How to help build your savings in three steps or less

Ready, set, save! Learn three steps to help build up your savings and spend smarter each day.

When it comes to college life, saving money might not always be at the top of your priority list — but it should be. Managing your money responsibly and learning how to build up your savings is an important life skill, and one that your future self will greatly appreciate.

Here are three steps to help build your savings while you’re still in school.

Step 1: Start with a goal

Maybe you want to start by building up that emergency savings that everyone keeps talking about, or maybe you want to save up for a new car or a spring break trip with your besties. No matter why, having a savings goal is the key to making those dreams a reality. Whatever your goal is, be sure to make it tangible with an actual dollar amount attached to it. Having a dollar amount assigned to your goal keeps you accountable so you’re more likely to follow through with your savings plan.

If you don’t know where to start when it comes to goal-setting, then consider using Budget Watch, a tool from Wells Fargo that makes tracking your spending automatic and sets up budgeting goals for you based on your spending habits. Budget Watch will give you a starting point on your savings journey.

Step 2: Don’t waste time

Start right now. There’s no time like the present to kick off your journey to better saving habits. One way to do this is to set up automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings account. Choosing a certain percentage of your paycheck to be added to your savings is a great way to save money — and the best part is that you don’t even have to think about it because it’s automatic! Can you say “win-win”?

Step 3: Get real about your spending habits

If you avoid checking your bank account (Hi! You’re not alone!), this might be because you’re not 100% comfortable with your spending habits. And that’s OK! Luckily there are ways to curb overspending and still be able to treat yourself on occasion.

Start by making a list of all your expenses in the last 30 days (rent, cable, textbooks, dinners out — all of it). Making this list will force you to get real about your money flow: Where are you actually spending money, and are they all necessary expenses? This list may then help you see where it’s possible to trim the fat. Maybe this means fewer takeout orders, or that you carry only cash when you’re out with friends so as not to overspend.

Some additional tips if you’re an over-spender: Get in the habit of monitoring your balance regularly (you could aim to log in to your account every other day) and sign up for text alerts1 when your balance dips below a certain amount, like $50 or $100. If you frequently overdraft or incur a negative balance in your bank account from overspending, consider looking at options available to you for overdraft protection2.

Bonus step: Get in the habit of saving

Save money when someone gives you money as a gift for your birthday or holidays, or you receive a refund check from school or taxes. Don’t spend that windfall; save it. By setting the money aside, you’ll be able to plan for future college costs or even emergencies — which may be super helpful when your laptop suddenly crashes and you need to buy a new one!


1Sign up may be required.  Availability may be affected by your mobile carrier’s coverage area. Your mobile carrier’s message and data rates may apply.

2Subject to an applicable Overdraft Protection transfer fee. These transfers from a savings account count towards the Regulation D and Wells Fargo combined total limit of 6 transfers and withdrawals per monthly fee period. If the limit is exceeded, an excess activity fee for each transfer or withdrawal over the limit will be assessed. If the limit is exceeded on a more than an occasional basis, your savings account could be converted to a checking account (sole-owned minor accounts may be closed). There is a maximum of three excess activity fees per monthly fee period.



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