You created an emergency fund, and built it up so it covers three months of living expenses. You paid off your high-interest debt. You funnel 15% of your income to retirement.
That’s good work. But, um — now what?
If you’re wondering how to save money, push yourself beyond basic savings goals by taking on these steps.
Check your budget
If you used a strict budget to pay down toxic debt, you may want to switch to something like the 50/30/20 budget. Those already using that budget may want to re-evaluate what counts as wants and needs now that more money is available.
Tackle lower-priority debt
High-interest credit card debt likely took priority when you started tackling your balances. With those under control, turn your attention to lower-interest, longer-term debt like student or auto loans.
Get more from your savings
If you’re like a lot of people, your money is sitting in a savings account at the same bank as your checking account, earning around 0.06% in interest a year. But it could be growing faster. Look into moving your savings or emergency fund into an alternative type of account.
Certificates of deposit can lock money up for a specified period of time while earning a higher rate of interest than the average savings account. CDs make a great parking spot for extra savings, but not so much for your emergency fund, which should be accessible. High-yield savings accounts are a better option for those funds, as they often have a higher minimum balance requirement, offer accessibility to what’s in them, and can have interest rates as high as 1%.
Re-evaluate how much you need to save for retirement. It may make sense to kick more toward your 401(k) or to set up an individual retirement account. Giving more to your child’s 529 plan is also a worthwhile investment. If you want to build a portfolio, look into a broker who can start you off with exchange-traded funds and mutual funds, which are easy to manage and help diversify from the start.
Start by revisiting the basics, like car insurance and homeowner’s insurance. Depending on where you are in life, consider preparing for more. Marianela Collado, a certified financial planner with Tobias Financial Advisors in Florida, advises you have a plan in place in case disaster strikes. “You need to worry about a catastrophe,” she says. Look to life insurance and estate planning for these needs.
With the basics covered, devote your attention to projects or savings goals that you may have put off. Whether it’s a family vacation, a small-business venture, pursuing a hobby or a down payment on a home, now is the time to focus your cash on the big picture. Like any savings goal, make sure you have a number in mind before you get going. “Figure that out, put a plan together and go for it,” says John Anderson, a certified financial planner and founder of Cypress Wealth Management in Tennessee.
Whatever your next step may be, don’t forget to be proud of what you’ve achieved so far. “Congratulate yourself for having the fortitude to put your house in order,” says Anderson. Whether you take yourself to a nice dinner or indulge in a fun purchase, reap the rewards of your efforts before getting back to work.