You already know that the sooner you start saving the less you need to save in order to reach your goals. What you may not know is that it is far easier to save big bucks than you might think. You just have to take the right preliminary steps and the savings almost happen automatically.
After advising clients about money for more than 30 years I have seen what works and what doesn’t when it comes to getting people on the “Savings Train” and I’ve boiled it down to a 5-step process. Here it is:
1. Get the “why” straight first
Saving money is hard to do unless there is a good reason to do it. Who wants to give up instant gratification? Nobody. But if you focus on your important financial goals, it puts spending in perspective. You want that Starbucks treat I know. But are you willing to give it up if it means you can reach your financial goals years earlier? Maybe so. Identify and get clear on your important lifelong financial goals, what they will cost and when you’ll need the money.
2. Save first. Spend latter
Let’s say you figure out that you’ll need to save $500 a month in order to achieve your goals. In a perfect world, you should set up an automatic investment plan and take that money out of your checking account on the first of the month. That way, it forces you to save and live within your means.
Not everyone can afford to save the entire amount required, however. That’s the time to go through all your credit card and banking statements. Look for discretionary items such as eating out and entertainment and add up what you spend in these areas per month over several months. Can you scale back by 50%? That might be enough to bridge the gap between what you need to save and what you can save.
If not, go back to your statements and look for more spending to cut. The easiest place to find additional savings are in those monthly recurring bills. Consider cutting Netflix and maybe working out at home rather than paying for an expensive gym membership. (There are thousands of free workouts on YouTube that don’t require much equipment (if any). They may give you an even better workout.) Cut your landline at home – you probably never use it anyway.
It’s easy to find ways to cut if you are motivated.
Look at what you spend on Amazon. Do you really need all that stuff? Go through everything with a fine-tooth comb to flush out those expenses that don’t really add that much to your life but cost you big time over the course of your saving/investing career. After you take care of that, look at your credit cards themselves. If you carry a balance, consider outside-the-box refinancing ideas to cut the interest cost and use those savings to pay the debt off faster.
3. Review monthly
In order to get a true sense of how much you spend and how you spend it, look at several month’s worth of bills. That’s because some ongoing bills only come in quarterly, semi-annually or annually. But scrutinize those bills just as carefully. For example, when your homeowner’s and car insurance bills come in, call your agent and grill that agent. Do you really need all that is being offered? As your car gets older, for example, you may not need comprehensive or collision coverage. Discuss that with your representative. As long as we’re on the topic of insurance, take a close look at your life insurance too. Can you get more coverage at work for less money? Do you really need that universal life policy you got pushed into years ago? Term might give you the same coverage at a fraction of the cost.
4. Respect yourself
There are tons of articles on the net that tell you how to save money on daily life. They are great for ideas but don’t feel obligated. Consider your own priorities and cut out those expenses that aren’t crucial to you. For example, if you love bowling and your entire social life revolves around it, find other ways to save money. There is no law that says you have to be miserable until you retire.
5. Rinse and repeat
You’re probably all fired up now but you may lose some steam a few months down the road. That’s natural. But you have to overcome complacency. Print this post and stick it on your refrigerator. Go through this process 2 or 3 times a year to make sure you are saving as much as you can while still enjoying the present.
The best way to save money for the future is to put that savings on automatic as I suggested. If you need to save $500 a month (for example) but can only afford to save $100 right now, that’s fine. Set up a monthly $100 automatic savings plan and keep working on steps 1 through 5 until you get up to your savings goal. As long as you keep focused on the purpose of this exercise, it won’t be hard for you to find ways to save.
DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation in writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.
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