Can’t Seem to Save? You’re Not Following These Simple Rules

Setting aside money doesn't have to mean deprivation. A little creativity and self-motivation can create a brighter financial future.

How’s your bank balance? It should be healthier than this time last year.

And if it isn’t? There are only a few explanations for this lack of progress:

  • The past 12 months were filled with budget busters such as car trouble, medical co-pays and the need to replace major appliances.
  • You were already living paycheck to paycheck, and the increased costs of food and other essentials sent you into the red.
  • You simply didn’t make it your business to save.

It’s vital to have an emergency fund and, ideally, additional savings for future goals, such as replacing a vehicle, buying a home or building up a college fund. In the end, you must take responsibility for making them happen.

Simply saying “I want to save money” is a dream, not a plan. Without a specific destination in mind, you’ll probably never get started. Here are some rules for getting to firmer financial footing.

Break it down

Suppose $3,000 would put your kid through an advanced music camp this summer. Or, maybe you’d like to save enough for a reliable used car. Perhaps you and your spouse want to have at least three months’ worth of living expenses in the bank.

If such goals make you tremble with fear, break them down. Start smaller, such as: “In the next year I will save $1,000.”

Now subdivide that goal: $1,000 divided by 52 is about $19.23 per week, or about $2.74 per day. Thinking in terms of a daily three bucks is a lot more manageable than wondering how you’ll come up with a grand. Make space in your budget for that measly $2.74, and you’re off to the races.

Divert some funds

If you’ve been paying extra on certain items (mortgage, student loans), stop doing that for a while. Yes, getting ahead is great, but not at the expense of having no savings to cover a car repair or balky fridge.

Suppose you’ve been putting an extra $100 on your house payment each month. Instead, throw that hundred toward your savings goal. It won’t take as long as you think to hit that sweet spot because this won’t be the only way you save.

Or it shouldn’t be. All sorts of ways exist to carve a few dollars here and a few dollars there from your current budget. Remember, we’re talking fewer than three bucks per day. For some easy everyday tactics, see:

Or jump-start your savings with hacks like these:

  • The night before payday, peek at your checking account. If you have extra cash, move $10 (or more) into savings.
  • If you’re lucky enough to get a raise, pretend you didn’t. Even a 2 percent salary increase will add up, but only if you save it.
  • Reimagine entertainment. Instead of meeting friends at a pub, take turns hosting drinks and snacks at home. Cut the cable in favor of alternatives like Hulu and Netflix.
  • Put all your change in a jar when you get home from work on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Do this daily if you can swing it.
  • Bank your coupon savings. Suppose you find a trio of dollar-off coupons for the only cereal your family will eat. Put the money you would have spent into the jar.
  • Spend one hour a week shopping for better deals on cellphone service or auto insurance. If an appliance or vehicle is slowly dying, research the best prices for those items, too.

Taken together, these moves ultimately strengthen your savings.

Make it automatic

Think of savings as a bill, not a frill. You wouldn’t skip a utility payment, would you?

Ditto savings: It’s a bill, so pay it. Specifically, automate that $19.23 every week from checking into savings. You’ll learn to live without it.

Don’t pretend you can’t do it. There is almost always some wiggle room in your expenses. Here’s the question: How badly do you want to save that money?

Start 2018 with a plan in place, and watch your bank balance change for the better. Even slow growth is better than no growth, and once you’re motivated, who knows how many other ways you’ll find to save?

To locate a better savings account — or get help with your finances, including debt, restoring your credit and more — visit our Solutions Center.

What are your favorite tips for saving? Share them in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman @DLFreedman
A former newspaper journalist, Donna Freedman has been a staff writer for MSN Money and Get Rich Slowly, and freelanced for a wide variety of online and print publications. She got a ... More

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