At the grocery store, the cashier dutifully informs you of all the money you’ve saved with the store specials. “You saved $6.45 today,” she proclaims, pointing to the highlighted figure on the receipt. You may not give this much thought, considering the whole thing smacks of showmanship and specials are meant to get you into the store so you buy other stuff, too. But a few savings-minded readers have told me that the minute they get home, they put in a cookie jar an amount similar to what they saved (or round it off to the next dollar). When the jar is full, they deposit the money in their savings account. After months and sometimes years of doing this, they have balances in the hundreds and even thousands of dollars. Consider this a painless way to save and build an emergency reserve, and the type of idea the Consumer Federation of America and other organizations are looking for as part of their America Saves campaign. The goal: “To focus greater attention on the needs and opportunities for personal savings,” said Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the CFA. First, the needs. A recent survey released by the federation found only 40 percent of adult Americans have a separate emergency savings fund. Of those who do, nearly half have $2,000 or less, or did not say how much they have. Among younger Americans, lower-income families and minorities, the numbers are worse. Only 19 percent of those ages 18-24 and 23 percent of those with household incomes under $25,000 have a separate emergency fund. And less than one-third of African-Americans and Hispanic Americans have one, according to the survey of more than 1,000 adult Americans commissioned by the federation and conducted by Opinion Research Corp. “The ability of Americans to cover unexpected expenses such as a car repair or emergency dental visit depends greatly on their having an emergency savings fund,” Brobeck said. Without one, they risk falling prey to high-interest credit cards or “payday loans” to bail them out, he said. Now, the opportunities. Participating financial institutions in America Saves (see Web site www.AmericaSaves.org) have set a goal of opening nearly 10,000 new savings accounts for low- and moderate-income Americans nationwide. In Cleveland alone, 11 banks have pledged to open 4,500 new accounts. (Through the America Saves initiative, launched in 2001, more than 68,000 “savers” have committed to implement a detailed plan toward a specific savings goal. The most popular is building a reserve fund.) In addition, readers of the Savings Game column are being invited to submit ideas to build or maintain an emergency fund. If your idea is chosen, Brobeck said, it will be published in the American Saver quarterly newsletter (you can download a copy at the America Saves Web site) and you’ll win a $50 face-value EE U.S. savings bond, worth $25 at issue. “We’ll keep accepting good ideas as long as we keep receiving them,” Brobeck said. How about it? Send your ideas to Nancy Register at the Consumer Federation (e-mail: [email protected]; fax number: (202) 265-7989; address: 1620 I St. NW, Suite 200, Washington, D.C. 20006, attention Nancy Register). The most effective idea, most everyone agrees, is to put savings on autopilot. (Send questions or comments to Humberto Cruz at [email protected] or c/o Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Buffalo, N.Y. 14207. Personal replies are not possible. )160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!