It is tough to save money in today's economy. As I talk to small investors or people that have not invested much in the past, I receive a constant reminder of the challenges of getting started. I fully understand how difficult it can be to start investing when you've never invested before. It is just as difficult to start saving when you've never really saved any money before.
The challenge with investing is tied to the challenge of saving. If you don't save money then you simply will never invest and grow your financial security. So it is obvious that if you want to be a Confident Investor, you must be a regular saver of money.
I have a challenge for you that I hope you will adopt: save something. If you're just starting out it doesn't have to be a lot of money. If you are just starting out then every dollar, every dime, and every nickel that you say is adding to your ability to save more and invest in the future.
Save one dollar today. You'll find that saving one dollar today is not that tough to do. Put a one dollar bill into a container in your bedroom and don't touch it.
Tomorrow, save two dollars
Today, you saved one dollar and tomorrow you should save two dollars. All of a sudden you will find that it wasn't that hard to save two dollars. In fact, it was kind of easy. You might have to give up something. Give up your Diet Coke this afternoon. Water will do fine to quench your thirst. Instead of going out to lunch and spending $10, carry your lunch in with the leftovers from last night.
Save more the day after tomorrow
I want you to save three dollars. This goal might be a little more difficult. However, it will not be that tough. Three dollars is a relatively small amount of money. It is less than what Starbucks charges for a medium coffee. You might have to clip an extra coupon or two before you go to the grocery store to get the three dollars. Whatever it takes make sure you save three dollars and put that into a container. You now have six dollars in the container, and it wasn't even that hard.
Keep saving three dollars a day every day for the next week. Then the week after that, I challenge you to increase to four dollars every day that you put into the container. The week after that you really are going to stretch and put five dollars every day into the container. You can do this. It's not that hard. I'm confident that you can find five dollars a day that you're going to set aside and put into the container.
Pretty soon you're going to be up to hundred dollars in your container. At that point, you need take the money out of the container and take it to the bank. Open up a new savings account. You won't get a decent rate of return of interest on that savings account, but for now that's okay. Put the money into that separate account and don't touch it. Every time you have $100 in the container, take it to the bank.
Time to invest what you save
Once you put $200 into the bank, I want you to start saving $7.50 every day. It's a little harder than five dollars, but you can do it. You've already given up a few things potentially every day to make that goal. You'll find it's not that much more difficult to save an extra $2.50 after you've already been saving five dollars a day every day.
Once you have $1000 in the bank, it's time to start letting that money work for you. Take the thousand dollars and move it into an account with a broker. It can be any broker that you wish. I would suggest one of the better brokers such as Schwab, TD Waterhouse, Scottrade, E*TRADE, or Fidelity (here is a page with more brokers to consider). It doesn't matter to me which broker you choose. I do not have a relationship with any broker so choose the broker that makes you the most comfortable.
Take $1,000 that you just put into your brokerage account and invest it in an S&P 500 index fund. I won't tell you which fund to choose as there are quite a few of them out there, and since they are all tied to the S&P 500, they are all exactly the same except for expenses (and expenses are very important when considering an index fund). Since they are all the same, choose the cheapest one (your broker may have reduced expenses for their own index fund so check your broker's listing. Here is a listing of over 30 index funds for you to consider.
If you make $50,000 per year, you should save and invest $5,000 or 10%. That is $13.70 per day. You are now at 7.50 per day. Every month, add $1 per day to the amount that you put into the container. Adding another dollar is not that tough, you did it at the beginning of this exercise. You can stop increasing once you get to $13.70 (add the last 20 cents on the last month).
If you make more or less that $50,000, you will have to do your own math. It isn't hard. It is simply your take home pay (after paying Uncle Sam) divided by 365. But don't try to jump in all at once though if you have never saved. Start with $1 a day and then slowly increase it.
Congratulations, you are now a saver and investor. Eventually, you will want to get a better return than the S&P 500 index gives you. You should start to invest in individual companies once you have accumulated $10,000 in your index funds. Buy my book, The Confident Investor, and it will help you beat the market on a regular basis. My book help you make your savings grow substantially faster than if you were just simply investing with the market using an index fund. I keep a list of great companies here on this site for you to consider.