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How To Become a Great Saver (It’s Not As Hard As You Think)
Sometimes all it takes is a little inspiration to help you start moving toward your goals!
I’m debating whether I’ll run today or not. This is a daily occurrence. Every morning I decide that I’m going to run later in the day, or not at all. Today my right hip hurts and my left quad is beyond tight. I have family in town and I don’t want to take the time to do it. I’m not sure I have the discipline to get out there.
Discipline. That’s funny. Don’t we do that with saving?
When I was an advisor people told me they had to hire me because they needed “discipline.” I would smile and tell them that I’d help them do what was necessary to set up a savings program they’d follow for life. My plan worked over 90% of the time…and (our secret?) required no discipline whatsoever.
Your secret friend is systems.
Although I play the “no discipline to run” game every day, I’ve now run every day for the last 258 days. It doesn’t take discipline. I’ve set up a system to make sure I get out there every day and do it.
But don’t take my word for it!
I’ve asked some of my blogger friends to share with you their stories, tips and struggles. We’re all in the same boat. Saving money is hard if you focus on only on discipline….but as you read through these points you’ll notice a theme….it’s not hard if you set up good systems. Enjoy!
Saving Thoughts From Some Friends:
Pauline Paquin, Reach Financial Independence
I have always been quite a good saver, in the sense that I did not spend more than I made, but I often wondered why if I made $2,000 and my usual expenses were $1,000, did I only have $300 left? Where did the other $700 go? To a myriad of other little items I did not really need. What helped me save was setting up automatic transfers so that as soon as the money hit my account, it was redirected to a savings account. Accessing the money was more complicated, and I would only dig in for big expenses like a holiday or to replace a computer. As long as the money was in my pocket or on my current account, it was money I allowed myself to spend. Automatic savings made it easier to save it instead.
Ben Feldman, Ready For Zero
It takes three things to be a great saver: a goal, a plan, and a support network. Your goal is your answer to the question “Why are you saving?” Whether it is to buy your first home, travel the world, be prepared for emergencies, or retire early, your goal is the thing that will keep you motivated and make it possible to keep making progress over time.
Your plan is the roadmap you will use to reach your goal. It includes your monthly budget, the amount you will save each month, and the timeline for getting there. The plan is the practical manifestation of your desire to achieve the goal. And finally, your support network includes all your loved ones who will keep you going through the hard times (when your internal motivation falters) and give you the strength you need to stay focused.
David Carlson, Young Adult Money
There are two ways to make saving money easier: increase your income or reduce your expense. Over the past year or so my wife and I have drastically reduced the amount of money we spend on groceries. We were able to do this through using coupons that we get in the weekly Sunday newspaper and online coupons on sites like coupons.com, Target.com, and other websites. One other source of coupons is through subscribing to emails from various companies. We both have bad allergies but rarely pay full price for allergy medicine because Allegra and other companies often will email coupons for $2-$5 off. Additionally, we also match coupons with deals that are running so that we can maximize our savings. Saving money on things you would purchase anyway – like groceries and medicine – can free up some cash to throw in a savings account.
Barbara Friedberg, Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance
Do you have difficulty brushing your teeth? What about putting shoes on before you go outside? Of course not. Do you know why? Because those are good habits you’ve been practicing for decades. Also, the benefits are wonderful; white teeth with few cavities and warm feet! You’d never consider stopping either of those habits. The way to make saving easy is to start the habit, practice it regularly, and enjoy the rewards of building wealth. Challenge yourself to find cheap alternatives for regular expenses. Grocery shop at Wal Mart and the discount store. Eliminate extravagant shops as an alternative. Retrain yourself to wait before spending. Think about what you already have and consider whether you really need the new item. Shop your closets. Finally, automate and have money transferred from paycheck to savings and investing accounts. Build the saving habit and get rich!
Mr. CBB, Canadian Budget Binder
I grew up a young man who wanted to go somewhere in life and am still building that path today as an adult. Saving money wasn’t always easy but looking back I’m thankful that I did one thing that many people still fail to do: I spent less than I earned. The budget now houses our financial life all wrapped up with our dreams. I don’t think I’d be debt-free today if I didn’t take responsibility for the way I spent money over the years. If anything, the belief is stronger today than it’s ever been, so dream it, plan it, do it, walk the path. It’s Not About How Much Money You Make, It’s How You Save It.
