3 Personal Finance Tips to Determine How Much You Should be Saving

With responsible saving comes extra financial security, no matter what your income level.

Savings isn't a luxury - it's a necessity. By the time you're 55, Fidelity Investments suggests that you should have at least 5 times your annual salary set aside into savings. Seem like an unattainable goal? It doesn't have to be.

Savings should be a part of everyday life, not something to think about for some day. "Some day" will arrive, and how you've prepared for it can determine whether you'll have a secure retirement and can handle life's surprises, or struggle to make ends meet.

Here are three tips to get you started:

Determine How Much You Can Afford to Save

Savings can't come at the expense of paying bills on time or buying necessities such as food and utilities. Before you can determine what you'll save, you have to find how much you can comfortably afford to direct toward it. You may also have to make adjustments to the way you spend.

Add up all of your regular monthly income first. Next, subtract all of your monthly expenses. This is your jumping off point that shows what you've got left over. Remember to include everyday expenses such as fuel for your car, lunches taken at restaurants, and other purchases made throughout the week. Smaller purchases add up, sometimes to more than you imagine.

Don't let credit cards rule your budget; reduce the debt and you'll find more security.

Find Ways to Cut Back, if Necessary

Paycheck-to-paycheck living doesn't just affect people with lower incomes. Even higher incomes don't allow for much saving if one's expenses are constantly chomping at one's paycheck. Examining your expenses can reveal excessive spending, which helps you decide what's necessary and what isn't.

Debt can take out large chunks of your income. In some cases, saving isn't possible, at least on a large scale, until debt is reduced. Debt reduction is smart not only for your overall financial health, but also for future savings. Each time you pay off a loan or credit card, you free up more money for savings.

Mint.com helps you keep track of debt, and gives a real-time picture of debt reduction. Mint's products can also make suggestions for better ways to manage debt, such as alerting you to a better interest rate. Refinancing a purchase such as a vehicle with another lender at a different rate might reduce your monthly payment and reduce the amount of interest you'll pay over the life of the loan. The money saved can go into a better spot -- retirement or emergency savings.

Use Percentages that the Pros Rely On

Financial experts lean toward 10% of your paycheck as a sensible amount to direct toward savings, according to Fox Business. If you can comfortably afford 10% without making any spending adjustments, consider aiming for a higher percentage than that.

If you can't afford 10%, try 5%. The important part isn't just how much you save, but how committed you are to being consistent. Saving 5% of your paycheck for a year is much better than saving erratically for the same period. And if 5% lets you direct more money toward paying off debt, you can alter your percentage toward a higher one once the debt is gone.

Savings isn't just important for later, it's critical for the here and now. Retirement and emergency funds are different. Retirement lets you keep on living a comfortable life once you reach your golden years. But emergency funds help you avoid dire circumstances such as a high medical bill, vehicle repair, or braces that you didn't expect to pay for.

Mint.com can help you reach your savings goals, whether it's early retirement, a dream vacation, or just more security in the bank.

Sign up for your free account today and learn about all of the ways Mint.com can put you in control of your money and make it work for you.

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