Figuring out how much of each paycheck you should save is akin to that troublesome question we all dread about figuring out what receipts we should save for tax season- it’s just a loathsome topic!
Before I get on my frugal soapbox, let’s start with a deep breath and a pearl of wisdom:
When I graduated with my Master’s Degree the first year was rough. Most new graduates deal with the trifecta of paying off student loans, not finding a job right away or not finding one that pays well enough, plus the costs of starting off (sometimes in a new city, or needing new clothes or a car for the job they do get.) Honestly, it could be difficult to save and I had to move home for a bit until I could get on my feet financially, much less, start putting away part of my paychecks to save.
About 9 months after graduation, I was able to get a full time job (this was after I had been holding down freelancing gigs during the job search simply to cover my tush each month.) For the first few months, due to high startup costs of setting up a new home and a long daily commute to my job, I wasn’t able to save a lot of money- sometimes I was only able to put away 5% or maybe $50 or $100 bucks here and there. That’s OK.
Chances are, if you’re struggling to make that 20% mark when it comes to saving part of your paycheck for a rainy day, forgive yourself for not being able to hit that financial goal. I do though, want to offer a word of caution- if you find you aren’t able to save 20% of your take home pay in a savings account, you have to be very critical in understanding if the cash situation is based on actual need or simply the result of lifestyle inflation.
As stated, startup costs of a new job might be high- if you had to buy new clothes, a car, or relocate, you may be living paycheck to paycheck for quite awhile, truly unable to hit your 20% savings goals. During this time though, you still have to cut the fat and ensure that you aren’t biting off more than you can chew as more income starts coming in- is your rent too expensive? Did you buy a car that truly fits your budget? Where there other ways to cut costs?
It’s easy for lifestyle expenses to start creeping up as you start getting regular income, but the point of saving 20% or more of each paycheck each month just in case that “regular income,” you’re relying on to afford your lifestyle is no longer “regular.” At any time you could lose your job or an unexpected expense could change your life- It can be joyful to finally know where your money is coming from for the first time in your life with a new job, but you also have to know where it’s going.
Take your take home pay and multiply it by .20 (20%) to see the precise amount you should save from each paycheck to be automatically deducted on each payday into a savings account.
If you have debts that need to be repaid, you can factor this into the 20% of your net pay that needs to be put aside, but if you find that you aren’t able to husk away 20% of each and every paycheck to build your savings and pay down your debts, something needs to give. Sadly, it sucks to say, but you may need to scale back your fixed expenses (and yes, it sucks) or work on developing ways to save (with meal plans, money saving apps or creatively saving in mason jars).
As stated, you may not be able to save 20% all the time or right away (the job market still sucks!) but if you find that consistently you are frustratingly below the 20% savings goal and you have money coming in, you might need to adjust your spending and fixed expenses (like rent, subscriptions, and car expenses offer the most wiggle room).