“Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically” is the theme for this year’s America Saves Week, Feb. 23-28.

“This is the perfect time to set your savings goals and create a plan to accomplish what is important to you,” says Lori Scharmer, North Dakota State University Extension Service family economics specialist. “What is your hard-earned money doing for you? Are you saving for something important, such as a vacation, car or even a new home?”

Here are the most popular saving goals of those who have pledged to save through America Saves:

  • Save for emergencies – Research has shown that low-income families with at least $500 in an emergency fund are better off financially than moderate-income families with less than this amount.
  • Save for retirement – Retirement savings is a top priority for many savers. Saving for retirement now will ensure that you have enough money to maintain a comfortable standard of living when you stop or reduce the amount of hours you work.
  • Save for education – Saving for education is the second most popular goal savers select when they pledge to save with America Saves.
  • Pay down debt – Getting out of debt is the No. 3 goal savers select when they pledge to save.
  • Save for a home – For decades, home ownership has been the main path to wealth for most Americans. Today, home equity (market value of a home minus the balance on any home loans) represents more than four-fifths of the typical family's wealth.

Here are some saving strategies if you are not sure how to save to meet your goals:

  • Save automatically – The easiest and most effective way to save is automatically. This is how millions of Americans save at their bank or credit union, and how millions of employees save through 401(k) and other retirement programs at work.
  • Save at tax time – Do you spend weeks eagerly anticipating your tax refund? A tax refund provides a great opportunity to fund your chosen savings goals.

You can find the America Saves pledge to set your savings goal and make a plan at http://www.americasaves.org. When you take the pledge, you can choose to receive text message tips and reminders to help you.

The NDSU Extension Service also has publications available at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/money to help you manage your finances.