It may seem unrealistic to talk about paying yourself first when you’re faced with so many other financial obligations. Yet, while it’s critical to pay all your bills on time, saving for your future can’t always take the back seat. When you pay yourself first, you pay yourself (usually via automatic savings) before you do any other spending. In other words, you are prioritizing your long-term financial health.

If you make a habit of depositing or moving money into your savings account every time you are paid, you may be less likely to spend it on your everyday expenses. This practice can help you foster a habit of saving that will add up over time and help you be prepared for large or unexpected expenses.

If you're having trouble finding ways to pay yourself first, try taking these steps to get into the habit:

Figure out how much you can afford to save.

  • Review your budget.

    If you take a close look at your expenses, you may find that even small changes in spending habits, such as turning off unused subscriptions or revisiting discretionary expenses, could create big savings over time.
  • Utilize available tools.

    Wells Fargo customers can utilize tools like My Savings Plan® to set up a plan and keep track of progress.

Set a personal payment goal.

  • Determine how much of your monthly salary you need to set aside to meet your financial goals.

    Saving for retirement and building an emergency fund should take priority over savings for a vacation. A good target is to put 5 – 10% of your take-home pay toward your savings goals. Saving even $25 or $50 a month is one small step you can take to help you get into the habit of paying yourself first.

    If you know you can only pay yourself a small amount right now, look for opportunities to increase these payments in the future.

  • Find ways to make changes that impact your expenses in the long-term.

    If you decide, for example, that you can manage without one of your streaming services, update or cancel your plan and put the difference toward your savings goals.

Create a savings strategy.

Once you’ve found the money you need to pay yourself first, it’s important to find a smart way to save those funds until they’re needed. You can start by moving money into a savings account regularly with each paycheck.

  • Ask your employer to split your direct deposit

    so that an amount or a percentage goes directly into your savings account before you can spend it.
  • Another savings strategy is to set up an automatic transfer for each payday,

    regularly sending money from your checking account to your savings account. This can help you get used to managing living expenses with what looks like a smaller paycheck, when actually you’re building up your own savings.
  • How to set up automatic transfers.

    If you’re a Wells Fargo customer, it’s easy to transfer money into your savings when you have a checking account. Simply sign on to your account, and look for the Transfer and Pay tab to get started. You can set up, modify, and cancel transfers as needed. The most important part is to stay consistent and to treat the money you’ve saved as if it’s off-limits, except for its intended purpose or a true financial emergency.
  • Establish a dedicated savings account.

    If you don’t already bank with us, check out a Way2Save Savings account as a way to start the habit of saving automatically.


If you expect to receive additional money like a tax refund or bonus, make a commitment to yourself to set aside a portion of those funds and boost your savings.

You may not immediately see the benefit of paying yourself first, but don't get discouraged. If a financial emergency arises, this strategy can help you weather the storm. Ultimately, paying yourself first is about putting yourself first, which helps make sure you’re prepared for whatever’s yet to come.

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