5 Things Successful Savers Do

By Sarah Winfrey on 19 February 2015 3 comments

More than 25% of Americans have no emergency savings. More than 75% report living paycheck to paycheck. Almost 20% of people heading into retirement soon have saved nothing.

If these statistics hit close to home, you might be worried about your financial future. But don't despair. We can learn from the behaviors of good savers to improve our own money situations. Follow their lead, and you, too, can end up with a ton of money in the bank. (See also: 16 Easy Ways to Save $100 This Month)

1. Live as Simply as Possible

"Living simply" means something different to everyone. But, for many of us, it conjures images of deprivation — of letting go of things that we love. The truth is, though, that you can keep many of the things you love, by living more simply (and cheaply) in other areas of your life.

For instance, you may love gourmet food, but not care so much about clothes. You could choose to buy your clothes at a thrift or consignment store, while spending a bit more on food. Still, that doesn't give you license to overspend on food — and you still need to cut back on shopping or other areas for this method to work.

People who save a lot of money do just this: They cut back on the things that aren't important to them, and save that money instead. You might be surprised at how much you spend on things that just don't really matter to you.

2. Remember That Every Little Bit Adds Up

If you only have a few dollars a week to save, it can feel easier to buy a few lattes than to put that money away. However (assuming an 8% return), saving only $15 a week for 20 years will get you $62,183. If you can put away $30, you'll end up with $124,365.

Is that enough to retire on? No, but it's also nothing to sneeze at. Imagine giving your child or grandchild that money on their 25th birthday, or using it to buy a new home.

People who have a ton of savings have realized that every little bit helps. They might sell things on eBay, do mystery shopping on the side, open bank accounts that offer free money as incentives, or any number of other things. They don't talk themselves out of saving this money, because they've looked at how it multiplies.

3. Grab Free Money

Most employers offer some sort of matching on their retirement accounts, and many also offer things like stock options or other investment incentives. Essentially, this is free money that they are giving you simply because you work for them.

The hard part for some people is that most employers require you to contribute a certain percentage of your salary to these investments before you qualify for the match. If you're already feeling like you don't have enough money, it can be hard to talk yourself into seeing less in each paycheck.

People with a ton of money saved have almost always taken advantage of these offers, though. They know that free money doesn't come around every day, and they take a long view regarding their own funds. They would rather have more money later than get their hands on that cash now, even if they have to live more simply at present in order to achieve that.

4. Plan How to Spend and Save

If the word "budget" makes you want to run and hide, you are not alone. We tend to think that budgets are restricting and that they'll ruin our fun. Instead, try to think of your budget as a tool for freedom. If you keep to it, you will know exactly how much you can spend and still achieve your long-term savings goals.

People who save a ton know where their money is going. They know what their bills and other financial obligations are, and they ensure they can meet those and still put a little away for the future. They also live without financial fear, because they know that they have enough for everything that's important to them.

5. Understand How the Brain Perceives Time

Saving money requires you to be able to overcome the desire to spend money intended for savings on other things. To do that, you have to understand how your brain works. Not only do you need to understand how advertising influences you, but it helps to understand that, sometimes, when a goal is far off, your brain lies to you by making you believe that what happens today is more important.

Most people with high levels of savings listen to their reason and look at the numbers before they make financial decisions. They know that the way they perceive things can be flawed, and so they constantly return to logic and data. Some even know that, when working toward a long-term goal, the longer you work, the further away the goal seems.

Get to know the intricacies of your own brain. If, for instance, you grew up in poverty, you may be particularly sensitive to any sense of want or lacking and tend to spend more when you feel deprived. Knowing this about yourself will empower your choices, so that you can overcome your gut reaction and make smart financial choices.

How do you talk yourself out of saving? What will you start doing today to save more?

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Guest's picture
Eleven

You always say "assuming an 8% return" maybe an updated article with ways to target that - is that post tax? How stable of a plan?

I am a newer reader to the site, and a 2015 version of this topic would be helpful for me.

Sarah Winfrey's picture

Hi! I'm not a big fan of dispensing specific investment advice over the Internet, because everyone's situation/risk tolerance/investments of choice are so different. There are a lot of different ways to structure your money so you can get such a return.

I'm not sure, from your comment, how much investment experience you have, so forgive me if this next part is too simplified. I think it's best to begin by looking into both mutual funds and ETFs that are beating the major indices (like the Dow or the S&P) over extended periods of time. Alternately, you can find a fund manager with a strategy you like and start investing there. If you're not in a position to do this research on your own (for instance, if you're super busy), I'd find someone you trust who will do it for you - this can be a friend or an investment professional. I also know that you can usually call up any investment institution (for instance, where your 401(k) is held) and ask them what funds they know about that meet your particular requirements. I hope that helps!

Guest's picture
Tina

Wonderful post! As a personal finance lover I didn't expect to see anything new to me in your post, but #5 threw me off. The psychology of spending doesn't come up very often, but it is definitely important. It's why consumers spend more using a card than using cash, or why businesses will sometimes give you a better deal if you pay in cash.