The only savings strategies you really need
By Tim Sullivan
According to a 2012 survey by CareerBuilder.com, two in five American households are living paycheck to paycheck. We could blame this on the state of the economy or the scarcity of jobs, but in reality, saving money often has more to do with psychology than it does with external factors.
In order to save money, you have to take in more money than you spend. If you've struggled to save in the past, you must adopt one or both of the startegies below to finally build your savings account to what it should be. Which option will you choose?
1. Cut your spending
Years ago, I started saving because of a banking error. I forgot to endorse a check before putting it in my account. The next day, I went about buying groceries, lunch, and a coffee, not knowing my bank had taken the money out of my account and sent the check back to my address for endorsement. After $105 in overdraft fees ($35 for each purchase), I was cursing the bank. Why didn't they simply reject my card!? After all, I didn't need that coffee.
After I paid the bank off and put my ego back together, I realized that month that I had made $105 available to pay off those overdraft fees. There was nothing stopping me from doing the same thing the following month and putting that money toward savings. I had to cut spending because of necessity that month, but it was clear I could just as easily do it to start beefing up my savings account too.
Here's what I cut out the first month:
- My favorite band was playing a concert four hours away. I'd seem them live twice before, but I was planning to see them again. Instead, I resisted buying the ticket and saved the money I would have spent on gas too.
- Friday night was date night with my girlfriend. We typically went out to a fancy restaurant once a week just to catch up and enjoy the city together. That month, we decided to go out twice and cook at home twice.
- I not only had a gym membership, but was also paying for yoga classes at a swanky new studio. A good friend of mine had a pass where she could bring friends for free to her yoga studio, so along with the money I saved, I gained a new workout buddy.
All in all, I ended up cutting out a lot more than the $105 I needed to. That was the month I started saving.
2. Make more money
Cutting spending isn't the most fun idea, so maybe you're the type to concentrate more on this second category. While being a conscious spender will always be a cornerstone of being a financially wise individual, making more money can reduce some of the pressure. Making more money can be as simple as selling some of your unwanted items or as complex as a career change. Here are some possible ways to increase your take-home pay:
- Demonstrate to your boss what you've added to the company and ask for a raise.
- Sell your excess stuff on Craigslist or books on Amazon. Some returns may be small, but the clutter you clear from your home will be an added plus.
- Consider whether your schedule has time for a second job. This could be waiting tables part-time, doing handyman jobs or even selling art on Etsy.
- Have lots of cute cat videos? Monetize your website or YouTube channel with advertising from Google Adsense or another program.
But remember: Making more money will only result in more savings if you have the discipline to avoid spending it.
Making the most of your new savings
Starting a strong savings account -- with a competitive interest rate -- is a great first step toward building the financial reserves you've always wanted. Choosing a top savings account will allow your funds to grow at a rate well above that of today's average accounts.
After you get a strong emergency fund going, you can move on to targeted savings for vacations and retirement. The younger you start, the longer your savings will compound. So why not start now?