You have great intentions at the begging of each month–yet somehow you spend most of your money. Are others able to save more because they’re naturally gifted?
If you’re struggling to save money, you’re not alone. Data shows more than half of Americans aren’t able to cover a $1,000 expense.((Lending Tree: Can’t Cover Emergency with Savings)) Is the solution to be the average and continue saving little money?
Of course not.
You’re an action taker–someone who doesn’t settle for mediocrity. This is why you’re reading this article now.
The truth is saving money won’t be easy.You’ll have to break bad habits and learn new strategies. Most of them will be simple but will need a focus on discipline. If you’re done aimlessly spending your money, you’ve come to the right place.
But first, be clear of why you want to start saving.
Most people talk about retirement. Others save for a vacation trip. So, is there a right answer for what you should save for?
Saving for retirement is a must, but once you’re tracking this goal, it’s time to get intentional. As you already know saving isn’t easy, and you’ll need to change your perspective if you hope to save more.
Grab a sheet of paper or use your smartphone to jot down what having more money will make you feel.
Will you be able to sleep better at night? Do you want to start a business but can’t go all in because of your current job? Do you want to feel great whenever someone talks about money?
Get intentional and think what having more money will bring to you. Use these reasons as your north start. The next time you’re tempted to spend money remember why you’re saving in the first place.
Then, start adopting better money habits. Go through this list and note which habits you’re weak and strong in:
1. Be Honest About Your Bad Habits
The most important habit you can learn is to face reality.
The reason why you haven’t been able to save for a long time is that you’ve delayed accepting the facts. I get it, it’s not easy to accept you’re not saving as much as you should. It’s easier to ignore this and spend the money you could be saving, hoping you’ll have enough left over.
Go ahead and admit to yourself you’ve been lying to yourself for some time now.
This isn’t to make yourself feel bad. Instead, be proud of yourself for being honest and show self-compassion. Now you’re aware you carry bad habits and it’s time to get to work.
2. Recognize Your Money Mentality
When you hear “savings,” what comes to mind?
Do you get excited because you’re on track for retirement? Or, do you cringe knowing you have been spending your money poorly these past few weeks?
The truth is you’re not saving because of the stories you’re playing in your head. Set some time in your calendar to interview yourself.
Figure out what money stories you’ve been telling yourself and challenge them. For example, if you believe you should spend your money as it comes–ask how this has resulted in the last few years. Your goal is to challenge bad money stories to create better ones.
3. Define Your Needs and Wants
It’s okay to like expensive brands. The problem is trying to buy everything because you want to keep up with friends and family. As Paula Pant states “you can afford anything but not everything.” This is why you need to define what your needs and wants are.
Create a list of items you truly need. For example, cell phone, and food, house are needs. Then, create your list of wants for items such as high-end shoes, latest smartphone, etc.
You shouldn’t buy everything from your wants list immediately. Instead, pick one and create a budget for it. Save money first and reward yourself with an item from your “wants” list once you’ve reached a savings goal.
4. Understand Your Cash Flow Using Top Tools
You may believe you understand your cash flow (money coming and out of your account.)
You get paid twice per month and spend an approximated amount of your salary on expenses. The rest sits on the same bank account without a purpose. This is a recipe for disaster.
Instead, use money tracking apps to better track your cash flow. Sync up all your accounts and let Personal Capital do the rest.
5. Learn How to Set SMART goals
You already know that saving without intention doesn’t work.
But, stating you want to retire happy isn’t enough. You need to set SMART goals. Think of SMART goals as ones you can take action on and track.
For example, “I want to be rich” isn’t SMART. Neither is “I want to be a millionaire.” But, “I want to save $500,000 within the next 10 years” is SMART.
The purpose of creating SMART goals is to be able to track your progress. How else would you know if you’ve reached your saving goals? Review your current financial goals and make them SMART.
6. Use Tools to Track Your Expenses
If you can’t manage your money well, you’ll always spend it poorly.
Your goal should be to keep your expenses as low as possible while having a high income. The problem is you may not review your finances regularly. Because of this, you might be overpaying for your services.
Again, you can track expenses using a money tracking app, showing you the amount you spend each month.
7. Learn How to Negotiate Your Bills
Once you’re tracking your expenses, take it a step further.
Odds are you may be overpaying for your services or pay for ones you don’t need. Negotiating your expense isn’t hard. I was able to reduce my cell phone bill $10 per month with a 5-minute phone call.
You can do the same. Saving money with your bills means you’ll have more money to save.
Organize your expense from the most expensive to the least. Then, start calling your most expensive service providers to negotiate your bills. If you fail to negotiate the first time, hang up and try again.
Most of your service providers will be big companies, so you’ll work with a different person each time. You also have the option to use services like Trim, who negotiate on your behalf. Regardless, don’t settle for what you’re paying now and negotiate your expenses.
8. Start Automatically Saving Instead
Stop trusting yourself to save money.
You’ve already seen where this has gotten you. But, don’t feel bad, we’re all human and prone to mistakes. Instead, create an automatic budget.
For example, have your money automatically transferred to different accounts. Take it a step further and open external savings accounts. This way you make it more challenging for you to withdraw your money.
Now when payday comes, your money is automatically saved.
9. Be Frugal with Your Money
It’s okay to use your money to buy things that make you happy.
But, if you’re not saving enough after cutting your expenses, you need to take a different approach. I’m against adopting frugality for the sake of doing so.
But, being frugal isn’t binary– there are different levels to frugality. If you’re having trouble saving look for areas where you can cut more. For example, instead of paying for Netflix, watch free videos on Youtube.
