From an early age, my parents encouraged me to save money and plan for the future. They wanted me to get a head start, knowing that my money could grow in a savings account and one day help with unexpected expenses. I’m thankful I listened to them, because my emergency fund has gotten me out of a jam before. Saving money isn’t easy, but it’s probably one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family.

Here are four fail-proof ways to help you increase your savings over time and establish a greater sense of financial security.

1. Direct deposit into your savings account.
This is the easiest strategy to employ (in theory) when trying to build up your savings. Every month, put a sum of money directly into your retirement and personal savings accounts. If you set it up to be done automatically, you won’t even think about how much is being “taken away” from your paycheck. It might seem hard at first, but before long, you won’t even notice it. What you don’t see, you won’t miss!

2. Don’t spend that bonus!
Have you recently come into extra cash or have been lucky enough to receive a bonus at work? If you don’t have any unsecured debt and are able to  take care of your immediate necessities, put a chunk of that money towards savings instead. Saving money is a long-term process, and for most people, an emergency fund takes a long time to build up. Your future is worth saving for, and remember, every little bit counts!

3. Trim down your expenses.
It’s intuitive – when you cut back on your expenses, you’ll have more money to put towards other things. However, this is often easier said than done. If you haven’t done so already, take the time to track your spending, and create a budget that makes savings a priority. A few bucks here and there can really make a difference in the long run.

4. Boost your income.
If you aren’t able to save money on your current income, you may want to consider picking up some extra work or selling unused/unwanted items to boost your finances. You can clear your house of unnecessary stuff, all while making money to build up your savings account!

Too many people have gone into debt because they didn’t save enough for a rainy day. Most financial advisers suggest that emergency funds be at least six months of your net income. If your financial situation is unstable, aim to save even more.

Unless there is a true emergency, don’t take the money out of your account. That way, it will be ready and waiting for you when you really need it (ex. job loss, medical emergencies, and other expenses that can impact your overall well-being). It’s not easy to save for the future, but having a financial cushion can give you some peace of mind – you’ll feel more prepared for whatever life throws your way.