What are your short term and long term financial goals? Do you want to pay off debt, start investing in the market, purchase a home, fund your retirement, or just stop living paycheck to paycheck? All of these financial goals require you to do one thing…start saving. There’s no other way to achieve financial stability in any area of your life if you don’t start saving.
Some people often put off saving because they think they don’t make enough money to save. Please don’t make that mistake. Most people would argue that it’s easier to start saving and do it consistently when you make a sustainable amount of income. I’d agree with that.
But just because it’s not as easy doesn’t mean it’s impossible to save when you have a lower income either. If you’re drowning in debt or barely making ends meet each month, you might be wondering how you could possibly save each month. Here are a few techniques you can implement to help you save more each month.
Get Rid of the ‘Big Baller’ Syndrome
When you think about saving money, it’s easy to picture a large amount of money being set aside each month. Saving $500 a month looks way more impressive than saving $20 or $50 a month. I get that.
But by getting psyched out by the ‘Big Baller’ Syndrome (as I call it), you’ll discourage yourself to save anything at all just because it’s not a nice chunk of money or the amount you plan on setting aside seems too small or unworthy to save.
But let me tell you a secret: Every bit counts, because every bit adds up. When you stop spending $5/day on work lunches, that’s at least $100/month or $1,200/year that you save.
A FDIC National Survey in 2012 revealed 30% of Americans don’t have a savings account. Which is really a shame. But some banks are not even encouraging people to save even if it’s just a little bit.
When I first started trying to save back in college I had to wait until I had $200 just to open a savings account. On the flip side, there are plenty of good banks that don’t require a minimum balance in order to save. You just need to find those, and give them your business.
Track Your Spending Like a Hawk and Cut Expenses When Necessary
Tracking your spending is the first step to creating a suitable budget, but it’s also the first step when determining a savings strategy as well. You can’t find out how much money you’re able to set aside each month if you’re not keeping track of where everything is going.
I’m all for budgeting software and apps to track your spending like YNAB, Mint (read our full review on Mint here), and Wally, but if you’re just starting out and you really want to be accurate, I’d start by manually tracking your expenses so you’ll be able to find out where your cash is going along with all your other transactions.
Save all your receipts for a month and enter your spending in an Excel spreadsheet along with your fixed and variable expenses for the month. Track every penny. Once you find out how much you are spending each month in comparison to your income it’s time to trim your expenses and cut areas that aren’t necessary.
How much do you spend on wants? How much do you spend on needs? Prioritize your expenses and cut the things you don’t truly need. No matter how basic you think you live, there’s always something you can cut out or sacrifice in order to save money.
Live Below Your Means
Making sure that you are living below your means is extremely import if you wish to start saving. If your income is on the lower side you can assume that you’ll have to live even simpler than you already are, adopt some frugal habits, and give up a lot of wants to make it work. This is completely fine.
And by establishing a savings account and increasing your savings rate, you’ll be getting closer and closer to becoming financially stable instead of remaining caught up in the endless cycle of living paycheck to paycheck.
The best way to live below your means is to be realistic about your income vs. expenses ratio and determine what you can and can’t afford. Can you afford to dine out each weekend, buy expensive furniture, travel, pay for a cable subscription, or live in a home or apartment that takes up more than half of your monthly income?
If the answer is no, then you need to cut back, shop and buy used, utilize your resources for freebies and frugal entertainment and live below your means.
Pick Up A Side Hustle
If you’re tracking your expenses and living below your means but still want to save more you could always pick up a side hustle. Side hustles are a great way to earn extra income because you can choose from a variety of gigs or even work for yourself as a freelancer or independent contractor.
Side hustles range from anything and everything including dog walking, photography, cleaning, cooking, writing, graphic design, making jewelry, selling things online, etc. The list goes on and on. Once you establish a side hustle and determine a time commitment that is best for you, you can use the extra income you earn to fund a savings account.
Focus on Your Goal
Saving isn’t all about how much money you have. It’s about motivation. People with both higher and lower incomes struggle with saving and working toward financial stability every day. Sure it’s easier to save more when you make more, but if you haven’t set a clear goal and aren’t motivated to reach that goal, then you’ll most likely fail at saving up for anything.
Staying focused on your financial goals and being motivated each month is the best way to save regardless of what your income looks like.
What are your financial goals and how does saving affect them? Do you try any of these techniques to save more?