We all want to save money. But how much of our paycheck should we put away for the future? Some people have a savings goal that leaves them with no spending money at the end of the month, while others can’t seem to set any amount aside. The truth is that it depends on your goals and lifestyle. Here are some guidelines that might help you make an informed decision:

Savings Goal:

If you don’t have a specific goal in mind or need more information, use this rule as a starting point: Aim to save enough so that after living expenses and debt repayment obligations, there’s still $500 leftover each month. This will give most people enough room in their budget to “play” with extras without jeopardizing their emergency savings.

Debt Level:

Consider your debt level when determining monthly savings. If you owe a significant amount on credit cards, medical bills, or student loans, consider saving 20% of your gross income or more until that debt is paid off. This will allow you to create an emergency fund and still have enough left over to meet your minimum monthly obligations.

Frequency of Expenditures:

Consider saving more than the bare minimum if you spend a lot more money each month on certain expenses, such as eating out and going to the movies. Try saving enough so that those expenses take up no more than 10% of your income or less.

House and Car Payments:

If your home or car payment is coming out of your checking account each month, consider saving the full amount you can reasonably afford to keep those payments in check. Otherwise, creating a cushion will help you avoid dipping into savings when unexpected expenses arise.

Current Deductions:

Take a look at how you are currently spending money on an ongoing basis, such as gym memberships, newspaper subscriptions, and magazine purchases. Consider cutting back or canceling those expenditures to free up some cash for savings.

Social Security:

If you have access to social security, consider putting what you qualify for into your retirement account. Doing so will put away that money tax-free, which is much better than just dropping it into regular savings or investment accounts.