I stared at a blank screen for a long time before I was able to start typing this post. The fact is, it’s hard to start saving money. When you feel as though all of your money is needed elsewhere, it can seem damn near impossible.
Let’s face it; saving kind of sucks. Getting a bank statement in the mail isn’t nearly as fun as playing with your new iPhone 6.
BUT… it’s far more satisfying in the end.
In order to start saving you have to start looking past your short-term wants and plan for your long-term needs. It can be hard to think of ourselves as “old” people, so try this instead; Think about how you feel on Monday morning. Now imagine Monday morning after 35-40 years of work. Ugh.
If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is.
So now that you’re on board with the idea, let’s figure out how to get started. These 6 simple steps will have you on your way to saving in no time.
Know where your money is going. Track your spending for a month. All of it. Even if you spend $.75 on a Hershey bar. Write it down. It will surprise you how those little things add up. Make note of large irregular bills that might not have been paid during the month you tracked, like oil delivery, property taxes, or life insurance. Remember, you can’t change what you don’t know, so total honesty is key.
Live below your means. Common wisdom says to live within your means – and many of us have trouble with that – but to save money, you actually need to live below your means. Think about it. If you earn $1500 a month and you spend $1500 a month, you have nothing left to save! You have to start living on less than you’re making so that you can put money away for the future.
Start small. Don’t try to cut your budget by 50% right away. Unless you have to do so because your situation requires it, slashing and burning your budget probably isn’t going to be a long-term solution because you’ll get frustrated and give up. Try starting with a smaller goal, like 5% of your income. Using the $1500 monthly income, that would be $75 a month, which adds up to $900 in a year!
Set a goal (or goals). What are you saving for? Do you need to build your emergency fund? Think of how good it will feel to have that peace of mind knowing that you’re financial butt is covered. Are you saving for something you need, like a car? Paying off debt? I don’t have any scientific data to back me up, but I have found that saving for something is better than aiming for a random number. Set your goal and keep your eyes on the prize!
Automate your saving. If you’re like me, as soon as money hits your checking account it’s considered spending money, not savings money. The easiest way to deal with that is to not let the money you want to save be put in your checking account at all. Most employers will let you split your check between at least 2 different accounts, plus a retirement account. And of course, if your employer offers a retirement account matching plan, take full advantage!
Make saving a priority. Temptation is everywhere. We are bombarded with images of people who appear to be happy because they got the new iPhone/X-box/gadget thingy-ma-bob. Personally I find the words, “We can’t afford that,” to lead to more temptation – sort of a forbidden fruit mindset – but if I tell myself that a new pretty, shiny thing is nice, but not a priority I can feel good about walking away.
It’s important to note that everyone’s situation is different and this is not an exhaustive list. There are lots of ways to start saving, but this is what works for us.
As you go through each step remember that you don’t have to do them one at a time. You can start automatically saving 5% of your paycheck even as you’re tracking your spending. And you can make saving a priority starting right now.
How did you get started building your savings? Share in the comments.