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  • Putting America Saves Week Into Action– Step 1: Cutting costs to save for emergencies

    ASWGraphicAmerican Saves Week is a chance each year for everyone to assess their spending and saving habits and to take actions to save more. According to America Saves, only 54% of Americans have a savings plan with specific goals. We know from our own research that women in particular are not saving enough with retirement in mind. On average, women receive significantly less than men in retirement income, and they grow poorer as they grow older. By age 75, 13.3% of women live in poverty, compared to only 6.7% of men.

    America Saves Week is a great opportunity to take little steps and begin to save or increase savings you may already have. Each day has a theme to help you along the way.

    1. Monday February 24: Save for Emergencies
    2. Tuesday February 25: Pay Off High-Interest Debt
    3. Wednesday February 26: Save Automatically
    4. Thursday February 27: Save for Retirement
    5. Friday February 28: Save at Tax Time
    6. Saturday March 1: Assess Your Savings

    This year, WISER’s own Laura Patch will participate in each of these steps and blog about her experience. Follow along with her and comment about your own experiences!

    This weekend, I started by taking the American Saves Week’s pledge. I thought it was a good place to begin so that I have a specific goal in mind for the rest of the week. You can choose from many categories for your savings goal. I was torn between education and retirement, but ultimately chose retirement because while I am still paying student loans, I feel I need to prepare more for retirement. I personally am a very long-term planner, so it suits me to plan ahead. You may have other goals that are important to focus on this year, and that’s okay! Saving for retirement still has its own step this week. Even if it’s not your priority over the next few days, you’ll still have an opportunity to consider it.

    My next step was to take a detailed look at my budget. I used WISER’s budget worksheet to help with this task. Normally we suggest that you track your spending for a month, but since I was just looking for areas to cut costs, I used my expenses from January. I starred items that were absolute necessities which I cannot immediately cut down on (rent, utilities, insurance payments, etc.). Next I circled items that are necessities, but could bear looking at more closely. I made a detailed list of expenses in these circled categories.

    Two big areas where I feel I can cut spending are food and gifts for family and friends.

    Sweetgreen Two days a week I leave my house at 8am and do not get back until after 9:30pm! On these days I will bring one meal, usually dinner, and go out for the other. Even if all I buy is a salad, my meal can cost me $10 or more each time. If a buy a salad from a grocery store when I do my regular shopping, it costs less than $5! In just over ONE month, that can save me $40. It’s worth carrying around an extra meal for two days.

    I also noticed during the holiday season that I splurged on last minute gifts for friends and family, paying the heavy cost of buying anything to get my shopping done because I did not plan ahead. It was clear I was still paying for it in January when I lacked funds. I kept that in mind when I went to Eastern Market this past weekend. I came across some items that were on sale and perfect for some birthdays coming in a few months. So I bought them now instead of waiting to buy them closer to the birthday dates when I might be inclined to spend more to find a last minute gift. They are the perfect gifts, and due to the sale, cost only $10 per person! I normally spend around $40, so I saved a great amount!

    I calculated how much I would normally spend on the food and gift items, and transferred that amount to my savings account. It’s a small amount for an emergency fund, but we have to start somewhere, right?

    pink piggy and handI also started using a tip from America Saves. Their very first tip on 54 Ways to Save is to save spare change. I’ve started a jar for coins. I am also researching the best way to exchange change for bills. Coinstar machines, which are popular in grocery stores, charge you for every dollar. If you sort and roll the coins yourself, many banks will not charge you for the exchange, or will do so but at a smaller cost than Coinstar. If you have a suggestion though, let me know in the comments!

    See you tomorrow for looking at paying off debt!

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    About Us

    WISER is a nonprofit organization that works to help women, educators and policymakers understand the important issues surrounding women's retirement income. WISER creates a variety of consumer publications including fact sheets, booklets and a quarterly newsletter that explain in easy-to-understand language the complex issues surrounding Social Security, divorce, pay equity, pensions, savings and investments, banking, home-ownership, long-term care and disability insurance.

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