Saving money is never easy, but it’s not impossible. Even if you’re self-employed or run your own business, there are a few things that make saving easier.
Obviously, savings accounts are the #1 way to make sure you’re saving money—but how do you make the savings account work for you? Growing up as a young professional, I didn’t always think of my savings accounts as a useful tool.
But now that I’m living in an expensive city, living a relatively expensive lifestyle, I’ve had to find creative ways to save on my day-to-day expenses, plus figure out which savings accounts will work for me today.
Savings accounts come in so many shapes and sizes and I won’t lie: the financial world still confuses me immensely. But after lots of research, trial and error, and some lucky investments, I’ve managed to put together a small savings for my most immediate needs and for the future.
Whether it’s a high-interest savings account, one of these new savings apps, an investment account, or a retirement savings account, I’ve used them all. Check out my tips for opening and using savings account below.
Other personal finance blogs you might be interested in:
5 Things You Can do with a Savings Account
1. Start saving early
From an early age, my parents taught me a lot about personal finance and managing money. I remember going to the bank semi-regularly with my dad, depositing my own checks into my own account.
That financial know-how definitely had an impact on how I’ve dealt with money ever since. I’ve had Bank of America checking and savings accounts for as long as I can remember!
Today, for me, saving money isn’t always as easy. It’s the economy, yeah, but also I just like to spend money, too. But because I’ve got the savings account already (and have had it for essentially forever), I’m more inclined to add savings when I can.
That habit of saving money early has certainly helped me to adhere to a general savings plan when I can!
Savings apps that make saving money easier
Acorns vs. Betterment vs. Tip Yourself
Use the Acorns app to round-up your credit and checking expenses and automatically deposit the round-ups into a managed investment portfolio. There are also bonus found money options!
Minimum to open account: $0
Fee: $1 per Acorns account (max $3)
Use the Betterment app to open an Everyday™ high-yield cash reserve account with a variable rate up to 1.85% APY to generate a higher savings than most.
Minimum to open account: $0
While this won’t net you any new money, it definitely makes the process easier. By connecting to a checking account, you can tip yourself to move funds into your own personal tip jar.
Minimum to open account: $0
2. Open an investment account
I did this when I was relatively young, too. Again, it was my parents who taught me the value of saving money. In addition to convincing me that it was important to put some of my paycheck away each money into savings, I also opened an investment account with Fidelity brokerage.
I remember buying my first mutual fund stocks through Fidelity. It was exciting and exhilarating to watch my minuscule investment change prices daily.
I didn’t take full advantage of my investment account, though, until just out of college when, with a well-paid full-time job, I was able to actually make an investment of more than $100. I started learning a little bit about the stock market, and eventually managed to buy a few shares of a high value stock.
As I was planning to quit my job and spend my last of my savings account (at about $20,000), I invested about $1,000 of that into stocks and a mutual fund. That amount (whatever it would grow to after sitting there for a year) would serve as my only cash after my trip.
Use the Robinhood app for free stock trading
I now have small investment accounts at Fidelity (because I’ve had the account for so long), and also through the Robinhood app. I like the app a lot because you can do free stock trades. While you can’t invest in the full stock market through the app, it’s still an easy and hassle-free way to learn how to better invest money.
Plus, when you sign up through this referral link, you get a bonus stock for free!
3. Forget about your savings account
Having a savings account is a great first step to both long-term and short-term savings. But a savings account is only as good as what you’re able to keep in it!
It can be hard to keep money in a savings account when there’s a life to live—and one that costs money. I’m definitely a believer in spending money to enjoy life, but it helps to remember to save a bit when you can, too.
A rainy day savings fund is important for those occasional emergencies, but I also just like to save for the sake of saving. It gives me peace of mind in case I decide to quit my job to travel again, or to splurge on a new camera…
Here’s how I do it, though: I actually have two savings account. One is just my regular savings through Bank of America where I’m generally able to keep about a month’s rent. I use that savings money as an emergency account to pay my credit card bills when I go over my monthly budget, or to splurge on gifts and trips if I’m able to save a bit more.
But I also have a second savings account: one that I opened up as a teenager through a credit union. The thing is: I can never really remember my login info to access the account. I’ve forgotten the complicated password and don’t have any way to really access it unless I make an effort.
That extra hurdle to access the account means that I actually rarely ever take money out of the savings. It’s not much money because I’ve withdrawn from it in the past to pay some hefty bills, but the fact that it still exists and gains interest is a welcome peace of mind. It’s there if I need it for an emergency; but in the meantime, I really don’t think of it and so therefore can’t really spend it!
4. Save for retirement
As a self-employed freelancer, saving for retirement is one of the biggest financial challenges I face every work year. I can generally estimate my basic income each month, but a lot of my work is seasonal as well, and you just never know for sure how much you’ll make in one month versus another.
That makes saving for retirement that much more difficult. But, I recently opened a Roth-IRA account through my same Fidelity investment account so I could start planning for the future properly. As a self-employed person, that seemed like the easiest and best route to go.
A second type of retirement account that makes the most sense for self-employed businesses is a SEP-IRA account. I opened an account in seconds through the Acorns app, part of their Acorns Later account.
The Acorns Later app (get $5 when you sign up here!) explains in details the differences between different types of retirement options and makes recommendations based on a short questionnaire. It was simple to set up the retirement account and will provide me some much-needed tax benefits as my own self-employed business.
5. Spend your savings
Maybe not a surprise, but I actually love spending money—just not on everything. I’m pretty particular with my spending. For one thing (and this one should be obvious): I love to travel. So most of my extra money almost always goes to future travels or experiences.
I honestly believe it’s important to spend your money on life experiences, which in turn, provide their own special value.
I’ve completely depleted my savings accounts once in my life—to take my big trip around the world. It was the most expensive decision of my life, but also provided me with something really special and more than enough stories and insight and ideas to last a lifetime.
What’s the point of saving money if you don’t plan to spend it?
Being a poor grad student followed by unemployment/underemployment has taught me to live frugally and invest wisely (helps that I understand markets and financial analysis).