Six Ways to a Successful Savings Plan

Piggy bank
Piggy bank

You've found a job, started a family and are living comfortably from month to month. What's next? If saving money comes to mind, you're on the right track.

"Time is of the essence," says Certified Financial Planner Ted Snow, founding principal of Snow Financial Group in Addison, Texas. "The earlier you start, the less you'll have to take out of your pocket to save, and the more opportunities you'll have in terms of compounding and doubling your money."

Ready to get started? Follow these six strategies to incorporate long-term savings into your budget.

Know what you wantThe most critical part of a long-term savings plan is to understand what you're truly saving for, says Certified Financial Planner Jude Boudreaux, director of financial planning at Bellingrath Wealth Management in New Orleans.

Do you want to buy a beach home in Florida? Send your offspring to college? Save for a sumptuous retirement?

"The clearer the picture of the long-term goal, the easier it is to make daily decisions that truly affect your success," he says.

Get into the right mindsetOnce you know what you want, it's time to set aside money for it. But shifting funds into a long-term account can be tough, especially if it means investing money you regularly spend at the coffee shop, drugstore or restaurants.

If setting aside money normally spent on entertainment leaves you feeling deprived, try changing your attitude.

"By saying 'no' right now, you're giving yourself a 'yes' toward something bigger and better in the future," says Boudreaux.

An attitudinal adjustment may be more easily achieved for short-term goals. Case in point: Say you want to take a trip every year that will cost $5,000. Put aside $100 a week and you can make the trip a reality. This might mean eating at a restaurant one or two fewer times a week. By saying "no" to eating out, however, you're saying "yes" to a big annual trip. See the difference?

The same mindset goes for your long-term goals.

Use Bankrate's simple savings calculator to see your savings grow.

Understand the power of compound interestSetting aside money early on and watching it grow can be a powerful motivator.

To envision the potential of compound interest, consider the rule of 72, suggests Snow. Take the number 72 and divide it by the projected rate of return you expect to receive each year from an investment. This will reveal the estimated number of years it will take for that amount of money to double.

For example, say you invest $8,000 in a mutual fund with an average return rate of 8 percent. It will take approximately 9 years (72 divided by 8) for that amount to turn into $16,000. The earlier you start, the more time your investments have to multiply.

Bankrate's compound interest calculator graphically illustrates how money grows.