One of the most popular financial resolutions each year is to “save more”. Considering that the personal savings rate in the United States is about the lowest rate of any industrialized country, according to MoneySKILL, we agree that this is a crucial area of your finances to focus on. The trouble with having “save more money” as a financial resolution is that it can be intimidating to some. You may think that you don’t make enough money to save after your necessary expenses, or that you have to start with a formal approach to saving like setting up an Individual Retirement Account or a 401k. These are both great tools that we advocate! But, if you’re feeling like these aren’t realistic for you quite yet, you don’t have to worry. There are several easy ways to start saving that you can implement today—no planning or tracking required!
1. When paying cash, pay with whole dollar amounts and then put the change in a jar.
This trick has withstood the test of time for a reason—it works! If you are paying your grocery bill and it is $85.49, then pay with $86.00 even and move the 51 cents into your jar. At the end of the year, deposit this money into your savings accounts. Programs like Bank of America’s “Keep the Change” Savings Program automatically do this for you when you use your debit card.
2. Take the 52 week challenge.
This popular method builds your savings account over the course of one year. It is easy to follow, and again, requires no formal planning. Here’s how it works: for every week of the year, save that week’s number in dollars. The first week of the year you save one dollar, the second week of the year you set aside two dollars, the third week move three into savings, and so on. Playing catch up?
Here’s how it breaks down:
- January 4-10- $1 into savings
- January 11-17- $2 into savings
- January 18-24- $3 into savings
It may be easy for you to map it out on a calendar so you don’t get confused. Stick to this program, and the most you will ever put aside a week is $52, yet it will yield $1,378 in your saving’s account at the end of the year.
3. Approach saving oppositely
Many people set aside money to save in roughly this order:
1. Pay bills
2. Spend money on other non-essential items
3. Put extra money into savings
However, we advise you to approach it like another bill. That is, calculate how much you can save per month, whether it is a fixed dollar amount or a percentage of your incoming revenue, and make it just like a bill that you pay. When you treat saving like an essential line item, you are more likely to save. The easiest way to do this is direct deposit part of your pay check into your savings account.
4. Sleep on it
One of the biggest deterrents to saving is impulse purchases. We’ve all been there, in the aisle of a shoe store or browsing through video games when the urge to spend overtakes our reasonable, financial side. In this case, follow the 30-day rule. Set the item back down or empty your electronic shopping cart, wait thirty days, and if you still want it, purchase it. Some people advise writing it down with a date somewhere obvious so you will remember. We advise against that and say, the memory itself can be significant of whether you really need the object. For instance, if you put down a new winter coat, and in thirty days you pull out your old winter coat and think, “I really need to update,” go ahead and purchase. If you put down a new fragrance and in thirty days have completely forgotten about it when getting dressed, then you probably never needed it. In this case, a post-it with a date would just fuel you to spend when you otherwise would have never remembered. Thirty days sound like an eternity? If you’re a compulsive buyer, even a little will help. Try a week to start.
5. Keep making payments after something is paid off
Like number three, this little mental trick can pay off big time. Come to the end of a loan you had on furniture? Keep paying that monthly payment to your savings account. It’s easy—because you’re used to never having the money, it won’t be something you have to part with.
6. Don’t spend a raise
Like number five, this mental trick works because it takes advantage of your behaviors now. Meaning, you don’t have to adjust your life to start saving (it’s always harder to introduce a new habit than continue an old one).
Did you just receive a raise at work? The first thing most of us do is start spending the money on excess items we don’t need or adjust our living accordingly. However, if you were managing to pay all of your bills before the raise, keep acting as if you didn’t have the raise, and put the extra money into savings. It is especially important that you do this if you have not been a habitual saver and need to start a savings account.
Clearly, beginning to save doesn’t take rigorous planning or in-depth research. There are little, manageable things you can start today to build a better financial future for yourself. If you do find yourself in a jam in the meantime though, and you need extra funds to get you through if your savings account won’t do it—call Mariner Finance. We can help get you the funds you need to fix those one-off, unplanned things that unexpectedly arise!