How to Start Building Your Savings if You Have None

We’ve all heard the advice that it’s important to build up a savings fund. Whether it’s money for retirement, a specific goal or an emergency, having a stash of cash in the bank is definitely the ideal scenario. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to do.

If you’re one of many people in this country thinking, “I have no savings,” rest assured you’re not alone. According to Bankrate, less than half of Americans have enough money in savings to cover at least three months’ worth of expenses. The good news is that it’s never too late to start building your savings. Here’s how to start saving money now so that you experience greater financial freedom — and peace of mind — in the near future.


6 Ways to Start Building Your Savings if You Have None

Building your savings up from $0 can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. There are several easy steps you can take to begin working toward your savings goals — even if you think you don’t have enough extra money to spare. Here are a few steps to get started.

 1. Make a savings goal

If you’ve never saved before, the idea of building a generic “savings fund” might sound intimidating or even insurmountable. It’s helpful to start small and get specific about what you’re saving for. For many people, the first step is an emergency fund, also called a “rainy day fund.” As for how much you need in an emergency fund, experts often recommend 2-3 months of expenses — but the truth is, something is always better than nothing. Consider the stat above about how many Americans don’t have $1,000 in their savings account. If you can start with a $1,000 goal, or even $500, you’ll start to gain confidence in your savings abilities, and you’ll have $500 - $1,000 more than you did before.

2. Create a budget

Saving money isn’t always easy, especially when you’re faced with so many other ways to spend your money each day. Making a budget allows you to see where your money is going each month, so you can make proactive decisions about spending and saving. Take time to review your expenses and try to identify areas where you can cut back. This could be as simple as canceling unused subscription services or taking the bus to work instead of driving a car (with today’s gas prices, commuting expenses can add up quickly). Even if you can only shave a small amount off your monthly expenses, you now have something to start your savings journey.

3. Open a savings account

If you don’t already have a savings account, now’s a great time to open one — and potentially more than one.

If you’re starting with an emergency fund, you’ll only need one account. But if you have multiple savings goals (e.g., paying for college or buying a home), you might consider opening an account for each goal. This helps you visualize the amount of savings you have toward each goal, and it can help with automating your savings (we’ll talk more about that in a bit). However, if your bank requires prohibitive account minimums or charges fees for each account, you can just use one savings account for all of your goals (or consider finding a bank that doesn’t have these challenges).

4. Pay off debt when possible

This might sound counterintuitive but prioritizing your debt payments can actually help your savings goal in the long run. For one thing, the faster you pay down your debt, the more extra funds you’ll have to put toward savings. Also, paying more than the minimum on your debt can help lower the principal, which can translate to lower total interest costs — which, again, is money you can eventually divert to savings. If you’re paying off debt while also trying to save, be sure to make the minimum payment each month so you don’t incur fees.

5. Consider starting a side hustle

Sometimes, we just don’t make enough money to set aside for anything other than necessary living expenses. If possible, you may want to think about starting a side hustle to help build up your emergency fund. It doesn’t need to be a huge, time-consuming responsibility. You can start a freelance career as a virtual assistant or something else that’s flexible and taps into your skill set. Or you can do something as easy as hosting a garage sale to get rid of things you don’t want or need anymore. Fortunately, there are plenty of options out there that can help you add to your income stream.

6. Automate your finances

A small way to simplify your life in addition to building savings is to automate your finances. Think about the bills that you pay every month — utilities, cell phone, internet service and so on. The next time you log in to pay your bill, check to see if your providers offer a discount for setting up automatic payments. Not only will this take one thing off of your plate each month, but it can also help you save by avoiding late fees and other charges. You can also automate your savings. Once you’ve identified how much money you can afford to put into your savings account each month, you can look into setting up automatic transfers from your paycheck for the amount that works for you.


Why Building Your Savings is So Important

Having money in savings is important, but the more important thing is starting to build savings if you don’t have it already. When you set financial goals and put money towards those goals, you’re creating more freedom in your life. Instead of wondering if you can afford a vacation, you can look forward to the trip with the knowledge that you’ve purposefully saved up for the event. Savings can also provide peace of mind because you know that you have money set aside if unexpected expenses come up. It can take time and dedication to build up the habit of prioritizing your savings, but once you’ve started, you’ll likely never want to look back.

If you haven’t gotten around to building up your savings yet, that’s okay. You can start a savings account at any time of life, and there’s no time like the present to set your financial goals for the future. If you need help getting started, check out our financial tools designed to help you build better money habits. We’re here for you — every step of the way. 



This content provided is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute financial or legal advice. RISE is not acting as a credit counseling or repair service, debt consolidation service, or credit services organization in providing this content. RISE makes no representation about the reliability or suitability of the information provided – any action you take based on this content is at your own risk.

Next related article

You can use a wide array of customizable, downloadable Google Sheets budget templates available online that allow you to utilize technology to track your finances for free, while keeping your banking information private.

The 21 Best Free Google Sheets Budget Templates for 2023

July 12, 2023

Did you know Google docs has budget templates available online, for free? If you enjoy using spreadsheets to manage your finances, see our list of favorites.