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20 Better Money Habits to Help You Increase Your Savings

20 Better Money Habits to Help You Increase Your Savings

Isn’t it frustrating to feel you can be saving more?

You have great intentions at the begging of each month–yet somehow you spend most of your money. Are others able to save more because they’re naturally gifted?

If you’re struggling to save money, you’re not alone. Data shows more than half of Americans aren’t able to cover a $1,000 expense.[1] Is the solution to be the average and continue saving little money?

Of course not.

You’re an action taker–someone who doesn’t settle for mediocrity. This is why you’re reading this article now.

The truth is saving money won’t be easy.You’ll have to break bad habits and learn new strategies. Most of them will be simple but will need a focus on discipline. If you’re done aimlessly spending your money, you’ve come to the right place.

But first, be clear of why you want to start saving.

Most people talk about retirement. Others save for a vacation trip. So, is there a right answer for what you should save for?

It depends.

Saving for retirement is a must, but once you’re tracking this goal, it’s time to get intentional. As you already know saving isn’t easy, and you’ll need to change your perspective if you hope to save more.

Grab a sheet of paper or use your smartphone to jot down what having more money will make you feel.

Will you be able to sleep better at night? Do you want to start a business but can’t go all in because of your current job? Do you want to feel great whenever someone talks about money?

Get intentional and think what having more money will bring to you. Use these reasons as your north start. The next time you’re tempted to spend money remember why you’re saving in the first place.

Then, start adopting better money habits. Go through this list and note which habits you’re weak and strong in:

1. Be Honest About Your Bad Habits

The most important habit you can learn is to face reality.

The reason why you haven’t been able to save for a long time is that you’ve delayed accepting the facts. I get it, it’s not easy to accept you’re not saving as much as you should. It’s easier to ignore this and spend the money you could be saving, hoping you’ll have enough left over.

Go ahead and admit to yourself you’ve been lying to yourself for some time now.

This isn’t to make yourself feel bad. Instead, be proud of yourself for being honest and show self-compassion. Now you’re aware you carry bad habits and it’s time to get to work.

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2. Recognize Your Money Mentality

When you hear “savings,” what comes to mind?

Do you get excited because you’re on track for retirement? Or, do you cringe knowing you have been spending your money poorly these past few weeks?

The truth is you’re not saving because of the stories you’re playing in your head. Set some time in your calendar to interview yourself.

Figure out what money stories you’ve been telling yourself and challenge them. For example, if you believe you should spend your money as it comes–ask how this has resulted in the last few years. Your goal is to challenge bad money stories to create better ones.

3. Define Your Needs and Wants

It’s okay to like expensive brands. The problem is trying to buy everything because you want to keep up with friends and family. As Paula Pant states “you can afford anything but not everything.” This is why you need to define what your needs and wants are.

Create a list of items you truly need. For example, cell phone, and food, house are needs. Then, create your list of wants for items such as high-end shoes, latest smartphone, etc.

You shouldn’t buy everything from your wants list immediately. Instead, pick one and create a budget for it. Save money first and reward yourself with an item from your “wants” list once you’ve reached a savings goal.

4. Understand Your Cash Flow Using Top Tools

You may believe you understand your cash flow (money coming and out of your account.)

You get paid twice per month and spend an approximated amount of your salary on expenses. The rest sits on the same bank account without a purpose. This is a recipe for disaster.

Instead, use money tracking apps to better track your cash flow. Sync up all your accounts and let Personal Capital do the rest.

5. Learn How to Set SMART goals

You already know that saving without intention doesn’t work.

But, stating you want to retire happy isn’t enough. You need to set SMART goals. Think of SMART goals as ones you can take action on and track.

For example, “I want to be rich” isn’t SMART. Neither is “I want to be a millionaire.” But, “I want to save $500,000 within the next 10 years” is SMART.

The purpose of creating SMART goals is to be able to track your progress. How else would you know if you’ve reached your saving goals? Review your current financial goals and make them SMART.

6. Use Tools to Track Your Expenses

If you can’t manage your money well, you’ll always spend it poorly.

Your goal should be to keep your expenses as low as possible while having a high income. The problem is you may not review your finances regularly. Because of this, you might be overpaying for your services.

Again, you can track expenses using a money tracking app, showing you the amount you spend each month.

7. Learn How to Negotiate Your Bills

Once you’re tracking your expenses, take it a step further.

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Odds are you may be overpaying for your services or pay for ones you don’t need. Negotiating your expense isn’t hard. I was able to reduce my cell phone bill $10 per month with a 5-minute phone call.

You can do the same. Saving money with your bills means you’ll have more money to save.

Organize your expense from the most expensive to the least. Then, start calling your most expensive service providers to negotiate your bills. If you fail to negotiate the first time, hang up and try again.

