Having a solid savings plan is essential to avoid being blindsided in life, and it’s also the best way to plan ahead for vacations and future purchases.
But there’s a better way to save money than tossing a few pennies in a jar every week—and here’s how.
Why are you saving money? To buy a house? To create an emergency fund? To get out of debt?
Focus is important because it lets you create a monthly/weekly/daily game plan. If you know that you’ll need $1,000 saved for vacation next summer, it’s a whole lot easier to set aside a certain amount every month to achieve that goal.
Saving without a plan really isn’t saving—you won’t be able to tell how much you’re spending and putting away, so it gets easy to act lazy once and a while and ignore your savings fund.
If you have multiple goals, create a set of “buckets” to gradually fill up with money. For example, you can work towards retirement saving, college tuition, and a car down payment at the same time by visually keeping track of how “full” your buckets are.
Even more important than knowing how and why you’re saving money is knowing where your money is going.
If you’re not able to put away enough money each month to meet your goals, it’s time to cut an expense out of your life. But how do you know what to cut if you don’t know what you buy in the first place?
With a thorough budget, it’s easy to look back and say “Hey, I spend $8 every day at Starbucks. I could probably get my caffeine fix cheaper at Dunkin Donuts.” Or “Hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t run the AC all day when I’m at work.”
With a budget, you’ll start to see that a lot of the things you think are necessary in life really aren’t. And remember, your budget has to be complete. Don’t just write down your big expenses like rent and car payments—app store purchases on your phone, restaurant tips, parking meter change, they all add up.
Remember to factor savings into your budget, too!
It’s a whole lot easier to save money for a week than it is for a year, especially if you’ve cut out other expenses taking a drain on your pay checks. It can be tempting to pay less attention to your growing horde of cash and spend a little extra on eating out or going to the movies instead.
Of course, you shouldn’t become a martyr for your savings account. Treat yourself every once in a while to avoid getting burnt out.
But, you can make it easy on yourself to reduce that temptation. Automate withdrawals from you checking account to your savings account every month. Better yet, have a certain percent of each pay check electronically deposited into your savings.
If you don’t want to limit credit card purchases, at least make a point to stay on top of your credit card balance to reduce the “invisible” debt taking a bite out of your savings.
Do you have any recurring payments that are about to be paid off soon? Keep making the payment every month, but deposit it to your savings account instead.
No matter how you do it, keep reminding yourself WHY you’re saving in the first place. Every penny is an important step in the right direction, and having a good savings plan is the easiest way to reach your goals.