When starting your career with an entry-level salary, savings goals can seem out of reach. You might think, “Sure, I’d like to start saving money, but I’m not sure if I can afford it right now.” Perhaps you have credit card debt and/or student loans to pay off. Maybe you have to make payments on an auto loan for the car that gets you to work. And then there’s funding for your social life—important for networking and for enjoying your friends and the time when you’re off the clock. You may feel like your paycheck is spent before it’s even automatically deposited to your bank account.
But here’s the good news: You can start saving. It just takes some creative thinking—along with a plan to make some extra money that can kick-start your savings.
Take Advantage of the ‘Gig Economy’
In today’s economy, side jobs are a common way to earn extra income. In fact, about 1 in 3 Americans, or 34%, said they have a side hustle, according to a 2021 Zapier study conducted by The Harris Poll. These alternative gigs provide flexible, money-making options and can even help you grow professionally.
Take a look at a few options that may provide the influx of cash you need to start that emergency fund, to pay down any debt and to get ahead with a personal savings plan.
Explore Your Hobbies And Consider Your Passions
Often, side jobs can be done remotely, which means lower startup costs and faster earnings. Use your skills, do something you love or provide a service. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Tutoring online. Use your knowledge to help students of all ages with languages, science or math.
- Driving for a rideshare service. After you apply and get the role, simply download the app and wait for the ride requests to come in.
- Working as a virtual assistant. You can help business owners by handling administrative duties like sending emails, doing research or scheduling meetings.
- Pet sitting or dog walking. Check out apps or websites that connect you with pet owners who need your services.
- Catering. Channel your love of cooking into menu planning and party planning for people who want to host an event.
- Blogging or freelance writing. Look for websites that connect businesses with writers on a per-project basis.
- Transcribing. Turn your super-fast typing skills into transcribing notes from meetings or podcasts, as well as providing closed captioning for TV shows or movies.
- Selling stock photography or video. If you’re handy with a camera, individuals and businesses will pay you to take photos or shoot videos for them.
Manage Time & Earnings
Carefully consider the time demands of your side hustle. You want to fulfill your duties to your full-time employer as you manage your new venture. Extra cash is one thing, but extra stress is another. There’s a balance between earning enough money to achieve your personal finance goals and becoming overworked. So guard your health and wellness at the same time you boost your savings.
Explore Saving Strategies
Once your side job is generating income, decide where to put your earnings to meet your financial goals.
If your goal is saving cash for short-term goals, like a down payment on a car, or for an emergency fund:
- Start small. Even if your starting salary feels meager, you can bolster your savings by starting with small amounts, say $20 every week or month. Your deposits will add up.
- Explore savings products. Checking accounts are for frequent deposits and withdrawals, while savings accounts are meant for frequent deposits only and generally reward you with an annual percentage yield (APY). This feature allows the balance, earmarked as savings, to grow. Look for high-yield savings accounts to make the most of your efforts. Navy Federal Credit Union has a variety of options, including typical savings accounts and money market accounts, that you can review to find the best one for you.
- Split your direct deposit. Set up your paycheck for direct deposit. You’ll make saving easy if you split the deposits, so you have money going into your spend and savings accounts. Start by setting up just a small portion—say, 5 or 10%—to be deposited directly into your savings account. Automating savings makes it simple. Some banks and credit unions allow automatic transfers from checking to savings, as well. If your goal is to sock away money for retirement, starting in your 20s is a great way to build wealth over time.
- Contribute to a retirement account. Many employers match employee contributions to a 401(k) plan. If yours matches up to a certain percentage, try to take advantage of the full match.
- Consider setting up an individual retirement account (IRA). This type of investment account has tax benefits that can help you make the most of whatever amount of money you devote to it.
Other Money-Saving Tips
Put away unexpected money. Whether it’s a gift or tax refund, bonus cash is a savings opportunity. Since you’re not dependent on this extra money, you can put it toward your savings without feeling a pinch.
Use a budgeting app. It’s amazing the savings you can uncover when you track your spending closely. It may help you find savings by stopping subscription services and impulse buys.
Making saving a priority early is the best gift you can give yourself. Carrying these habits as you progress in your career will help you meet your financial goals and feel good about your life and your accomplishments.
This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.