By Alan Prahl

Many people want to save money but try to save out of their financial leftovers after they have paid everyone else. That’s a lot of people! After paying the mortgage or rent, utilities, food, cellphone, car payment, student loans and restaurant bills there’s often not much money left!

Instead of saving out of your financial leftovers, pay yourself first. One great way to do that is to save automatically in your employer’s 401(k). If your employer offers matching contributions, save at least enough to receive all the available matching money. Think of the matching dollars as free money. Don’t turn it down!

You also can pay yourself first by setting up an automatic savings for other goals. Want to be prepared for unexpected expenses that come up, like car repairs and medical bills? Want to buy a car or save for a down payment on a home? Have money automatically transferred from your checking into a savings account.

Your employer or bank can help you set up your automatic savings. Select an amount that fits your budget.

For example, you could have $175 transferred from checking to a designated savings account on the 15th of each month. After one year, you’d have $2,100 saved. After five years — without adding any interest — you’d have $10,500 in savings.

Why is this called paying yourself first? Instead of saving out of your leftovers, you are saving first and living on the money you have left.

Even small amounts of money can add up to be a lot. So don’t wait; start saving money today.