You’re bringing home a paycheck, paying off the bills, and setting money aside every month like a responsible adult. But is that money doing anything other than waiting for a rainy day? Your saved money ought to be earning you more money. If it’s not, it needs to start.
First off, let me say I’m not a financial expert, and I can’t offer any real financial advice. What I can do is share my personal experiences about how to save and grow money when you only have a little bit, and don’t want to run the risk of stock market investing.
1. Open up a savings account.
If you don’t already have one, open a savings account immediately. Interest rates may be low, but you’ll still be earning some money every year by keeping your funds in a savings account.
How does a savings account differ from a checking account? The short answer is that one pays you interest (a percentage of money based on the amount of money you have saved), and the other doesn’t. Typically a checking account is what you’ll pay your bills with, and a savings account is where you’ll put your extra money for safekeeping. You can still withdraw money from a savings account any time you need to.
2. Put your money into a CD.
A Certificate of Deposit is similar to a savings account, but differs in that you agree not to withdraw your money for a certain amount of time. CDs generally offer higher interest rates because the bank can do more with your money when they don’t need to have it available for withdrawal. Your money is still FDIC insured, just as it is in your checking or savings accounts, so you can’t lose it the way you could playing the stock market. If you have a good amount of money saved up that you don’t plan to use for a while, a CD is a good way to earn a little extra interest.
3. Use an online bank.
Internet banks are legitimate banks (assuming they’re FDIC insured– always check), but tend to offer higher interest than regular savings accounts due to their lower overhead costs. If you don’t want to tie your savings up in a CD, or if you only have a small amount to start with, online banks can be an excellent option. Some online banks are exclusively online, while others also have brick-and-mortar locations.
One online bank that has a creative setup is SmartyPig. With SmartyPig, you create “goals” which you can fund on a recurring or sporadic basis. When you reach your goal, you have the option to get a cash boost by withdrawing your funds via gift cards, or you can simply transfer your money plus interest to your regular checking account.
The one thing you shouldn’t do is keep your money in your mattress (well, at least not all of it) or in a no-interest checking account. It may only be an extra few dollars, but every bit counts.