June 23, 2014 10:50 AM

We Americans are bent on spending, and that is supposed to be a good thing. It drives our economy. When spending is down the outlook is bleak. When it’s up, economic-types are giddy with joy. And now it seems our spending is too much of a good thing because Americans on average are saving only a pittance, while more than half are saving nothing at all. In fact, those Americans are not saving at a greater rate than they have not saved in the past 74 years and I mean to the tune of negative 1 percent.

I understand minus 30 F. with wind chill factor. But minus 1 percent savings? I’m no math wizard but that sounds like a person who robs a bank and then fails to save any of the loot. Apparently it means you don’t save money you never had in the first place. Or you spend all you have plus the money you had managed to save.

Whatever the terminology and statistics that back it up, failing to save is at the least stupid and at the most quite dangerous. I know, we live in a world with plenty of plastic and big companies telling us not to worry about emergencies. That’s why God created credit cards, we’re told — to be there when things go wrong and we’ve failed to prepare adequately.

Yeah, right. And I’m Snow White.

The only reason credit card issuers want us to believe we need credit cards just in case of emergency is because it stands to make them very rich when we buy into it. If we depend on them rather than our self-sufficiency, they get insanely rich.

So, you can’t afford to save? Then you can’t afford to eat or drive to work or buy stuff for your kids or do any of the other things with your money that you are doing.

Saving isn’t optional in my world. It’s mandatory. It takes character, commitment and courage to save money. Spending everything you have now plus what you think you might have in the future is a crazy way to live.

Believe it or not, you can open a savings account at an online bank such as Ally.com or CapitalOne360.com with $1. Ditto for SmartyPig.com, quite possibly the most fun place to save money. These savings banks have no minimum requirements and no fees. You should do this. Then you should add a dollar tomorrow and the next day, too. And five bucks on payday. And 10 bucks the following week. Soon you’ll be addicted to saving. Not a bad condition provided you are paying your bills.

We get into financial difficulty one dollar at a time, and that’s the same way to get out.

A little bit at a time, consistently, without fail. Knowing you have money put aside changes your attitude. It quiets your desires to always have more. It makes you content to live frugally.

A dollar here, five dollars there, consistently, no matter what — it all adds up.

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