Most of your service providers will be big companies, so you’ll work with a different person each time. You also have the option to use services like Trim, who negotiate on your behalf. Regardless, don’t settle for what you’re paying now and negotiate your expenses.

8. Start Automatically Saving Instead

Stop trusting yourself to save money.

You’ve already seen where this has gotten you. But, don’t feel bad, we’re all human and prone to mistakes. Instead, create an automatic budget.

For example, have your money automatically transferred to different accounts. Take it a step further and open external savings accounts. This way you make it more challenging for you to withdraw your money.

Now when payday comes, your money is automatically saved.

9. Be Frugal with Your Money

It’s okay to use your money to buy things that make you happy.

But, if you’re not saving enough after cutting your expenses, you need to take a different approach. I’m against adopting frugality for the sake of doing so.

But, being frugal isn’t binary– there are different levels to frugality. If you’re having trouble saving look for areas where you can cut more. For example, instead of paying for Netflix, watch free videos on Youtube.

Repeat this process until there are no more areas left. Cutting services and being more frugal than you’re accustomed is only temporary. Once you’re able to save more, you can go back to the services you love.

10. Switch over to No Credit Card

Debt is often the reason most of us can’t save.

You may earn a decent income, but once you factor in your rent, car note, and credit cards, you’re left with little. T

he average credit card debt is around $16,000.[2] The best way to avoid credit card debt is to stop using it altogether.

Forget about earning points. Leave your credit card at home somewhere out of sight.

11. Review Your Financial Progress Daily

You need to review your finances daily

With money tracking apps, you’re able to do this with no problem. But, even if you don’t review your finances daily, create a reminder to check where you stand once per week or month.

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To encourage this habit, make reviewing your finances fun. For example, review them while eating your favorite food. Or, reward yourself with something small from your “wants” list. Once reviewing your finances becomes a habit, you’ll be in a better position to save more.

12. Shamelessly Use Coupons in All Places

You don’t use coupons only when you’re broke.

Get into the habit of using coupons to save as much money as possible. Don’t shop for your groceries and then search for coupons you can use. Instead, review the coupons available and buy the items on sale a given week.

Even if you’re able to save $5 per week, this is money you would’ve spent.

13. Pack Your Lunch to Save Money

A $10 meal doesn’t seem like a lot. It may even feel like a bargain depending on how good your food was. The problem is doing this 5 times per week, sometimes even twice per day. All a sudden, your $10 meals cost you $200+ per month.

Instead, make it a habit to pack your lunch to work. Pick one day during the week to meal prep for the entire week and watch your savings grow. Here’re some ideas for you: 25 Ideas for Delicious and Healthy Lunches You Can Take to Work

14. Leverage Tools to Cut Junk Mail

If you’re like most people, you check your email a few times per day.

Companies spend a lot of money to ensure you know about their latest sales. This will only make you want to spend more.

To avoid the temptation to spend, unsubscribe from most of these companies. Or, create a separate folder within your email provider that’s out of sight. Use services like unroll.me to easily unsubscribe from promotional emails.

15. Adopt the 30-Day Rule

Have you ever purchased something only to regret the sale a few days later?

If so, the 30-day rule is for you. Each time you’re going to make a new purchase, set it aside for 30 days. If after 30 days you still want to buy this item, do it. This won’t stop all bad purchases but it will cut the most irrational ones.

16. Work on Important Tasks, Not Everything

“How did it get so late so soon?” – Dr.Seuss

Time is the only resource you have that money can’t buy. This is why you need to protect it at all costs. If you’re honest with yourself, you’re not being productive with your time.

Watching useful Youtube videos or spending time with friends isn’t time wasted. The problem is doing only these.

If you’re already financially well off, then this isn’t a problem. But, if you’re looking to save more money you have to be productive with your time. How?

Like money, you have to track it. Use time tracking apps to get a clear idea of how you’re spending your time. Aim to spend some of your time managing your money better and searching for different ways to grow.

17. Be a Voracious Reader

One of the reasons you’re not saving enough money is because you don’t know the potential each dollar has.

For example, if you’d invested $1,000 in the stock market, it would double within 10 years. Many don’t know this and would rather put their money in a regular savings account.

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You don’t need to be a financial expert, but you need to understand money fundamentals. The best way to do this is by reading. Go to Amazon or your favorite book store and buy any book related to money. Here’re some recommendations for you: 19 Best Finance Books That The Richest People Read

Read and apply action on anything new you learn. Eventually, you’ll know more ways to put your money to work and choose to save more.

18. Get Educated on the Go

You can learn more from subject matter experts on podcasts. Find some of the top podcasts in business, money and other important areas.

Listen to them to and from your commute to work. Listen while you’re working out at the gym.

Little by little you’ll learn new things. And one day, you too will be a subject matter expert.

