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Making money is a goal that pretty much every American has. But arguably more important than making money is saving money. The best way to properly save is to create a budget.

Michael Cheravitch, senior vice president and regional banking executive at First National Bank in Cleveland, and Kevin Dixon, community responsibility officer at Erie Bank in Independence, said there are a few ways that banks help people keep to their budget.

Cheravitch said the first question a customer needs to ask themselves when it comes to a savings account is “what is the end goal?” Depending on the financial institution, there could be multiple options for savings accounts that fit your exact needs. Cheravitch said it is always a good idea to talk to a banker who listens to what your goals are and then provides recommendations to help you make an informed decision and get you on track to achieving those goals.

“The most important thing with savings is to start now,” Cheravitch said. “It does not matter how much you are putting away to begin with – you will be surprised by how it adds up. Additionally, the longer you have your money in a savings account, the more time it has to accumulate interest and grow.”

Dixon said the first – and most basic – thing to do is understanding how you’re spending and tracking your expenses from a month-to-month basis to see where your money goes. This should be down to something as simple as buying coffee on your way to work, he said.

“Once a person understands that, they have to treat savings like an expense, and dedicate a part of your budget for it,” Dixon said. “Setting up an emergency fund is a great place to start. Experts say three to six months worth of your expenditures should be in a savings account for emergencies.”

Dixon said Erie Bank has a savings tool that will allow you to set a maximum spending amount on different expenditures by category. When you’re swiping your debit card, it will notify you if you’re going over those budgets and track the progress where you’re at.

“We all tend to sometimes get carried away with spending,” Dixon said. “Low balance alerts are a great tool because it notifies you that you know you’re about to spend more than what you had planned.”

Cheravitch said First National Bank prioritizes transparency and education to aid consumers in strengthening their financial skills. In addition to the financial education content it provides on their website and branches, its online and mobile banking solutions include budgeting tools and credit score information, giving customers a centralized resource to understand their total financial picture so they can make more informed decisions.

Cheravitch added that First National Bank offers practical tools to establish more positive financial behaviors.

“For example, in the First National Bank Direct app, customers can customize alerts based on their spending behaviors and concerns,” Cheravitch said. “Alerts can be set up for when their account is above or below an amount, or if they make a transaction over a certain dollar value. Customers also can use CardGuard to set debit card controls, including to limit how much money can be spent and at what merchants or locations; to receive real-time alerts when their card is approved or denied; or to turn their card off and on again if it is misplaced or stolen.”

Cheravitch said having a budget gives consumers a comprehensive understanding of where and how their money is truly being spent. The process of building and keeping a budget helps individuals and families identify what they truly need, what they can live without and where there are opportunities to reduce spending and save, he said.

“This information is very powerful, providing essential direction to create new habits, grow savings and wealth and, ultimately, reduce stress and achieve better financial health,” Cheravitch said. “The key to any budget is establishing one that is realistic for you and your current financial circumstances and once you have done that, sticking to it.”

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