There can be numerous barriers to saving money. We’re not going to lie. It’s tough. But what if we told you that one small step can start you on the path to savvy money management and improving your finances?

In partnership with NeighborWorks Montana, we offer a Matched Savings Program, also known as an Individual Development Account (IDA). It’s a powerful tool to help you save money and develop your personal finance skills.

Here are the top five reasons you should start a matched savings account:

  1. Get $500 of free money

You save up to $500, and we will match your savings for a total of up to $1,000. Need we say more? Probably not, but we will anyway because there are other great reasons to start a matched savings account!

  1. Accountability

This program provides you with the structure to achieve the goal of saving $500. When you sign up, you agree to track and report your savings and debt and maybe even your credit score over a 6- or 12-month timeframe. You save $83 per month for six months or $42 per month for a year and show corresponding deposits that add up to the goal with no withdrawals or missing months to get the $500 match.

  1. Build a habit and practice of saving

Setting up a savings account and contributing to it regularly is a big step toward prioritizing your long-term financial well-being. Like anything, getting better at saving takes practice. Through a matched savings program, you practice following a spending plan, saving monthly, spending less of your income and putting away money for emergencies.

  1. Financial education

The $500 match is great, but the essential money management skills you learn in class are worth so much more. The knowledge and skills you gain are what will propel you forward in the years to come as you save toward goals such as decreasing your debt, saving a down payment for a house, funding car repairs, big purchases and more.

  1. Prepare for unexpected expenses

Most of us have experienced financial scrapes such as costly car repairs, needing to replace a home appliance, medical bills, losing a source of income or even a cracked cell phone screen. Research from NeighborWorks America shows only one-third of people in the U.S. have any money set aside for emergencies, however. Without savings, it can be difficult to stay afloat without turning to credit cards or high-interest loans, which can have a lasting negative impact. Having money already set aside can greatly reduce your stress when emergencies arise and make it easier to bounce back.

Get Started Today

To get started, sign up for Financial Skill Building or Get Ready for HomeOwnership. After completing one of our classes, you attend free, individualized financial counseling one-on-one with a Homeword educator. Throughout the six-month period, you set up a bank account or designate an existing account, set up three coaching sessions and start saving!

There is no income limit to sign up for the program, but you do need to have a consistent income and must be up to date with your rent or mortgage and utility payments.

“The Matched Savings Program has motivated my husband and me to recommit to our savings goals,” said one of our participants. “Christmas and my fortieth birthday increased our debt.”

After their first coaching session, the couple started tracking all their grocery and gas costs. This allows them to compare what they spend from month to month and develop their budget.

“Knowing that we are working towards our goals and that we will have $1,000 in savings after these six months is so motivational. We’ve already talked about how we want to continue this practice after the six months is up.”