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I have tons of student loan debt—over $90,000, in fact—and no matter how much I cut back, it seems like there's never enough money left over to start saving. There are plenty of organizations out there who say they can help with this, but it's important to do your research before committing to anything— it may not actually be the best option.

Be Honest About Where You Are

It's easy to look at your peers and think you're behind. If you're 30, some of your friends may already be saving for retirement or owning a home, but that doesn't mean you can't start now. These financial goals are easier said than done, but starting early is better than never starting at all. A good place to begin when setting up your budget is with an emergency fund—money set aside in case something unexpected happens. 

This will go a long way toward establishing good money habits that will last throughout your lifetime. Once you have that safety net set up, it's time to tackle debt—this means looking not only at student loans but also credit card balances and car payments.

Create an Emergency Fund

A good place to start saving when you have tons of student loan debt is by creating a budget. You can use free budgeting apps, such as Mint and Personal Capital, to track where your money is going. This way you can trim expenses on things like eating out and monthly subscriptions. Finally, you'll have more left over each month for savings!

Once you've got your budget in order, it's time to start saving for emergencies. This means setting up an emergency fund with three months worth of living expenses. A great way to do so is by automatically depositing a set amount each month into a high-yield savings account. This way, you won't have access to that money until you absolutely need it!

Budget Right Now!

If you're in debt, it might seem impossible to start saving for retirement. But just because you can't save up a big nest egg doesn't mean that you shouldn't save at all. In fact, even small amounts put into a savings account or retirement fund regularly can help establish healthy habits that will pay off as your income increases. In addition to budgeting and prioritizing your expenses, there are many other steps you can take now—and over time—to improve your financial situation.

Pay Yourself First

In order to start saving, you'll have to build a budget that ensures you're setting money aside. A great way to do that is to pay yourself first: set up your savings account as a bill payment and direct a portion of your paycheck there. That way, it won't be available for other expenses, and you can sit back and watch your bank balance grow. But remember—savings accounts will usually pay between 0-1%, which doesn't amount to much over time. 

Consider putting excess cash into retirement accounts such as 401(k)s or IRAs in order to get higher returns on investment without sacrificing too much in terms of liquidity (availability). It could make a big difference in paying down debt and/or starting an emergency fund.

This article is provided by EveryIncome.

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