Sense & Centsibility Blog

How to Build Savings When There's Not Much to Start With

We polled our readers and out of 211 people, less than half (99 people) have enough in savings for a $1,000 emergency. That means that 112 people don't. Not having savings can force you into using credit cards for that car repair or large medical bill. If you are in that group without enough savings, this Flashback Friday post talks about how to get started and build savings now.

Do you have a savings account? Does it have more than $10.00 in it? I only ask because my husband and I had a discussion this weekend about savings. What if one of us lost our jobs or if one of our kids got sick? Or our washer broke or my old car died? The list goes on and on. We realized immediately that we need to build savings ASAP.

As we spoke about it I got more depressed and more overwhelmed by all the things that 'could' go wrong and that we 'couldn't' pay for. And then I brought up how we have so many every day wants. Like a new couch. We'd love a snowmobile. Or even to go on a trip when it's 40 below this winter. And then the depression really set in and as usual the conversation gets more heated.

emergency savings

What's the best way to start building up emergency savings?

First things first: we created a budget and came up with a plan. We decided to do a $25.00 transfer from our checking account once a month to our emergency savings account. I know that's a low number. But that is what we can afford right now. Every family can afford a different amount so run the numbers and see what you can afford. And this number 'may' change. There will be hard times in your life where it may go down. But then there will be times when it will go up! We also made ourselves a promise: we promised not to touch this money. It was there for a reason and that reason was not to buy a new jacket or go out to dinner.

At this point in our conversation something happened. We started to feel better. We had a plan that would help us to be ready if an emergency struck.

How do you save for fun things, too?

Our next step was to try and squeeze a few dollars out of the budget for a fun account. We looked at the bottom line and realized that we couldn't squeeze out any money for our normal "fun" savings account. But we then remembered that we have an automatic transfer set up where $1.00 is transferred to a separate account every time we use our debit card. Usually we let it build up to $50.00 or so and then transfer it back to our checking.

We decided right then and there that we would use that account for our wants. We will pick the next item that we really want and save for it. I wanted to make sure we didn't break down and spend it so we decided to write it down. I set the goal and the amount and picked a smaller item to start out with to help us stay motivated.

You can build savings, too! The key is to just start.


  1. Create a budget so you know where you are starting.
  2. Be strategic. Don't pick a savings amount too big or you won't be able to stick with it.
  3. Write down your goals.
  4. Start with a small goal so you can stay motivated. Then go big to build savings faster!
  5. Automate transfers from your checking account to your savings account.
  6. Watch the balance grow.

Want to learn more about saving? Give us a call at 888.577.2227 to chat with a financial counselor, or visit our website. Start saving for your future today. If credit card debit is holding you back from building up savings, a Debt Management Plan may be your answer. Call us or click to GET STARTED with your free and confidential online session.

By Kate Swenson