5 Ways to Keep More of Your Paycheck
Do you find yourself looking at your checkbook at the end of the month, wondering what happened to the money from your paycheck? Little holes in your financial plan can allow a trickle of money to escape each pay cycle. We put together a few tips to help put a little more cash away for a rainy day.
1. Look at Your Tax
When you start a new job, you fill out an “Employee’s Withholding Certificate” (IRS form W-4) so your employer can withhold the correct amount of income tax from your pay. The form includes very specific questions related to the number of jobs, dependents, etc. to determine the amount to be withheld by your employer.
A higher number of allowances means less will be withheld from your paycheck. Less withholding means more money in your pocket now, but it could mean you end up owing money when it’s time to file your taxes*. The IRS has a calculator you can use to estimate how much is best to withhold from your paycheck.
2. Do The Math
Regularly review your pay stubs to ensure that all of your deductions accurately reflect your desired benefit elections. Also verify that all deductions are authorized and accurate.
Monitor your bank account for any payments being deducted for debt repayment to ensure the payments stop when the debt is paid in full.
3. Update 401(k) Contributions
Contributing to your company-sponsored 401(k) has a couple of significant benefits. First, many companies have an employer match program, where the employer contributes either $0.50 or $1 for every $1 you contribute, up to a certain amount. That’s free money!
Secondly, your contributions may not be taxed at the time of the contribution, depending on whether you choose a traditional or Roth 401(k) option . If you choose a traditional plan, then what you elect to put in your 401(k) is precisely what is deposited, without the government withholding tax upfront (though you will pay taxes on the funds you withdraw in retirement). In addition, a 10% IRS penalty applies for withdrawals prior to age 59 1/2.* If you choose a Roth, contributions are post-tax dollars. You can decide whether you prefer to pay taxes on that contribution now (Roth) or at the time of withdrawal (Traditional).
4. Employee Benefits
On the subject of employer contributions, make sure you’re up to date on the benefits your employer offers. Aside from a 401(k) match, many employers offer internal benefits that will save you money outside of work. Your employer might subsidize daycare or offer tuition assistance. Phone and internet expenses may also be reimbursed, depending on your type of job.
Many companies also have wellness programs or offer gym deals or memberships. They may also have relationships with local businesses for further discounts. If you happen to be a freelancer or the owner of your own small business, retailers like Wayfair, Home Depot, and Lowes offer discounts for business accounts, which could also help you save money.
With all of this savings potential, it pays to learn where every dollar of your paycheck is going. Outside the workplace, there are other steps you can take to keep a little more of your money in your pocket. “No spend” months, where you don’t buy anything non-essential, are a great savings tool to try.
*Consult a tax advisor regarding your specific situation.