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Published on July 3, 2019

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 August 20, 2019

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

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. And 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 on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

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

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal (let alone financial) 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 is for. It could be anything like kid’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, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

2. Keep Them 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 out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for 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”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

4. Short Term vs Long Term

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

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as 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.

More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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5. To Each to His Own

The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

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

11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 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. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self realization is the best form of realisation 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 monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

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

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

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 then manage all the expenses from the rest.

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

Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

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. Rise Again Even If You Fall

Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

5. 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 counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

So 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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6. 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. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

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

7. Maintain a Journal

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

So 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.

Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

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

At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

8. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is 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.

9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

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.

Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

It is here where that classification will help.

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So 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 as compared to equity instruments.

10. 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.

So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

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

11. 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; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

Do 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

This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

More About Personal Finance Management

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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