The One Thing That Will Help You Actually Save Money


At least 66 million American adults don't have anything saved in an emergency fund. Whether you have one or not, that is a whopper of a number!

Saving is hard. There are so many legitimate places to spend our money, and so many things we want on top of that. It can be difficult to figure out how to set anything aside, let alone to leave it there when a new need or want pops up on our horizon.

Lucky for us, there is one very simple way to help ourselves save more money.

Positive Encouragement

The Rand Corporation recently published a study examining the role of positive encouragement in savings. Study participants were randomly given $50, $100, or $500 just for participating, but they had to put at least a portion of that into savings. They were able to choose the portion, as long as some of the money got saved for the six-month duration of the study.

Each saver was assigned one of three different types of savings account: A traditional savings account, earning 30% interest and allowing the participant to withdraw the money at any time; a hard commitment account, also earning 30% interest but disallowing withdrawals; and a soft commitment account, which was the same as the traditional account except that it also included encouraging nudges designed to potentially help participants save.

These nudges weren't anything huge. The folks running the study just reminded people why they were saving, helped them see themselves as good savers, and helped them think about how good it would feel to reach their savings goals.

In addition to all of this, every participant got an update on their money every month, and they were also asked if they wanted to save more. The results? The folks with the soft commitment accounts were the most successful savers early on, while those with the hard commitment accounts enjoyed the greatest return at the end of the study.

That's not the only good news! The people who seemed to benefit most from the encouragement they received were "impatient" people, a group less likely to successfully reach a savings goal.

Encourage Yourself

Since we can't all be part of a study like this, what does it mean for us? Is there a way to apply these ideas so that we can motivate ourselves to start — and continue — saving?

1. Find a Goal

Before you can know how it feels to reach a goal, you have to set one. Even if you are saving for something less glamorous, like an emergency fund or a new water heater, set that goal firmly in your mind. It is what you need, and it is the reason you are putting money away.

2. Think About Your Goal

When it comes to financial goals, don't just set it and forget it. Instead, remind yourself of your goal regularly. This can mean writing "Hawaii" on a sticky note and putting it on your bedroom mirror or your computer monitor, or it can mean setting daily reminders on your phone. Do whatever works for you, but make sure your goal comes to mind at least every few days.

3. Feel Good About Your Goal

Positive feelings are important when it comes to feeling encouraged, so don't just analyze your goal, but think about how you will feel when you achieve it, too. If you're saving for a new car, picture yourself driving it to work feeling happy and proud. If you need an emergency fund, imagine yourself feeling safe and secure, even in the face of a medical bill or a massive auto repair.

It can help to write these scenarios and feelings down, too. Writing has a way of making things feel more real, of making them tangible. If you struggle to meet your goals, giving yourself a tangible reminder of why you're pursuing your goal can help make it more concrete in your mind.

4. Affirm Yourself

In addition to focusing on your goal, spend some time focusing on yourself, too. Say and write down statements like "I am a good saver," and "I will reach my financial goals." You might feel silly, but doing these things will help you come to believe these things about yourself. Saying it once won't make it true, but saying it over and over can help you change what you believe about yourself.

Be sure that your statements are all positive. Keep away from statements that include words like "I won't…" or "I will stop..." These can be harder for our brains to process, and can sometimes backfire. You can turn any statement into a positive one with a couple moments' work, thus avoiding any accidental confusion in your own head.

Saving may feel like a gargantuan task for you, but you can get started today. Set aside a little bit of money — open a new account if you need to! — and jump in with these positive reminders. You may be able to save more than you think!

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In the winter keep your thermostat turned down under 70 degrees, wear more clothes and you can keep it under 65 degrees like I do.
Get credit cards that pay you a cash rebate but have no annual fee.
Look for ways to save, save save. Keep to your saving goal like mentioned in the article and you can do it!