Many of us have been there before: “I want to start saving, but I don’t have enough money left over each month to save.” The key to making this goal a reality? Save before you even get a chance to spend. It’s an idea also known as “pay yourself first.”

Determine If Saving Can Be Your Priority

It’s usually possible to make room for saving somewhere in your budget, but there are times where it might not make sense to prioritize saving. For example, if you’re busy tackling debt from a high-interest credit card or student loan, it can save you more in the long run to prioritize debt repayment over saving. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t start saving. Getting started now can help make saving a habit going forward.

Start With an Emergency Fund

An emergency fund works best when given its own savings account, separate from other accounts where the money could be accidentally spent. Most financial experts recommend you have a minimum of three months of living expenses in your emergency fund. Living expenses include everything from utilities to food to mortgage or rent. While that may sound daunting, start with a goal of $1,000 and watch it grow over time.

To build up your emergency fund, either have part of your paycheck deposited into your savings account or set up automatic monthly transfers from your checking account to your savings account. Don’t worry if you need to start off small. Saving $10 per paycheck is better than saving nothing at all. You can slowly ramp up how much you stow away as you get used to saving.

Build a Retirement Account

Does your employer offer a retirement account, such as a 401(k) account? If so, it’s wise to take advantage of this account and contribute what you can afford. That’s because your contributions can be taken out of your paycheck before taxes—a major perk. And, if your employer offers to match your contributions, you can essentially earn free money every time you make a contribution.

If you have no employer-provided retirement account, or you’ve maxed out your 401(k) contributions, you can open an individual retirement account, or IRA. This account also offers tax advantages not found in a standard savings account.

Get Saving

In addition to standard savings accounts and IRAs, you can give your savings an extra boost with Money Market Savings Accounts and Certificates. Money Market Savings Accounts give you back more as you put more in, as larger deposits equal better dividend rates. Certificates let you choose longer terms to earn higher rates, helping your savings grow with you. Not a member yet? You can get a competitive-rate savings account by becoming a member today.

This article 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.