contributions, make sure you’re taking full advantage of it. Otherwise, you’re passing up free money.

Another advantage is that contributions to 401(k) plans aren’t taxed until they’re withdrawn, which may reduce your taxable income for the year of the contributions.** That can mean a little more money in your pocket–or savings account–come tax time.

**Consult your tax advisor for tax information.

 

Put your money to work

Make sure you’re getting the most interest you can on your money. Generally, keep what you need for routine living expenses in your checking account and put any excess into some type of higher-earning savings account.

Take a close look at the interest rates of your accounts. Some checking account yields can exceed savings accounts. OCCU’s Remarkable Checking is an account to consider to help put your money to work. If you can afford to leave money untouched for a period of six to 60 months, check out a certificate of deposit. With generally higher rates, you’ll earn more in the long run.