San Diego, California - Anyone can and should save their hard-earned money - all you have to do is start.

San Diego County Supervisors unanimously endorsed the age-old financial wisdom of “pay yourself first” Tuesday, declaring Feb. 24 through March 1 “San Diego Saves” week and honoring the University of California Cooperative Extension and the County Farm and Home Advisor.

Patti Wooten Swanson, a nutrition, family and consumer science advisor with the Farm and Home Advisor, said San Diego Saves is part of the national “America Saves” campaign and urged people to focus on taking “one step” toward financial security.

She said that could be as easy as setting a written savings goal; opening a savings account; setting up automatic deposits into savings or increasing contributions toward retirement.

Wooten Swanson and Valeri Paul, the volunteer chairwoman of San Diego Saves, accepted the Board honor from Supervisor Dave Roberts at Tuesday’s meeting.

Wooten Swanson acknowledged that many people are often overwhelmed or intimidated by the idea of saving money — evidenced by a 2014 national survey of households that reported nearly one-third of Americans spend more than they earn.

But she said anyone can save by taking some simple steps:

  • Start small if you have to; Just start: “Absolutely,” she said, “as little as $10 a month.”
  • Set up an emergency fund: “Building up to even $500 would take care of most emergencies — if you have to replace a tire, or pay for an emergency-room visit co-pay — so you don’t have to go into debt when you have an emergency,” Wooten Swanson said.
  • Make it a goal to pay down high-interest credit cards: “The best investment most borrowers can make,” she said, “is to pay off consumer debt with double-digit interest rates. For example, if you have a $3,000 credit card balance at 19.8 percent interest, and you pay the required minimum balance — 2 percent of the total or $15, whichever is greater – it will take 39 years to pay off the loan and you’ll pay more than $10,000 in interest!”
  • Make saving money automatic: “You can set up an automatic deposit from your paycheck into your savings account or a retirement account,” Wooten Swanson said. “It’s a really great way to go because once you set it up, it just happens. You don’t miss money you don’t see.”
  • Take part in any employer-offered retirement plan; if you are already, increase your contribution: Wooten said that many people don’t take advantage of employee-offered retirement plans even when those employers offer to “match” a percentage of the money employees contribute — effectively cutting their own pay.

Wooten Swanson said another good way to start saving is simply making a promise to yourself to do so. She said people can do that by going to the San Diego Saves website — http://www.sandiegosaves.org/ — and making a no-obligation pledge to save money.

The website even offers to send people savings tips and gentle reminders of their pledge by email.

“It’s more like encouragement,” she said. “’How are you doing on your savings account?’”

For more information about how to start saving, reduce debt and build a more secure financial future, go to San Diego Saves.