If you want to save money, give up buying your morning coffee: Doesn’t that feel like the tagline of almost every personal finance article you read? What if you love your morning coffee, though? And what if you really and truly hate saving money? Are your finances forever doomed? No! You are in control of your financial destiny. If your morning coffee (or avocado toast, or yoga class, or monthly massage, or weekly golf game) is important to you, you don’t always have to give it up. But if you hate saving money, you need to embrace a few strategies that take the sting out of saving.
Don’t Make a Budget: Make a Spending Plan
Budgets seem so restrictive, and you can almost hear the budget yell at you when you pull out your wallet to pay for lunch. So instead of a budget, make a spending plan. Determine your fixed expenses (housing, utilities, student loan payments, et cetera), subtract that from your income, and the rest is the money you get to decide how to spend. The book
All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan
advocates for dividing your money by this simple formula: 50% to musts (like housing and food), 30% to wants (like entertainment and eating out), and 20% to savings. Once you do that, you can determine what’s important to you and spend accordingly.
Set Savings Goals
It’s really easy to get discouraged if you are saving only for huge goals that seem far down the road (a million dollars for retirement! $100,000 for a college fund! $40,000 for a down payment on a house!). Instead, break your goals up into short-, medium-, and long-term goals while also embracing the idea of sinking funds. Let’s say you budgeted $50 for clothes from this paycheck but didn’t spend it, so you set it aside. Next paycheck, the same thing happens. You now have $100 in your clothes fund. A few more cycles and you can afford the $500 pair of boots you’ve had your eye on. That’s a sinking fund! Sinking funds are so helpful for planning for occasional expenses, like yearly vet visits, car registration, or new glasses. Next, move on to short-term goals. Is your favorite cousin getting married next year in Bermuda? That’s a short-term savings goal. Want to buy a house? Saving for the down payment is a medium-term goal. Retirement is, of course, a long-term goal. Naming your goals, tracking your progress, and feeling the benefits (hello, new boots!) from saving help keep you motivated.
Automate Your Savings
Don’t depend on yourself or your memory. That’s not an insult; it’s an acknowledgment that life is busy and everyone forgets things. Instead of thinking, “Oh, when my paycheck hits the bank, I’ll move some money over into my savings account,” set up your paycheck so that it happens automatically. When you set up direct deposit at work, determine how much will go into your checking account and how much goes into savings. You can even direct your savings into different accounts: Your long-term savings can go right into a 401(k) or Roth IRA while your short- and medium-term savings go into your savings account. Now, your savings will grow without you having to think about it. Saving is also less painful when you aren’t taking away money you already feel is yours by pulling cash out of your checking account.
Go for the Big Wins
Trying to save money by small measures (like cutting out your morning coffee) is painful daily, and it takes a long while for your savings account to see real results. Instead of making small cutbacks, try using strategies that save you significant money but don’t require daily sacrifices. The first thing you should do is maximize the employer matching funds for your retirement plan. If you save 5% of your salary toward retirement, does your employer match it? Then you need to hit that 5% goal: Otherwise, you’re basically leaving free money behind. If you have a partner, can you get by with one car and majorly cut your transportation budget? Even if it results in increased ride-share usage, those costs should be offset by the savings of only paying for and maintaining one vehicle. Do you already have affordable housing? Stay in it instead of upgrading when your next raise hits. Or if you previously leased an incredible apartment, consider downgrading when your lease is up and banking the savings each month.
Saving money takes thought and planning; it’s not something that happens overnight. Unexpected emergencies, on the other hand, can occur even when we’re not as financially prepared as we need to be. In the event of a financial emergency that requires immediate attention, it is important to understand all of the short term financial solutions that may be available to help make ends meet. Research all of your options before committing to a solution that works for you and your specific situation.