Repeat this process until there are no more areas left. Cutting services and being more frugal than you’re accustomed is only temporary. Once you’re able to save more, you can go back to the services you love.
10. Switch over to No Credit Card
Debt is often the reason most of us can’t save.
You may earn a decent income, but once you factor in your rent, car note, and credit cards, you’re left with little. T
Forget about earning points. Leave your credit card at home somewhere out of sight.
11. Review Your Financial Progress Daily
You need to review your finances daily
With money tracking apps, you’re able to do this with no problem. But, even if you don’t review your finances daily, create a reminder to check where you stand once per week or month.
To encourage this habit, make reviewing your finances fun. For example, review them while eating your favorite food. Or, reward yourself with something small from your “wants” list. Once reviewing your finances becomes a habit, you’ll be in a better position to save more.
12. Shamelessly Use Coupons in All Places
You don’t use coupons only when you’re broke.
Get into the habit of using coupons to save as much money as possible. Don’t shop for your groceries and then search for coupons you can use. Instead, review the coupons available and buy the items on sale a given week.
Even if you’re able to save $5 per week, this is money you would’ve spent.
13. Pack Your Lunch to Save Money
A $10 meal doesn’t seem like a lot. It may even feel like a bargain depending on how good your food was. The problem is doing this 5 times per week, sometimes even twice per day. All a sudden, your $10 meals cost you $200+ per month.
Instead, make it a habit to pack your lunch to work. Pick one day during the week to meal prep for the entire week and watch your savings grow. Here’re some ideas for you: 25 Ideas for Delicious and Healthy Lunches You Can Take to Work
14. Leverage Tools to Cut Junk Mail
If you’re like most people, you check your email a few times per day.
Companies spend a lot of money to ensure you know about their latest sales. This will only make you want to spend more.
To avoid the temptation to spend, unsubscribe from most of these companies. Or, create a separate folder within your email provider that’s out of sight. Use services like unroll.me to easily unsubscribe from promotional emails.
15. Adopt the 30-Day Rule
Have you ever purchased something only to regret the sale a few days later?
If so, the 30-day rule is for you. Each time you’re going to make a new purchase, set it aside for 30 days. If after 30 days you still want to buy this item, do it. This won’t stop all bad purchases but it will cut the most irrational ones.
16. Work on Important Tasks, Not Everything
“How did it get so late so soon?” – Dr.Seuss
Time is the only resource you have that money can’t buy. This is why you need to protect it at all costs. If you’re honest with yourself, you’re not being productive with your time.
Watching useful Youtube videos or spending time with friends isn’t time wasted. The problem is doing only these.
If you’re already financially well off, then this isn’t a problem. But, if you’re looking to save more money you have to be productive with your time. How?
Like money, you have to track it. Use time tracking apps to get a clear idea of how you’re spending your time. Aim to spend some of your time managing your money better and searching for different ways to grow.
17. Be a Voracious Reader
One of the reasons you’re not saving enough money is because you don’t know the potential each dollar has.
For example, if you’d invested $1,000 in the stock market, it would double within 10 years. Many don’t know this and would rather put their money in a regular savings account.
You don’t need to be a financial expert, but you need to understand money fundamentals. The best way to do this is by reading. Go to Amazon or your favorite book store and buy any book related to money. Here’re some recommendations for you: 19 Best Finance Books That The Richest People Read
Read and apply action on anything new you learn. Eventually, you’ll know more ways to put your money to work and choose to save more.
18. Get Educated on the Go
You can learn more from subject matter experts on podcasts. Find some of the top podcasts in business, money and other important areas.
Listen to them to and from your commute to work. Listen while you’re working out at the gym.
Little by little you’ll learn new things. And one day, you too will be a subject matter expert.
19. Choose to Invest in Yourself
You are your best investment. Why?
The more you know, the more you can apply. But, you can’t grow alone. Coaches are great to have because they can view your blind spots.
Yes, they cost money but can save you time in avoiding problems most people make. During your early stages as an entrepreneur or in your career, you may not be able to afford to hire a coach and this is okay. Read and listen to podcasts to grow. Or you can practice these 3 Valuable Ways to Invest in Yourself.
Eventually, your income will grow and you can use this money to invest in coaches.
20. Improve Your Money Skills to Grow Your Income
There’s a limit to how much money you can save but not how much money you can earn. This is why you need to start a side-business. The internet has made it possible to build a business on the side while working a full-time job. Choose to start a business in an industry you’re familiar with.
Will it be easy? No, but worth the effort. If you’re still clueless about where to start, here are some business ideas.
Bonus: Know What to Do with Your Saved Money
Once get traction with saving your money, you’ll need to put it work.
At the very least, ensure your money is getting a high APY (annual percentage yield.) Search online for “top savings accounts” to find banks offering competitive savings rates.
Next, open separate saving accounts for your different saving goals. And use money tracking apps to track your progress.
Saving money isn’t easy. Many of the habits you currently have are ones learned from childhood. So, to expect them to disappear in 30 days is unrealistic. Instead of trying to master all the habits covered here, start with one.
Then, start small with your first habit. It may seem to contradict to what you’ve done in the past, but this is most likely why you haven’t made progress. The reason you’d start small is to build a strong foundation.
Imagine building a house with cheap materials to support it. It wouldn’t be long before this house collapses. Trying to build fast habits is like using cheap materials to build a house.
The reason for starting small is to avoid triggering your amygdala’s fight-or-flight response. All this means is you’d be less likely to feel stressed as you’re forming new habits.
You can save more if you commit to do so today. More important, you’ll live a happier life. Isn’t this worth all the sacrifice?