“Saving” -- the term is likely to fill you with a sense of “I know I should, but ______”. There are always things looking to nibble away at the money we have set aside. Whether it’s an impulse buy or something more serious, like a car breakdown or healthcare costs, savings can be an uphill climb for many of us.
Fortunately, you’re never too young or too old to start enjoying the benefits of saving. And although it’s best to start building solid financial habits sooner rather than later, you can still make the most of your money with these simple tips:
The best money management tip there is, and the one that leads to the greatest long-term success is to align your money habits with your savings goals. How? By focusing on what’s important to you in your life -- right at this moment.
No one’s going to judge you for your choice, whether it’s traveling the world or paying down your credit cards or setting money aside for college tuition. Whatever your main goal is, saving for that should be your number one priority. You can then trim back on spending on other excesses while saving toward what you really want.
Pull out your credit card bills, mortgage, utility bills and bank statements and see where the money’s going. If it’s too much of a challenge to do several months of statements, narrow yourself down to one. Make sure you also include any electronic payments like Paypal or ATM withdrawals.
Next, segment your spending into appropriate categories and then add up the amounts for each one. This will give you a fuller picture of where the money is going -- and you may be surprised at what you find! Many people are often shocked at how much they spend eating out, or how much they spend on things like entertainment (such as going out to the movies) when they could simply watch something at home.
Little things like this may not seem like much at the time, but they absolutely add up!
The best savings plan is the one you create yourself -- one that’s manageable and do-able for the long term. It doesn’t even matter what kind of system you use -- be in Excel spreadsheets or good old-fashioned paper ledger books. The important point is that it’s a system that works for you.
Try it out for at least a month. If you need help staying on track, paperclip some magazine cutouts that represent the thing you’re saving toward, such as a wedding or a vacation. These will help remind you of the long-term goal and get you excited to save all over again!
There’s a lot of free money floating around out there that you may be entitled to and don’t even know about it! For example, see if your employer offers 401(k) matching for your retirement account. That’s extra money that’s going into your retirement savings. Health insurance is another area. You may get extra benefits with yours, including preventative dental and vision screenings at no cost to you. Check your specific plan or policy to find out all the details.
The bottom line is that money management doesn’t have to be a headache or a hassle. By creating a system you can work with and seeing where your money goes, you’ll be better suited to making course corrections that won’t take you further in debt, and will help you save for the things you truly want!