19. Choose to Invest in Yourself

You are your best investment. Why?

The more you know, the more you can apply. But, you can’t grow alone. Coaches are great to have because they can view your blind spots.

Yes, they cost money but can save you time in avoiding problems most people make. During your early stages as an entrepreneur or in your career, you may not be able to afford to hire a coach and this is okay. Read and listen to podcasts to grow. Or you can practice these 3 Valuable Ways to Invest in Yourself.

Eventually, your income will grow and you can use this money to invest in coaches.

20. Improve Your Money Skills to Grow Your Income

There’s a limit to how much money you can save but not how much money you can earn. This is why you need to start a side-business. The internet has made it possible to build a business on the side while working a full-time job. Choose to start a business in an industry you’re familiar with.

Will it be easy? No, but worth the effort. If you’re still clueless about where to start, here are some business ideas.

Bonus: Know What to Do with Your Saved Money

Once get traction with saving your money, you’ll need to put it work.

At the very least, ensure your money is getting a high APY (annual percentage yield.) Search online for “top savings accounts” to find banks offering competitive savings rates.

Next, open separate saving accounts for your different saving goals. And use money tracking apps to track your progress.

Final Thoughts

Saving money isn’t easy. Many of the habits you currently have are ones learned from childhood. So, to expect them to disappear in 30 days is unrealistic. Instead of trying to master all the habits covered here, start with one.

Then, start small with your first habit. It may seem to contradict to what you’ve done in the past, but this is most likely why you haven’t made progress. The reason you’d start small is to build a strong foundation.

Imagine building a house with cheap materials to support it. It wouldn’t be long before this house collapses. Trying to build fast habits is like using cheap materials to build a house.

The reason for starting small is to avoid triggering your amygdala’s fight-or-flight response. All this means is you’d be less likely to feel stressed as you’re forming new habits.

You can save more if you commit to do so today. More important, you’ll live a happier life. Isn’t this worth all the sacrifice?

More About Saving Money

Featured photo credit: Eric Muhr via unsplash.com

Reference

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Christopher Alarcon

Finance Analyst and Founder of the Financially Well Off Blog & Podcast

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Last Updated on September 2, 2020

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Personal finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. That’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways to set financial goals and actually meet them with ease.

4 Steps to Setting Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task, if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps to get you started.

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream, and this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore, if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it’s for. It could be anything, including your child’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car, etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives that you foresee in the future and put a value to each.

2. Keep Goals Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a Pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going beyond what you can realistically achieve will definitely hurt your chances of making meaningful progress.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic, as it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said: “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman.” This quote sums up what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore, account for inflation[1] whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far into the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years from now, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is a mere 3%. Always account for this to avoid falling short of your goals.

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4. Short Term Vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach to achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It’s important to bifurcate goals into short-term and long-term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal that is due in next 3 years should be termed as a short-term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long-term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short-term vs long-term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

By now, you should be ready with your list of financial goals. Now, it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

How to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a two-step process:

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self-realization is the best form of realization, and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your spending. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you will be surprised by how small expenses add up to a sizable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different buckets so that you know which bucket is eating most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pumping up your savings rate.

If you’re not sure where to start when tracking expenses, this article may be able to help.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classic mistake when setting financial goals. We pay ourselves last!

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Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world, i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement this is to put the savings on automatic mode, i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will help release some control and compel us to manage what’s left, increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick With It

Learning to create a budget is the best way to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be organized

Nowadays, several money management apps can help you do this automatically.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely, but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options, and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that, in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counterintuitive to many, there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

  • Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Weekends are more expensive.
  • If you are a travel buff, try to travel during off-season. You’ll spend significantly less.
  • If you go shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

The key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice, which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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5. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission.

Therefore, in order to stay the course, surround yourself with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

6. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

If you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energized to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot easier for you to track your progress.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However, savings, when invested wisely, can do wonders.

1. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investment doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it’s wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings, and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

2. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about the common ones, like a savings account, Roth IRA, and others.

Just like “no one is born a criminal,” no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference[2].

As a general rule, for all your short-term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature, for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds, etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less compared to equity instruments.

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3. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding:

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.”

Use compound interest when setting financial goals

    Make friends with this wonder kid. The sooner you become friends with it, the quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

    Start saving early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

    4. Measure, Measure, Measure

    All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments and taking stock of how our investments are doing.

    If we don’t measure progress at the right times, we are shooting in the dark. We won’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not, whether the financial advisor is doing a decent job, or whether we are moving closer to our target.

    Measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

    The Bottom Line

    Managing your extra money to achieve your short and long-term financial goals

    and live a debt-free life is doable for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. Use the tips above to get you started on your path to setting financial goals.

    More Tips on Financial Goals

    Featured photo credit: Micheile Henderson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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