Ask Your Advocate

I try to take advantage of deals when I go shopping and compare prices. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to save any money. How can I build up a cushion in case of an emergency?

–R. Saunders
Summit, NJ

Your effort to seek out deals and pay attention to prices is to be commended. Not enough people do this. In order to get on track with your finances, you need to first write down all of your monthly expenses. This will help you see how much money you spend, and more importantly, what you spend it on. Even if it’s just a pack of gum or a cup of coffee, write it down.

Take any money that is left over and save it in a money market account. It may take as long as two to three days for withdrawals from a money market account to become available. Since the money is not instantly available to you, this might help ease the urge to constantly dip into the account for purchases. In addition, setting up automatic deposits will make it easier to save on a regular basis.

Once you track your expenses, set up a budget. There are plenty of online budgeting tools to help you get started. One online budgeting tool that’s worth a try is Mint  ( Once you’ve tracked spending, set up automatic savings, devise a budget, and make a commitment to use only cash for your daily purchases. This will make you stop and think twice about spending your hard-earned cash. For more information on how to build your emergency savings fund, go to and check out “Six Ways to Save” (Shopsmart, February 2009).

This article originally appeared in the May 2010 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.