10 Smart Ways to Make Yourself Love Saving Money
Like most people, I have a love-hate relationship with saving.
On one hand, I love saving because my endgame is always an investment that I'm confident will change my life for the better. On the other, saving causes me to cut back, miss out on certain activities, and otherwise frown when I'd rather be spending money on frivolous and fun things instead of staring at it in my online bank account. (See also: 10 Things Everyone Should Be Saving For)
While I can't take away all the pain of saving from you in a simple article, I can offer a few tips on how to get into a positive mindset that will make your decision to improve your life an easier pill to swallow.
1. Set Goals You Must Save For
When making any kind of resolution or major lifestyle change, you need to set goals. Why do so many people fail after three weeks into the New Year on their plan to get in shape? Because the only thought they put into it was taking their gym membership off hold and buying a new pair of sneakers. Unfortunately, that doesn't cut it. To succeed when you set goals that require a significant change in the way you live, you need to establish small, achievable steps that will hold you accountable on a regular basis along the way — and that will result in an achievement at the end.
In my case, I'm in savings mode right now to buy a new home. In order to hold myself accountable, I've cut the fat out of my expenses, mapped out my income over the next six months, set dates by which I need to have a certain amount of money in the bank (for instance, $X,000 by July 31; $XX,000 by October 31, etc.), and a semi-solid plan to invest that money when I've reached that goal.
2. Establish Milestones and Rewards When You Reach Them
The end result of your savings effort is your final reward, but it doesn't hurt to reward yourself along the way for a job well done — if only to help you stay motivated. This tactic works especially well if you've set a long-term savings plan in place. These rewards shouldn't be huge, but rather a small prize in the form of whatever makes you happy. Personally, I enjoy traveling and shopping, so my reward when I've achieved a goal may be a new pair of shoes or a weekend trip to someplace affordable but new. By treating myself to something I love once in a while, I can pat myself on the back while re-energizing my motivation to stick to this challenge.
3. Think of Your Income in Terms of Specific Bills
I'll be completely honest in telling you that I don't have a monthly budget written on paper. Still, I'm able to manage my money effectively using a different method of spending and saving.
First, I know how much I need to pay every month on necessary expenses, which includes my half of two mortgages and household expenses, my cell phone, my business phone, and two school loans. Essentially those are the only required expenses I have at the present time (because, as I mentioned earlier, I recently did a major trimming of fat to expedite the saving process), and they're pretty static from month to month.
Next, I assign the monetary value of my projects (I'm self-employed) to a specific bill so I can be sure that I'm bringing in enough to cover it, to let me know when I need to work harder to earn more money, and gauge an estimated amount of money I can spend on non-essentials and how much I need to put into savings per month.
As a personal example, I have to write X articles per month for Wise Bread to pay my cell phone bill and school loans. And I use this trick with all my clients — each one is assigned to a specific bill. I have to earn enough from each particular client to pay the bill to which they're assigned. Once I've met that goal on a monthly basis, everything else is surplus.
For me at least, this is a great way to take the pressure off of earning and saving money.
4. Get Creative Socially
It's very easy to go to a sports game or out to a bar with your friends and spend upwards of $100 to have a good time; there's really not much thought involved in that process, in fact. But when you're dedicated to saving, changes will inevitably need to be instituted — most likely to your social life — if you want to meet your goal. This isn't necessarily a bad thing either. Rather, your dedication to saving gives you a chance to be creative with how you spend your time and money, which will most likely allow you to experience things you wouldn't have otherwise experienced while introducing a new lifestyle habit that will probably stick with you well after you've reached your goal. In this case, the grass is greener on the other side.
5. Find a Savings Buddy
We have friends and family to help us with countless other goals in our life — whether it's getting in shape, successfully completing school, getting a new job, etc. So it only makes sense that you find someone you can lean on during this goal as well. It will help the situation even more if you find someone who's in the same position as you — committed to saving — so you can relate to each other's struggles and accomplishments, and, frankly, spend time with each other when everyone else is out blowing their paychecks on a Friday night. You'll start to enjoy Saturdays much more when your bank account is growing — and you don't have a hangover.
6. Find Some Fun Money-Making Opportunities
Now that you're spending more time not spending money with your savings buddy, you can take advantage of your newfound physical wellness on the weekends by replacing your boozy brunch binges with money-making opportunities that will help you reach your goal faster. These don't have to be major commitments like a regular part-time job. Instead, I recommend one-off opportunities on Craigslist or another site conducive to these gigs. By picking and choosing short projects to take on — I used to help senior adults around their houses and yards when I was a teenager and in college to make extra cash — you'll keep the experience fun and fresh, and you might even make a few unexpected friends along the way.
7. Rethink Your Expenses
I've alluded to this tactic twice already in this post, so let's dive into it head on.
First, identify what you truly don't need in your life and get rid of it. That will differ from person to person, but examples include ditching the cable and entertaining yourself with streaming content online, canceling subscriptions to other entertainment services you don't use often, dropping your gym membership and working out at home, carpooling to work to cut your monthly gas bill in half, and more. In my situation, I dumped my outside office space and got rid of my gym membership for the time being. These are things I can live without right now, and it's an extra $400 a month that I can put toward my goal without any extra effort. No brainer.
8. Turn Shopping Into a Fun Challenge to Maximize Your Savings
I love saving as much as I can when I'm shopping (I treat it like a game), so this is easy for me, but it may not be easy for you — and there are two main reasons why:
- You don't know how to save.
- You're too lazy to save.
I can't do anything about the latter (expect to tell you that your laziness is costing you a lot of money in more ways than one), but I can do something about the former. And that's why I write for Wise Bread.
You can browse the hundreds of posts I've written on the site about saving money — several of which specifically relate to shopping — but some quick examples of how to turn shopping into a fun savings challenge include learning how to coupon like a pro, download money-saving and cash-back apps (check out Cartwheel by Target and Ibotta — two of my personal favorites), always search for discount and free shipping coupon codes when shopping online, hit the clearance sections first (even in the grocery store), and sign up for email lists to score exclusive deals.
Of course, you shouldn't go on shopping benders when you're in super savings mode, but when shopping is necessary, it's important to employ these tactics to pinch as many pennies as you can.
9. Put It "Out of Sight, Out of Mind"
A really simple trick to reduce your savings stress: Funnel a certain amount of money into your savings account via direct deposit every paycheck. After a while you won't miss what you don't have — except you do have it, just in a better place.
10. Give Yourself Plenty of Breathing Room
Whenever you set major goals for yourself, you run the risk of going off track along the way. You're especially susceptible to this inevitability when it comes to saving money — and there's only one way to deal with it: Relax. Accept that mistakes happen, and get right back on course. As they say, slow and steady wins the race — and this one is a marathon. Learn to love it along the way, however, and you'll finish in first.
Do you have other tips on how to make yourself love saving money? Let me know in the comments below.