Because everyone prioritizes his or her spending needs and wants differently, you'll never catch me telling you that you should be spending a certain amount of your income in one category or another. Budgets depend too much on how much money you bring in, your cost-of-living, and your debt situation for me to suggest how to allocate your funds. So, while it's up to you to decide how your money is best spent, I will tell you that having an emergency "rainy day" fund is a key component of feeling more financially secure and can save you from debt-tragedy if an emergency were to arise.
Here's how strongly I believe in building a savings cushion: even if you're not going into debt because of your lifestyle, I would argue that if you don't have any savings to fall back on it can be as detrimental as living beyond your means. I'm not talking about a down payment sized account, because it's true that any savings is better than none. Figure out how much you want to save and put a deadline on it — and use our savings calculator to do the math! The very best way to stick to a savings goal is to have the money transferred from your checking to savings account before you have the chance to spend it, and once you've figured out a way to cut your expenses so that you have extra cash you'll be on your way. Many people have expressed their exasperation at trying to find the money to contribute to savings, and for my tips on where to find extra money read more.
- How many nights do you go out with friends? Cut it back by a day (unless your answer was one night) and find an alternative — maybe have friends over instead of going out.
- Is your gym one of the more expensive ones in your city? There are certainly cheaper alternatives and you won't have to look too far.
- Close to paying off a credit card? Put what used to be your monthly payment into your emergency fund.
- Do you find that you're constantly throwing out perished items from your refrigerator or stale pantry items? That means you're not shopping smartly and are buying things that you're not sure you'll use. Write down the ingredients you'll need for the week's meals and buy only the items on your list, and if it's unrealistic that you'll grocery shop each week, plan to make certain meals during the week and pick up the ingredients the day of when you're out and about.
- Do you get your nails done every week? Think about changing to every other week and save the difference.
- If you live in a city and rely on cabs to transport you on evenings out that can come out to be $20 if you go out both nights. Consider sticking to places in walking distance for a while and saving your would-be cab fare instead.
You don't have to cut things out of your life that you enjoy, just scale back slightly and modify. Once you're in the habit of saving, you'll find more and more ways to boost your emergency fund. Keep in mind that the best way is to automate your savings — you're less likely to spend money if it's in your savings account and you have to make the conscious effort of transferring to your checking account if you want to spend it.