Median Savings Rate Hits Zero, but It Doesn't Have To

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- There's no doubt Americans are having a tough time saving money -- but a median household saving rate of zero dollars?

That's the reality, according to data from Interest.com, although the site also says there should be $668 left over in the household budget after paying all the bills.

Way too many households are spending too much money while accumulating too much debt, and that leaves them with a savings rate of zero, the site says. If those households pulled back on excess spending, they could still pay their bills and have that extra $668 in their bank accounts every months -- or an extra $8,016 over the course of a year.

"Many of us feel like we're living paycheck to paycheck because of how we choose to spend our money," says Mike Sante, managing editor at Interest.com. "It's not that we can't save. It's that we don't save. It's something we can control and change."

Some households do a lot better at savings and spending than others.

Interest.com says Baltimore residents lead the country as the highest "opportunity savers," with the metro area's median after-tax income topping the area's typical expenses by $2,021 per month.

Washington, D.C., residents also do a good job of saving, with $1,664 left over in the household budget every month, followed by Cleveland, with $1,294.

But Phoenix, Ariz., residents just aren't getting the message on savings and spending, and metro area households there actually lose $95 per month on average after the bills are paid. That suggests not all the bills are being paid in Phoenix households, which leads to higher debt and potentially a lower credit rating for residents.

Miami and Boston are next in line for the worst nationwide spending and savings habits, but have some cash left over at the end of every month (in Miami's case, just $18).

One step Americans can take to stabilize their household savings is to create a household budget and stick to it. (BankingMyWay.com offers a good savings calculator here.) Keeping track of what money comes into the household and what goes out is still the best way to stay out of debt and start building a healthy amount of savings in the bank every month.

As Interest.com reports, that's just not happening right now in too many urban areas of the country. That leaves millions of households scrambling to pay bills, but depleting their savings in the process -- all the way down to zero dollars a month.

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