At the end of Wednesday’s post I urged folks to go now and get started “doing something with $5 (or more) a week to help out future you.” Well, here are 5 things you can do with that money:
1. Make an extra payment toward your debt.
Many lenders will allow you to make multiple payments each month toward your debt. Just be sure that you’re having that extra $5 a week go toward principal, and not toward reducing the amount you’ll be required to pay next month or toward deferring a payment. The quicker you get a debt paid off, the quicker you’ll have money available to do other things with. (Interested in tracking your debt snowball? Check out the Pay Off Debt app.)
2. Build up your emergency fund.
Every little bit helps. I have my emergency fund at ING Direct and it’s super easy to transfer a little bit extra to it right from my linked checking account. (Their accounts are also very easy to set up if you don’t have an account for your emergency fund set up somewhere already. You basically click the Open Account link, choose the kind of account you want to open (savings, in this case), click OPEN NOW, and then follow the prompts.)
3. Start an IRA.
If you don’t already have an IRA, consider opening one. (And if you’ve got one already, consider adding a little bit more to it.) There is no minimum amount required to start an IRA, so you can in fact open one with $5. Some funds have minimum purchase amounts, which can confuse people into thinking that they can’t start an IRA until they have a certain amount of money saved up, but that isn’t the case at all. You can decide what to invest in after you get it open. I have my IRA with Zecco, but you can open them many, many other places too. (Confused about what an IRA is? Read demystifying IRAs for more info.)
4. Sign up for a 401k.
If your employer offers a 401k plan (and you’re already maxing out a Roth IRA) it’s a good thing to participate in. (This is also the case if your employer offers a match on the money you put into your 401k.) Signing up is usually just a matter of filling out a form. If you’re not sure if you’re eligible, ask your HR department or the person who hired you. If you make $32,000 a year and are single, a 1% contribution to your 401k will result in about a $5 drop in a weekly paycheck. If you’re already participating, increase the amount you’re contributing by 1% or more.
5. Teach your child good financial habits.
If you’re a parent, you can improve both your own and your child’s future by teaching them good financial habits now. Give them an allowance, and require that they save, spend, invest, and give a portion of it each week. Or if they’ve got a job, require that they do the same with that money. Remember to talk to them about why they’re to do each of those things, too. Not only will this empower them and give them a solid foundation for the future, it’ll save you money over the long run. You’ll be able to require that they start paying for the things they want now, and you’ll be able to say “No, I won’t pay for that” to other things with less (or no) guilt. (Especially if that “no” is phrased in the form of, “Well, let’s sit down and figure out how you might be able to do that by planning ahead.)
So what are you waiting for? Go help out future you with $5 (or more) a week!
(And by the way, if you’re struggling to come up with an extra $5 a week, you can email me about your situation and I’ll provide some ideas. I’ve been there…)Posted in Money Management on 09.07.12 with 12 comments.