Do you have a difficult time saving money? Do you find yourself constantly having to rob your saving account to get through an emergency? You're not alone. The personal saving rate over the past few months has taken a nose-dive. Inflation has been a big factor, but it's hardly the reason for Americans’ historical lack of savings. If you have ever wondered how to save more money or how to increase your savings, follow these four steps.
When our daughters were 3 and 5, they wanted a trampoline. My wife, Natalie, and I weren't crazy about the idea. Hoping to dissuade them, we decided to make them save for it. We also made them work for the money so that the saving would come from their own effort.
Natalie created a chore chart and assigned different financial rewards for completing them. Drying dishes was 10 cents, vacuuming 10 cents, cleaning up after the dog 25 cents, and so on. Every time they completed a chore, they would check off a box, and every two weeks, they got paid for the chores they completed.
The trampoline costs $125 before tax, a significant amount when earning nickels and dimes. We hoped they'd quit before they reached their goal. However, in less than three months, with added savings from a relative's employee discount, they had enough to buy it.
HOW DID THEY REACH THEIR GOAL?
How could a three and a 5-year-old do something that most adults fail at so often? My daughters, with the help of their super-smart mother, implemented a very effective strategy that almost guaranteed their success. That same strategy can help you become a more successful saver.
SAVING MUST BE PURPOSEFUL.
We fail to save because we aren't specific enough about why we save or what we're saving for. We save for emergencies but fail to identify what an "emergency" is, permitting ourselves to rob our savings for just about anything we want to identify as an emergency.
In the "save for a trampoline" story, the girls implemented a strategy.
Saving doesn't have to be this impossible undertaking. Applying the following 4-step strategy will ensure your success.
1. BE SPECIFIC
We fail to save because we are too general when we should be specific about what we're saving for. Having a goal to save for a new refrigerator is different than having a $2,300 saving goal toward a NEW Samsung 25.6 cubic inch stainless steel, side-by-side refrigerator with filtered ice and water dispenser, and a bunch of other cool features, which are all listed on the brochure with a picture of "Your New Refrigerator" which you placed on your old refrigerator, so you can look at it every time you open and close it.
2. TRACK YOUR PROGRESS
Without a doubt, the biggest reason for the lack of savings is a good money management system; a budget. You need a plan, and saving should be a category in your budget. Setting aside a specific amount in your budget to save each month will help you reach your goal. The budget makes it easy to track your progress. Plus, having a budget to identify and provide for all your other needs will help you avoid robbing your savings.
3. VISUALIZE THE REWARD
Visualization is very powerful. The most successful Olympic athletes visualize their routines hundreds of times before competing. You can implement the same technique to achieve your saving goals.
Imagine what it will be like to achieve whatever you're saving for. What will it feel like to possess the item you want? How will you feel when the emergency fund is fully funded, and what will you do with the extra money? Be as specific as possible.
Consider writing it down and reading it out loud every day. This powerful exercise will help you keep your focus and motivate you to stay committed to the end. If you can get a picture or a cutout of the item you're saving for, that's even better. Use a savings thermometer to build up your emergency fund so you can see your savings grow.
4. ENLIST HELP FROM OTHERS
When our girls were saving for the trampoline, they told everyone. It wasn't because they wanted to get donations. It was because it was the most exciting thing happening in their young lives at the time, and they wanted to tell everyone about it. Ultimately, it turned out to be a real benefit to them when their aunt offered to purchase it with her employee discount.
Sharing your savings goals with a family member and a friend can benefit you. Accountability can have a significant impact on reaching your goals. Having someone to report to keeps you sharp and supports your goals. Choose someone successful in this area. You may even learn from them some additional money skills you didn't have before.
What steps have you taken to be a better saver? Share your triumphs, and if you're brave, your failures. It may help someone.
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image used with permission