Community Bank of Oak Park River Forest will again be participating in America Saves Week, which is February 22-27, 2016. The goals are to raise awareness of issues pertaining to savings and to encourage people to begin the process of planning for their financial future. Far too many Americans don’t make a plan to save money, and very few actively contribute to their savings on a regular basis. Perhaps savings is difficult when living paycheck to paycheck. Or, perhaps the process can seem intimating. Whatever the reason, it is crucial that you start saving for the future.

Begin by examining your financial goals. What do you hope to accomplish next year? What do you want to accomplish over the next 10 years? Where do you see yourself at retirement? Thinking about your financial future can be a sobering experience, but it is also necessary. Examining goals sets the tone and can serve as an impetus for change. What better motivator than setting your sights on a goal!

The next step is to evaluate your current finances. Analyze your savings and consider whether you have enough savings to accomplish your goals. Do you have any debt?  Do you have a steady source of income? How much do you spend monthly on essentials like housing, groceries and utilities? How much do you spend on entertainment or going out at night? When examining your finances, you may be surprised at how much you are spending on non-essentials. Consider this trick; rather than paying for everything with a debit or credit card, withdraw a small amount of cash for the week and limit yourself to spend only what you have withdrawn. Spending cash is a visceral experience, and you will likely be much more conscious of your spending habits when using cash rather than credit. Remember, you do not have to do this weekly, but doing this exercise just one week a month will be enlightening.

Once you have a strong understanding of your finances, set up a budget. Start by making a commitment to set aside a standard amount each month for savings. This may seem scary at first, but if you commit to saving a regular amount each month, you will be amazed at how simple it is to meet your monthly budget. Of course, you still need to consider your income, and be sure to take into account monthly expenses such as rent and utilities. Items like these are essentials and should be given priority. However, if you make a commitment to set aside savings each month, you will adapt to your savings strategy, and be able to save while still having some money left over for fun.

Finally, set up an account and begin saving as soon as you can. It is important to save responsibly, so opening a savings or checking account is crucial. When opening an account, find a bank you are comfortable with, and be sure to understand any fees or account requirements. On a side note, avoid currency exchanges and payday lenders, as they typically charge excessive fees and will not help you save for your financial future.

During America Saves Week, the Bank will be posting information and tips on how to save, simply follow the Community Bank’s Twitter handle which is @cboprf, or follow the Bank on Facebook. Community Bank encourages those who are interested in learning more to visit the Bank’s website at Information on savings will also be available at both Community Bank locations, and personal bankers will be on hand to discuss ways in which people can begin preparing for their financial future.

If you have questions contact Community Bank at 708-660-1000, or visit our website at Community Bank has two locations: 1001 Lake Street, Oak Park and 7777 Lake Street, River Forest. Member FDIC | Equal Housing Lender