There are a lot of things a person might feel guilty about. For example, if you routinely flip the bird to slow drivers, maybe it’s time to rethink your behavior. If you’re deliberately unkind to waitstaff, you should ask yourself why.
However, if you feel guilty because you don’t have as much money in a savings account as you believe you should or you’re not doing things “just right,” it’s time to give yourself a break. All human beings make mistakes; there’s no shame in that. The goal is to learn what we can from those times and grow from them.
One thing some of us have found shocking (even after decades of banking) is how much interest rates vary. For example, credit unions are member-owned, so they often offer a higher interest rate than traditional banks do. And since online banks have become an option, they nearly always provide higher rates. That’s because online banks don’t have brick-and-mortar buildings or expensive overhead that traditional banks deal with. In other words, they can pay more.
If you’re the kind of customer who’s faithful to their financial institution no matter how much it costs, that may be admirable, but if it means earning less than you could, it’s a lot like shooting yourself in the financial foot.
Shopping around is the only way to know if you’re leaving money on the table. Take a look at online banks, credit unions, and even other traditional banks.
2. Agreeing to pay a monthly fee
With so many savings accounts from which to choose, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would agree to continue to pay a monthly maintenance fee. According to Experian, maintenance fees are more common among financial institutions that still have brick-and-mortar locations. And while the monthly fee varies by bank, it usually ranges from $5 to $8 for a traditional savings account.
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Paying a monthly fee only makes sense when you have no other options.
3. Dipping in
It’s easy to open a savings account. It’s more difficult to leave that account alone to grow when temptation strikes. Before withdrawing money from savings, ask yourself if the money is a necessity or a desire. For example, if there’s a sale on your favorite tennis shoes but you already have plenty of shoes, the decision should be pretty straightforward. However, if your child wants to play on a travel soccer team and you don’t have the money in your checking account to pay the entrance fee, the decision is a bit tougher.
If you must withdraw money from your savings account, make a plan to repay yourself. Here’s a sample of quick ways you can save money and repay your account:
- Cut your auto insurance bill: You can save hundreds of dollars a year by changing auto insurance companies. You can save even more by bundling that coverage with another policy, such as homeowners or renters insurance.
- Shave your cellphone bill: If you’re not using all the bells and whistles you’re paying for (like cell capability for your smartwatch, international calling, or specific apps), switch to a more affordable plan.
- Look into a level payment plan: If you’re stretching your budget each month when utility bills come due, call to find out if your utility companies offer a year-round level payment plan. Doing so can save you a bundle of money in months when utility usage is high.
- Have an online garage sale: Gone are the days when you had to carry everything to your garage, post signs, and allow strangers to sort through your belongings. Look around your house to determine what you would be willing to let go — for a price. Then, advertise those items on a neighborhood site like Nextdoor.com or on Facebook Marketplace. You’d be surprised how many people are looking for an old mirror or kid’s playhouse.
4. Failing to take advantage of high-yield savings accounts
One of the easiest ways to earn money today is to take advantage of a high-yield savings account. If your money is parked in a standard savings account, ask yourself why. It’s just as safe in a high-yield account and nearly as easy to get to if an emergency arises (by law, you can withdraw from many high-yield accounts up to six times per month without paying a fee).
The difference is this: Rather than earning less than 1% interest, your money can earn an APY of 5% or more in one of the best high-yield savings accounts.
5. Not signing up for automatic transfers
Signing up to have a specific amount of money automatically deposited into savings from a payroll check or checking account is a simple process. Why bother with an auto-deposit? CBS News explains it this way: “Automated savings help overcome the inertia of manual transfers.”
It’s easy to postpone the task when you’re making transfers manually. But when you sign up for auto-savings, you don’t have to give it a second thought.
Finally, don’t fall into the trap of believing you must save large amounts of money at a time. Even if you can only put a few dollars away each week, you’re moving in the right direction.
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