Robert Farrington, The College Investor
Automation, automation, automation! I can’t stress automating your savings as being the best thing you can do to help trick yourself into saving more. Whether you do it by automatic 401k contributions, setting up a direct deposit amount directly into your savings, or have some other system in place, putting it on auto-pilot is a great way to improve the amount you save without feeling like you’re sacrificing to do it.
Know how much your time is worth. By that I mean that if you make $15 an hour and you decide to buy a new bicycle which is priced at $500, understand that it would take you 5 days of work to be able to afford that new bike. Now some may say “wow, that is great, if I save all the money I make from 5 days of work I will have enough money to buy myself a new bike”. But others may say “I’m not spending a whole week’s worth of my hard earned income on a new bike”. By doing this everytime you consider a new purchase you will see how much of your life will be spent paying off what you just bought, which in turn will hopefully encourage you to put a lot more thought into each purchase before you spend your money.
Grayson Bell, Debt Roundup
As a previous debtaholic, I never saved a penny. I only would spend, spend, and spend a little more. I just worked to pay my bills and that was about it. I was in trouble until I decided to change the way that I looked at my money. For the 4 years that it took to pay off my credit card debt, I knew that the one thing that I made sure I did was pay my bills. I was never late on one bill and I was proud of that. I took that same theory and decided to put implement it into my saving theory. I treated my savings like a monthly bill. I started out by creating a recurring calendar invite regarding my “savings bill”, which would require me to put a certain amount into my savings account. I did this for a few months to get used to it. After that I setup an automatic transfer once a month. I didn’t “pay myself” when I was paid, but just treated it like a bill and paid myself once a month. There was no better method for me and has worked ever since. I won’t miss a bill and now I won’t miss paying my savings bill. Try it out for yourself.
Maria Nedeva, The Money Principle
I’ve always loved a challenge. But finding ourselves in $157,000 worth of consumer debt was beyond challenging, it was a border line catastrophe. At least this is how it felt at the time. Once I managed to get over the anger and cut out the drama the real work around rationalising and managing our money started. We paid off all our consumer debt (all $157,000) in three years. How we did it?
I could tell you that we spent less than we earned, cut out on everything apart from food and shelter and downsized to a studio apartment. I am not going to: because this is part mechanics and part mostly un-necessary sacrifice. Four principles of sound finance management enabled us to pay our debt off and now to build investments very fast:
- Gained complete mastery over what we spend on, how much we spend and how much things cost;
- Changed the way we do things rather than stop doing these things;
- Increased income substantially by working hard on our strengths;
- Focused on mastering our ‘wants’ rather than satisfying only our ‘needs’.
Lauren (L Bee), L Bee and the Money Tree
I think the most important thing to remember is to just save something, even if it’s five or ten dollars. I know when you are living paycheck-to-paycheck that seems like a lot, or it seems like you set it aside and then immediately have a reason to use that money later on, but I used to get down on myself because I wasn’t saving enough, and it kept me from saving at all. Be kind to yourself, even if it’s just a dollar. It’s a dollar more than you had yesterday.
I graduated from college in 2007 and was fortunate enough to graduate relatively unscathed, with only $5000 in student loan debt. Even though this was a relatively small amount, I still hated it. I wanted it gone. Having just graduated from college, I had to first figure out my budget. I was making enough money through my job to cover my expenses but I had zero disposable income. I sat down and began making a lit of things I could do to save some money. I considered cutting out some of the small expenses in my budget, and cutting back on latte’s but I chose to go the route of earning more money instead. So that Fall I began writing articles for an online writing service called Textbroker. I did not get paid much per article, but I was a machine. I honed my skills to be able to write enough words to earn $30 per hour. Over 1,000 articles and 6 months later, and I had earned over $5,000 and was able to payoff my student loans in full! It was a great feeling, and taught me a valuable lesson in working hard to get what you want. Fast forward to 2013, and I don’t write for Textbroker anymore, but I do still write, earn money, and create side gigs to earn a substantial side income. Paying off debt is a powerful motivator!
