Savings: Starting from Scratch

Posted by Amanda on January 19, 2010

My fiancé and I recently purchased a home, as well as a used vehicle when my car died. In other words…we are close to starting from scratch with our savings. We have not been this low in our emergency or other savings accounts in years, and so I thought this would be a great time to talk about how to go from $0 to meeting your savings goals.

The first step, of course, is just to start.

Start Saving Today, Not Tomorrow

Perhaps you think you should set a goal first, or should wait until next month, or fill in the blank. But I am here to tell you that today is the time to start your savings, not tomorrow. How many times have you put off starting something until tomorrow, only to find yourself never having started it at all?

I can give you a great example of how this backfired on me. I wanted to purchase US Steel Stock when it was at $17.00 per share earlier this year. Because I didn’t know how to trade for individual stock at that point (I only had experience with a mutual fund and IRAs), I waited. And waited…and when I finally took action and bought the stock, it was at $39 per share. That was an opportunity loss of $1,000.

Today is a powerful time because you are in the position to make a change, to take action, and to do it now. It doesn’t matter what this money is going to be earmarked for; life costs money, so you might as well start saving now. You can start with $10 this week, $100 this month, whatever. Just start.

Opening up a savings account that has an easy interface and automatic withdrawals is the best way to take this step today. ING Direct offers both of these.

Set a Goal

Now that you have an account and have begun to put money into it, sit down and think about what your financial goals are. Do not limit yourself during this session; I know I have a tendency to put down on paper what I think I can accomplish. By writing down what I want to accomplish, it opens up possibilities. You will be amazed at what can happen with an open mind.

Here are some ideas to get you thinking: designate your savings for an emergency fund, a honeymoon or trip, a downpayment on a house, a car, your child’s college fund, etc.  

Boost Your Motivation

By starting out strong, you will increase your motivation to continue, thus saving even more money in the end. Do this by signing up for an account with a bank bonus (check out Free Money for current bonuses). It doesn’t matter if you opened up an account just to get you started, because you can easily transfer that money to this new account. For example, I started our honeymoon account with Bank of America, and transferred it to Chase for a $150 bank bonus. What a way to increase my can-do attitude!

Find Some More Money

Using this savings calculator, determine how long, at your current rate of automatic withdrawals, it will take you to reach your goal. Does this seem too long for you to wait? Then you need to find money elsewhere to increase your savings.

An idea to start with is to cut your grocery bills. You could also transfer your prescriptions and get gift cards to grocery stores or drug stores, or turn your belongings into cash.

Evaluate How You are Doing

Try out your system for six months or so, and then revisit and see how much money you have accumulated. Perhaps after six months you have gotten a pay raise, or your goal needs tweaking, or you can move your savings over to another account with a sign-up bonus. By evaluating how you are doing, you may be able to accelerate your savings and reach your goal faster.

Remember that for every dollar you pay for something with money from your savings account instead of by credit card or loan, you are saving yourself interest. On top of that, you have earned interest on that money before it is spent. Saving your money and paying for your future with cash is truly the way to get ahead. And I don’t know about you, but I would rather be ahead than behind.

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Comments to Savings: Starting from Scratch

  1. This article was perfect timing… I just wrote about having to start again at 0 earlier today! I went through the same thing when I bought a car, house, and a trip to Croatia all within 4 months… wiped my savings out. (The house kinda fell into my lap! I normally plan better)

    Now with house projects, trips, etc. I find myself back at the beginning again…

    Thanks for the great motivation and post full of great links


  2. Hey Laura!

    I’m glad I’m not the only one….:). Thanks for the comment!

    Amanda L. Grossman

  3. Hey Laura,

    ‘Starting from Scratch.’ Heh, that pretty much reminds me of myself. I do agree with you about saving, setting goals, motivating yourself, finding other means of income, and evaluating the situation. But, good for you, you started early. Just to share my story, I was neck deep in debts a while back because of my ‘not-so-wise’ use of my credit cards. Depressed & panicky, I scrimped,saved,got more extra income and paid as much debts as I could. But, somehow, all my efforts weren’t enough. Finally, I sought debt elimination advice. And, that solved my woes… and started from scratch again!

    Thanks so much for your story. I enjoyed reading it. God bless on your future 😉


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