When grabbing lunch with co-workers or picking up dinner for the family transforms from an occasional convenience to a weekly ritual, the sneaky, unplanned expense hits right in the savings goals.
These savings are often used for life’s little financial emergencies. Without them, you may be forced to drop them on a credit card or withdraw funds from investment accounts that may have tax implications. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.
In most people’s case, “emergencies” like these budget-tugging events make saving hard. According to the personal finance site Bankrate.com, 29 percent of consumers have more credit card debt than they do savings. That number has grown nearly 50 percent since the same question was asked last year.
It has also been reported that 60 percent of Americans don’t have $1,000 in cash on hand for an emergency room visit or a major car repair. And while wages have been growing, “real” wages (accounting for inflation and cost of living) have declined 1.3 percent since 2017, according to salary comparison site Payscale.com. But there is a way out of this—aside from declaring bankruptcy, or changing your name and moving to a cabin in the woods—and it’s already at your fingertips. Many financial institutions offer a Personal Financial Management (PFM) tool to make this process drag-and-drop kind of easy.
Setting up an emergency fund savings account and connecting it to your PFM can help you automatically sock a little away every month, so the big (and little) unexpected things aren’t so daunting. Many PFMs will allow you to look at your entire financial picture in a single dashboard view. And you don’t have to itemize each transaction—keep it general at first, like “Holidays,” “Car Maintenance,” etc. The name of the game is setting a little money aside over time, so it accumulates into something real and substantial. PM
Fred Blanchard is retail manager at Heartland Bank and Trust Company, an independently owned community bank that offers a complete line of financial services to commercial and retail customers. For more information, visit hbtbank.com.