Kim, Eyes on the Dollar
My best tip for saving money is to step back and evaluate every purchase by asking yourself three questions. Is this something I absolutely need or will it add value to my life? Do I need it right now? Is this the best possible price? If you answered yes to all three of these, go ahead and buy it. Honestly, most purchases will have at least one “no” or “I don’t know” in the answers. For years, I bought whatever I wanted, which led to very short lived instant gratification, little savings, and tons of debt. Now, most of the time, if I use my three question rule and step away from the moment, I often find I don’t even want whatever it was that I thought I needed. If you do the same thing, you’ll start stacking the Benjamins before you know it.
Jana, Daily Money Shot
When Joe asked me to contribute my thoughts on what it takes to be a great saver, I really didn’t know how to respond. So I spent a few minutes dwelling on it (and by that I mean actually mean “thinking intensely while in the shower”) and I came up with one word: discipline. In order to be a great saver you need to have discipline. And it really doesn’t matter what method you use for saving–automating your deductions, using coupons, burying your money in jars under the porch–you have to be disciplined in order for it to be effective. You have to make a commitment to yourself and your bank account and do what you need to do to honor that commitment. You have to do it faithfully and regularly. Being disciplined in your savings means that you’re working hard to do it, sometimes forgoing things that you want, in order to secure both your future and present day finances.
Marvin, Brick by Brick Investing
The cold hard truth about becoming a great saver is that it is tough and it is very boring. In today’s fast paced world filled with technology and entertainment it’s very easy to feel like you’ve gotten left behind if you aren’t plugged in completely. I’m here to tell you that anything worth having requires sacrifice, there is no way to get around it. The best thing you can do is embrace the reality that saving money isn’t cool and it’s very boring. Focus on building a successful career and relationships with friends and family. These are the things that will bring you considerable wealth.
Erin Shanendoah, Dog Ate My Wallet
When Joe asked me if I would be willing to write a paragraph about what it takes to be a great saver, my first thoughts were pretty standard – pay yourself first, and automate it. But unless this is the first financial blog you’ve ever read, you have heard that advice already. Don’t get me wrong- it’s great advice, advice I follow, but it’s standard and boring, and neither of those adjectives describe Joe, or his blog.
So what’s my advice on how to be a great saver? It’s to spend the money you’ve saved. You are saving for a reason, and that reason is usually not to have a big balance. Before you save for something really big (like a down payment on a house or a new car), save for a few small things- that new computer you want, a weekend getaway – something that you do actually need to save for, but will only take a couple of months. Then- buy that computer, take that getaway, and feel GOOD about it. That’s called positive reinforcement. And it will help you build up your willpower to save for the big things, and to feel good about it when you reach your goal and yes, spend that money.
Money is a tool. When you have a nail that needs to be pounded, you don’t look at your hammer and decide this nail isn’t worth that, and then go find a rock. You use the hammer. Use your money. Save it with a purpose. Spend it with a purpose. And you’ll find that saving becomes easier every time.
Mrs. PoP, Planting Our Pennies
We’ve come to believe the “secret sauce” in becoming a great saver is accountability and talking about our money and spending. Don’t get me wrong, we were both relatively frugal single people before we got married, but getting married was a game changer for our combined finances for a couple of reasons.
1 – common goals and shared accountability toward them
2 – sharing best practices to reach said goals
So why didn’t I say that marriage is the “secret sauce”? Well, largely because we’ve also found that the more we talk about money and share with people outside our marriage, the better we become at saving. One year into writing a personal finance blog, we’ve seen some striking increases in our savings and net worth. So it seems like the more people we’re accountable to, the better off we are. So let’s all get talking and watch those benjamins stack up!
Matt, Mom and Dad Finance
When it comes to saving money, I have three words that will make you a rock star: automate, automate, automate! I can’t say it enough times. Take the 5 minutes now to set up automatic monthly transfers from your checking account to your savings and/or retirement accounts. Set them to transfer directly after you receive your paycheck so you never even see the money. If you rely on memory and willpower, you will never save anything. If you automate the process, your savings grow month after month with no effort. Which would you prefer?
Tonya, Budget and the Beach
One of the biggest eye-opening experiences I’ve had during my savings journey is reading the book, Your Money or Your Life. The book describes how every single purchase you make, whether it’s big or small, is your “life energy” going into that purchase. So that magazine that only costs $5.00, may not be worth it when you think about how long it took to earn that $5. Five bucks may not seem like a lot, but those small purchases add up over time. And do they really add value to your life, or is it a fleeting moment of happiness? That whole concept really awakened me to certain purchases I was making, and now I’m much more of a conscious spender. And that’s really what it’s all about…being more present, valuing what you already have, and respecting your hard-earned money.
