You know the routine…there is money leftover after you pay the bills, buy the groceries and even pay the babysitter. But somehow, someway, the extra is mysteriously spent and you feel as though you have nothing to show for your earnings.
If this happens to you, you’re not alone. Most people struggle with saving money consistently. In February 2014, America Saves reported that most Americans continue to face significant personal savings challenges.
Nearly 63% of those surveyed said they were making only “fair” or “no” progress in meeting their savings needs.
Source – www.AmericaSaves.org
First, if you have extra money each month, be grateful! Many people struggle just to meet their basic living needs and expenses. From gratitude stems peace and control which is the opposite of how we normally relate to money.
After several years of personal trial and error, I am now a regular and consistent saver. I insist on saving a portion of what we earn because as sure as you live, emergencies will happen and they can turn into a crisis when we are ill-prepared and ill-equipped. A dead car battery, flat tires or a house repair can throw us into a financial tailspin but it need not.
Below are some simple tactics that you can begin using today to ensure that your savings last and do not take wings and fly away.
1. Have a specific and personal goal for your savings.
Our specific, personal savings goal is to maintain at all times at least $1000 in a savings account. If you are familiar with Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps, this is step #1. The rational and approach is simple in that most of life’s unexpected annoyances can be cured for less than $1000. If the battery in your car dies or if the water heater goes south, instead of panicking and borrowing from your bill money, you can pay for the expense from your savings of $1000.
If $1000 does not seem enough for you, feel free to adjust to your specific needs. However the goal is to put distance between you and the unexpected. Statistics continually show that most people are one appliance repair away from financial ruin.
2. Immediately transfer any extra money out of your checking account into your savings account.
This seems small but I can attest that it is tried and true. Whenever I allow extra funds to sit in our checking account (basically the money has no assignment), it leaves. It’s true always and it never fails. Now without hesitation, I transfer all extra funds away from our everyday checking. My former strategy of waiting to the end of the month to transfer funds, simply did not work.
3. Be very realistic about you can afford to save relative to your spending for other categories.
Sometimes out of haste to change our financial situation (I’m guilty), we can create unrealistic expectations. For instance, if you determine that at least $700 is leftover once all obligations are met, but you underestimated your food cost by $100, then your savings goal is not accurate. This is why a realistic budget is essential. If for the past 3 months, your total food cost has averaged $450, then account for that amount unless you have a solid plan to reduce the expense. By not doing so you could be setting yourself up to tap into your savings to buy food.
4. Automate your savings contribution to yourself.
This concept works well for the government and our taxes. Uncle Sam automates withdrawing our tax obligations. The same is true for most retirement contributions through your employer. It’s forced discipline. Imagine if you were paid your gross salary and within 30 days you received a notice for your taxes and other payroll deductions. How many of us would be fired for non-compliance?! It would also probably cause a collapse of most financial systems as we know them. Discipline is a hard fought battle so use tools and methods that will assist you in reaching your goals.
5. I shop with cash which reduces the need to rely on savings.
It’s tried and true that cash keeps you honest while plastic keeps you disillusioned. Based on our spending habits, these categories can derail our budget–eating out, gas and frivolous shopping. To minimize over-spending, carrying cash is a real pulse check for these categories. Based on the budget, a certain amount is withdrawn from the ATM to cover these expenses. In today’s society, ATMs are less frequently used but this is not about convenience but about behavioral change. If your current results are working, don’t address your behavior. But if they are not working, I challenge you to try something different.
Saving money is not always accomplished due to having more cash to save but it’s more often about a plan and the discipline to carry it out. Use the guidance above to make a difference in your monthly finances. Regularly saving money is the foundation of building wealth.
On the winning team,
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