How to Find the Savings Strategy That Works For You

Creating a savings strategy may sound like an odd concept. Saving money seems like a simple task — one that doesn't require much strategy on your part.

But saving money, like any other financial skill, can be set up to either fit in with your psychology, lifestyle, and preferences, or go against them. And just how successful can your savings plan be if your savings strategy doesn't work for you?

If you've ever struggled to save money, you might have been using the wrong strategy. Instead of following the same old failed savings path, try a strategy that works for you:

If you like getting something for nothing: Use a change jar or roundup app

When I was in high school, I was the person holding up every transaction by counting out exact change to the cashier, while my friend thought nothing of breaking a $20 bill. For a long time, I thought my friend was bad with money — until I learned what he did with all the loose change he gathered by breaking bills. Every few weeks, he'd take his change to the bank and deposit the money into a savings account.

My friend's habit was an excellent way for him to set money aside. He got to avoid counting out change at every transaction (which he hated doing), and he felt like he was getting a nice financial bonus every few weeks.

In 2017, change jars may not be as practical as they were in the 1990s, but you can consider using an app that offers a similar strategy. Apps like Acorns and Qoins recreate the feeling of throwing change in a jar. These apps round your purchases up to the nearest dollar, and use the difference to build your savings account or pay down debt. (See also: Spare Change Apps — Are They Worth It?)

If you like seeing progress toward a goal: Manually transfer your savings

Sometimes, the best motivation to do something is the same one your elementary school teacher offered: gold stars on progress charts. If this describes you, consider manually transferring money to your savings account every payday.

This may sound counterintuitive, since so much personal finance advice suggests automating your savings so you don't have to think about it. But if you're someone who feels great about seeing the progress made on a goal, manually transferring your savings will make you excited about doing it in the first place. It will motivate you to stick with it, and maybe even put more money aside.

In addition, actually creating a savings chart or other visual representation of your goal will help you stay on track and inspired to find more ways to save. That's because tracking your progress helps build a chain of good habits, and you want to keep that chain going until the good habits become second nature.

If you don't want to think about saving money: Deposit your whole paycheck into savings

Some people have trouble saving money, no matter how hard they try. If this describes you, why not set up your finances so that your money goes into savings before it hits your checking account?

Under this system, your entire paycheck is deposited into your savings account on payday. Once a month, you'll transfer the amount you need for your regular expenses and bills into your checking account.

When you follow this strategy, you'll automatically spend less than you earn and save money every month without having to think about it. The money has already been saved for you.

If you correctly calculated the amount you need to cover your monthly expenses, the money in your checking account should last until the following month. If you are running short before the end of those 30 days, you can decide to move more money from your savings account, or go on a spending ban (make no unnecessary purchases until the next month begins).

If you find that you're regularly adding a second transfer near the end of the month to make ends meet, take time to re-evaluate your expenses.

If you want to productively ignore your savings: Automate and use savings apps

Part of the problem with saving money is the fact that it becomes just another financial decision you have make. How much should you set aside? When should you make your transfer? Where will you find the money to put into savings?

If you'd rather skip the whole task of saving money instead of answering these questions, then automation is the right savings strategy for you. Setting up an automatic transfer from your paycheck into your savings account means that you don't have to think about putting the money aside. It's a seamless transfer of your money to savings.

Digit is one way to do this. Digit is an app that analyzes your cash flow. After syncing your accounts, about twice a week, the app will determine an amount of money ($5–$50) that is safe to transfer out of your checking account and into an FDIC-insured Digit deposit account. This is a simple way to save money without having to think about it. Digit is free for one month, and $2.99 per month thereafter. (See also: 5 MicroSaving Tools to Help You Start Saving Now)

If you have trouble prioritizing yourself: Treat your savings like a bill

Many of us have trouble putting ourselves first, including paying ourselves first. If you're someone who prides yourself on always paying bills on time, but who struggles to prioritize savings, then start treating your savings like a bill to pay.

Set up a reminder to transfer money to savings on the same day you pay your other regular bills. Making "savings" a bill when you are paying all your other bills makes it feel like a nonnegotiable, which will help you make it a priority.

If saving money bores you: Create targeted savings accounts

If you have trouble getting excited about saving money when there is so much fun stuff you could spend your money on, you're not alone. Having money funneled into a savings account can feel pretty boring if you don't have any specific plans for the cash.

You are much more likely to get excited about saving money if you have a set goal for your savings. This is partially due to something known as mental accounting, which is our tendency to value money differently depending on how it is physically and mentally labeled. You might not hesitate to "borrow" $400 from your general savings account for a couple of tickets to Jay-Z's 4:44 tour — but taking that money from your new car fund, on the other hand, would hurt.

Many online and traditional banks will allow you to create several targeted accounts, each with its own nickname. Taking the time to put a name to each one of your savings goals can help you save more and spend less.

Know thy savings self

Finding the best savings strategy for you starts with understanding your psychology and preferences when it comes to money. Working within those preferences makes saving money a much easier and far more satisfying prospect.

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How to Find the Savings Strategy That Works For You

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