Close this search box.

Table of Contents

Pay Yourself First


Pay Yourself First is a financial strategy in which you prioritize saving money before spending on other expenses. It involves setting aside a specific amount or percentage of your paycheck for savings or investments, immediately upon receiving it. This approach encourages financial discipline and helps people achieve their savings goals more effectively.


The phonetic transcription of the keyword “Pay Yourself First” in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is:/peɪ jɔrˈsɛlf fɜrst/

Key Takeaways

  1. Creating a savings habit: Paying yourself first means automatically setting aside a portion of your income to save or invest before spending on anything else, which helps create positive saving habits and financial discipline.
  2. Securing your financial future: By prioritizing your financial goals and funding your savings or investments first, you ensure that you are taking steps to secure your financial future and building a strong foundation for your long-term finances.
  3. Reducing financial stress: By paying yourself first, you can reduce financial stress knowing that you have taken care of your most important financial needs, such as emergency funds, retirement savings, or education costs for your children before allocating money to discretionary spending.


“Pay Yourself First” is an important financial concept that emphasizes prioritizing personal savings and investments before spending on other expenses. This practice encourages individuals to allocate a portion of their income directly into savings accounts, retirement funds, or investment portfolios at the beginning of each pay period. This not only fosters healthy financial habits but also helps build financial security over time. By treating savings contributions as a non-negotiable expense, individuals are more likely to reach their financial goals, reduce stress associated with financial emergencies, and develop a strong foundation for long-term wealth accumulation.


Pay Yourself First is a personal finance strategy aimed at promoting consistent savings and financial security. The main purpose of adapting this mindset is to prioritize saving or investing a portion of one’s income before it is spent on discretionary expenses, debts, and bills. This proactive approach to savings helps individuals build a strong financial foundation, as it ensures that a certain percentage of their income is automatically redirected to long-term financial goals, such as retirement planning, emergency funds, or down payments for important purchases like homes or vehicles. By placing savings first, individuals are more likely to achieve financial stability and independence over time. This method is often used in tandem with budgeting and automated savings tools. Paying yourself first cultivates a habit of thinking about savings before day-to-day expenses and encourages financial discipline. By setting up automatic transfers to savings or investment accounts, individuals can seamlessly integrate this strategy into their financial planning without having to constantly think about it each month. As individuals adapt to this approach, they learn to live within their means by adjusting their lifestyle to the remaining income after saving or investing. Consequently, this practice promotes responsible financial management, helping people achieve their monetary objectives and create a more secure future for themselves and their families.


1. Monthly Savings Plan: Imagine a young professional, Sarah, who receives a monthly paycheck of $4,000. She decides to pay herself first by setting aside 15% of her salary into a savings account before spending on any other expense. That means, each month, Sarah will save $600 (0.15 x $4,000) and then use the remaining balance to cover her expenses like housing, food, and entertainment. Over time, Sarah will have created a substantial savings fund by prioritizing her savings and financial well-being. 2. Retirement Contributions: Jack is a 35-year-old man who works at a company that offers a 401(k) retirement plan with an employer match. Jack decides to pay himself first by contributing 6% of his pre-tax salary to his 401(k) account each month. This automatically deducts the amount from his paycheck, ensuring he consistently contributes to his retirement savings. By taking advantage of the employer match, he is also maximizing the benefit offered by his company and increasing his retirement savings even more. 3. Emergency Fund Building: Anna is a freelance graphic designer who wants to have financial stability in case of unforeseen events like sudden job loss or medical emergencies. She decides to pay herself first by allocating a certain percentage of her earnings into an emergency fund account, separate from her regular checking account. Once she sets up an automatic transfer, she will be consistently saving money without even thinking about it. Over time, this emergency fund will grow to provide a financial safety net during difficult times.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What does “Pay Yourself First” mean in finance and business?
“Pay Yourself First” is a financial concept that encourages individuals to save and invest a portion of their income before spending money on expenses, bills, or discretionary purchases. It helps people prioritize personal financial goals such as saving for emergencies, retirement, and wealth building.
Why is paying yourself first important?
Paying yourself first is important because it ensures you prioritize your financial future and set aside money for saving or investing goals before using it on less essential expenses. This habit helps to build financial security and creates a foundation for better money management.
How much should I pay myself first?
Financial experts commonly recommend saving at least 10-20% of your gross income. However, the specific percentage may vary based on your financial goals, income, and personal circumstances. It’s essential to create a budget and determine a realistic amount to set aside each month.
Where should I put the money I pay myself first?
It is advisable to allocate the money into different accounts or investment vehicles, based on your financial goals. These may include an emergency fund, retirement accounts, or investment portfolios. Diversifying your savings helps to optimize growth and minimize risks.
How can I make paying myself first easier?
To make the process easier, you can automate the transfer of a fixed sum from your paycheck to different accounts dedicated to savings and investments. This ensures that you consistently set aside money without having to remember each time you receive income.
Can I still pay myself first if I have debt?
Yes, you can still pay yourself first with existing debt, but you may need to adjust the amount you save. It’s essential to strike a balance between saving for future goals and aggressively paying off high-interest debt. Creating a budget and debt repayment plan can help manage both aspects effectively.
How can I start paying myself first if I am living paycheck to paycheck?
If you are currently living paycheck to paycheck, start by creating a budget that factors in your essential expenses, debt repayments, and savings contribution. Look for areas where you can cut back on non-essential expenses to free up money to save. Even a small amount consistently saved can make a significant difference over time, and as your financial situation improves, you can gradually increase the amount saved.

Related Finance Terms

Sources for More Information

About Our Editorial Process

At Due, we are dedicated to providing simple money and retirement advice that can make a big impact in your life. Our team closely follows market shifts and deeply understands how to build REAL wealth. All of our articles undergo thorough editing and review by financial experts, ensuring you get reliable and credible money advice.

We partner with leading publications, such as Nasdaq, The Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur, and more, to provide insights on retirement, current markets, and more.

We also host a financial glossary of over 7000 money/investing terms to help you learn more about how to take control of your finances.

View our editorial process

About Our Journalists

Our journalists are not just trusted, certified financial advisers. They are experienced and leading influencers in the financial realm, trusted by millions to provide advice about money. We handpick the best of the best, so you get advice from real experts. Our goal is to educate and inform, NOT to be a ‘stock-picker’ or ‘market-caller.’ 

Why listen to what we have to say?

While Due does not know how to predict the market in the short-term, our team of experts DOES know how you can make smart financial decisions to plan for retirement in the long-term.

View our expert review board

About Due

Due makes it easier to retire on your terms. We give you a realistic view on exactly where you’re at financially so when you retire you know how much money you’ll get each month. Get started today.

Due Fact-Checking Standards and Processes

To ensure we’re putting out the highest content standards, we sought out the help of certified financial experts and accredited individuals to verify our advice. We also rely on them for the most up to date information and data to make sure our in-depth research has the facts right, for today… Not yesterday. Our financial expert review board allows our readers to not only trust the information they are reading but to act on it as well. Most of our authors are CFP (Certified Financial Planners) or CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certified and all have college degrees. Learn more about annuities, retirement advice and take the correct steps towards financial freedom and knowing exactly where you stand today. Learn everything about our top-notch financial expert reviews below… Learn More