Smart Banking and Saving Basics

Banks frequently use different methods to calculate interest. To compare how much money you’ll earn from various accounts in a year, ask for each account’s “annual percentage yield.” Banks typically quote both interest rates and APYs, but only APYs are calculated the same way everywhere. For short-term goals, this is easy. If you want to buy a video game, find out how much it costs; if you want to buy a house, determine how much of a down payment you’ll need. For long-term goals, such as retirement, you’ll need to do a lot more planning (figuring out how much money you’ll need to live comfortably for 20 or 30 years after you stop working), and you’ll also need to figure out how investments will help you achieve your goals.

What you save falls between two activities and their difference: how much you make and how much you spend. Since you have more control over how much you spend, it’s wise to take a critical look at your expenses. Write down everything you spend your money on for a couple weeks or a month. Be as detailed as possible, and try not to leave out small purchases. Assign each purchase or expenditure a category such as: Rent, Car insurance, Car payments, Phone Bill, Cable Bill, Utilities, Gas, Food, Entertainment, etc. pay for everything with cash or money orders. Don’t even use checks. It’s easier to overspend when you’re pulling from a bank or credit account because you don’t know exactly how much is in there. If you have cash, you can see your supply running low. You can even bundle up the predetermined amount of cash allocated for each expense with a label or keep separate jars for each expense (e.g. a bundle/jar for coffee, another for gas, another for miscellaneous). As you pull money from a jar for that particular expense, you’ll see how much remains and you’ll also be reminded of your limit.

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