Did you know that most financial experts recommend setting aside enough money to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses in the event of a major financial surprise?

That’s because a well-funded emergency account has the potential to get you through tough times without the need to spend other savings, such as assets earmarked for retirement and college.

The following tips will help you start saving more right away:

Stick to a Budget: Creating a budget is easier and more important than you may think. Just write down the amount of your household’s total monthly after-tax income, and then identify how much money you need to spend every month on bills, groceries, etc. Next, subtract the latter amount from the former. The difference represents the amount of money available to be set aside for important goals, such as accumulating emergency savings. Try to maintain financial discipline by avoiding unnecessary “impulse items” that aren’t in your budget or on your shopping list.

Buy in Bulk: When it comes to smart shopping, bigger is often better. That’s because buying one item at a time is usually more expensive than buying larger quantities. For example, instead of purchasing one can of food at a time, you may be able to find the same items at a much lower “unit cost” when they’re packaged and sold in bulk at a discount retailer or shoppers’ club. While you’ll spend more up front, the “economies of scale” may help improve your bottom line within a month or two.

Reduce the Cost of Debt: Every month, millions of Americans spend their hard-earned money on interest and finance charges that arise from carrying personal debt, such as credit card balances. Take advantage of today’s exceptionally low interest rates by transferring high-interest debt to a single, low-rate account. Then, if you own a home, consider paying off the entire balance with a tax-deductible home equity loan. And needless to say, don’t use credit to buy things you can’t really afford.

Finally, whenever you’re expecting a tax refund, bonus or other windfall, be sure to put it to good use. Paying off debt and saving for the future are almost always better strategies than spending without a plan.

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