Shannon Ryan, The Heavy Purse
Our habits around spending money are usually emotionally driven. We buy things when we’re happy, mad and sad. This is why you need to start by picking the right savings goal;one that truly matters to you.
In order to become a great saver, you need to do three things:
1. Align Your Savings Goals with Your Values
2. Rid Yourself of Consumer Debt
3. Have a Proper Cash Reserve
Here’s the fun part: What is something that would make you really happy and is worth saving for and not spending your money on other things? Now you’ve given your money purpose and are one step closer to becoming a great saver.
Jose, The Wise Dollar
Take it directly out of your paycheck. If you never see it you won’t miss it! That’s one of the great things about 401k’s, you can have retirement savings taken straight out of your paycheck and invested, plus you’ll get a tax break too! You can do the same with regular savings as well. Many financial institutions (usually credit unions) will let you directly withdraw a portion of your paycheck and put in directly into a savings (or shares) account. Check with our bank and see if they offer an automatic savings plan of some kind.
Kathleen, Frugal Portland
The easiest way to start saving money is to automatically put money into savings. This can be done at the paycheck level. Most online payroll processing companies will split your check, in whatever percentage you want, between institutions. I have accounts at two credit unions. One offers 2.25% interest in their checking account, provided you make 12 transactions a month and login to their online banking once a month. This is my savings account (if you’re not banking at a credit union, that should be your first step). I put 50% of my paycheck into it each month, and make 12 small transactions using my debit card.
Everything else comes out of a checking account at a different credit union. Having savings in another institution makes the money harder to access. They’re each part of the same network, so if I am spending more than I can easily cover in savings, I just have to walk into the branch closest to me and transfer money between accounts.
Physical separation, combined with automatic deposits, has increased my savings rate by a factor of two.
Edward, Edward Antrobus
They say that necessity is the mother of invention. I know that I really began to embrace frugality when my wife’s wages got garnished and we were left with just $20 per month for groceries. Eating out was, of course, completely out of the question. We learned to appreciate ramen noodles and peanut butter as meals. Cereal (store brand in the big bags) without milk.
Sean Bryant, One Smart Dollar
College was the best time of my life and I was lucky enough to graduate without any student debt, however my checking account had less than $100 in it. I was dead broke. Sadly enough even as an economics major I didn’t have any personal finance classes available to me. This forced me to learn how to budget my money on my own if I was going to make it without needing the support of my family.
Glen, Monster Piggy Bank
One of the best tips that I have in regards to saving money is that every purchase (no matter how small) can really add up and start to damage your savings goals. I discovered this first hand with something as small as buying a cup of coffee every morning I went to work. I was spending at least $3 a day (sometimes more) on something that I could have made myself for next to nothing. Over the course of a year that works out to be $780 a year in coffee. So as you can see that $3 on its own isn’t that big of a deal, but overtime it can really add up and that is just one example.
John, Frugal Rules
Sometimes the best way to save money is to make it smartly. My advice is to start saving and investing early and often because time is your biggest ally when it comes to providing for your future. No matter how small, start saving now and keep a long-term perspective on your investments. If you think only about the short-term when it comes to your investment portfolio, you could shortchange the amount of money you’ll have to live on in the future.
….and, last but not least, our friend Carrie will bring it home!
Carrie Smith, Careful Cents
To be a great saver you need to have a goal — and not just one of those vague “I want to save more money” goals. It needs to be something specific like, saving for a summer vacation to the beach, or saving for a certain model of car. Then once you have your specific goal in mind, it’s time to put it on paper, where you can see it visually. For me this means creating a vision board (or a Pinterest board) where I can look at inspiring photos, quotes and visuals that help me stay motivated. Without motivation you can’t be a good saver — because saving money isn’t a fun goal in and of itself.
As you can see, from David to Carrie, if these people can do it, so can you! Did you see some common themes? Motivational speaker Tony Robbins says that you should learn most from those. If one good saver recommends something….it might work for just them. But when several people who’ve successfully navigated the saving puzzle make a recommendation, you should emulate it.
What is your best saving strategy? Join us for more fun in the comments below.