Life Hacks: Easy ways to save your hard-earned money

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) -- More than 75 percent of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck, which means they're not saving for a rainy day, let alone retirement.

The most important part of getting out of that cycle is to create a budget and stick to it.

"That's one of the hardest things, said Kaleb McCarty, a financial advisor at Truvestments in Sarasota. "People don't create a plan and they don't stick to it. You have to be disciplined."

Discipline is definitely one of the hardest parts, so use an app like Mint or YNAB (You Need A Budget) to help you. They can send you alerts when you overspend, and make sure that every dollar you have coming in is allocated to something.

If you get paid in cash or prefer to use it instead of debit cards, then use the envelope system. Put exactly the amount of money you'll need for bills, rent/mortgage, entertainment, etc. into different envelopes. When there's no money left in it, you can't spend any more.

"List all your fixed expenses that you know about," said McCarty. "Create an entertainment budget, we all like to have fun. And create a buffer. Life happens, and sometimes you spend extra, it's human nature. Then work on savings."

Savings should really take two forms.

Start with a rainy day fund. Many experts believe a rainy day fund should be about $1,000. This will help you avoid using credit cards, so you don't build up any more debt.

Once you have that, you can pay down your debts and begin saving even more.

Here's a trick to help you save: open a savings account at a different bank than where your checking account is. Most companies will let you split your direct deposit to multiple accounts. Figure out what you can afford to save and have that money taken straight out of your paycheck and put into your new savings account. Whatever's left over will go into your normal checking account.

What you don't see, you won't spend. "Create a second account and forget about it," said McCarty. "Forget you even have it."

You may be seeing a bit of an increase in your paycheck now that the new tax law is taking effect. Don't spend it!

"Take that increase and instead of spending it, put it away as a savings tool," said McCarty. "Forget that you got the increase and put it away in that savings account."

McCarty said once you get out of debt, try to build up a year's worth of expenses. This backup will protect you in case you lose your job or encounter some other unforeseen circumstance.

Once you've got some money stored away, you can focus on your retirement.

"If you have a 401k at your employer, take advantage," McCarty said. "Put as much away as you can. And if the company matches, definitely take advantage. That's a 100 percent return on your investment."

If you qualify, you should also open an IRA -- whether it's Roth or Traditional depends on your circumstances, but there's no reason you can't have both.

"A Traditional IRA is pre-tax money," said McCarty, meaning you can contribute directly to it before you are taxed on it as income. "It grows tax-free, but when you take it out down the road, it's fully taxable. In a Roth IRA, if you qualify, you can take it out tax-free down the road," but you are taxed on the amount before it goes in.

The best way to manage your money if you have questions is to get help from a financial adviser.

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