When you feel trapped by debt or stuck in a cycle of spending, you might not even know where to begin when it comes to saving money.
You know you need to, but you just can’t figure out where in your budget you’ll be able to pull that money from. It stresses you out and so you stop thinking about it, at least until next month.
The first step is the hardest. Everything after that just becomes habit.
The First Step Toward a Savings Mindset
The very first thing you need to do is to relax a little. If you’ve been stressed out over your finances for months, or if you feel totally out of control, take a deep breath.
You want to learn how to save from a place of calm, not a place of stress. Saving is super easy once you get the hang of it, so just tell yourself that. Take a deep breath. Now let’s begin.
Mind Over Matter
Saving money is more of a mindset than anything else. Once you decide you’re going to save money, you start looking for ways to do so.
Maybe you stop eating out or you start walking to work once a week. Then you notice how easy that was, and you step it up a notch: you stop buying clothes for a month. Then you stop paying for cable.
You’re saving money all over the place now! But how do you get into that mindset in the first place?
Think about what savings would do for your life. Right here, right now. If I told you that you had $5,000 just sitting in a savings account, how would that change your life?
Maybe you could pay off some debt. Maybe you could buy school supplies for your kids. Maybe you could travel for a month. Maybe you could put a payment down on a car. Maybe it would provide you with some financial security and you could sleep better, knowing you had some money saved for a rainy day.
Finding Your Why
Now cling to that thought. That’s your motivation for savings. Each and every time you want to spend nonessential money, you should think of your motivation, or your “why.”
Carry a picture of your goal if that’s possible. Make a vision board and put it in your bedroom, your locker, or at your desk. You need to keep a reminder of what you’re working toward nearby in order to keep going.
The trick of saving is that if you have a goal in mind, you’ll save much faster. Knowing you want a car by the end of next year will keep you motivated through the next 16 months. If you have a concrete goal you can work towards every day, saving becomes like a game. Each $10 you manage to keep in your savings account and not spend is $10 closer to your goal.
Make Saving Fun!
It helps to think of savings like a game. A game where the less you spend, the stronger you become. You remember how in Mario, when you walked into a mushroom, you grew taller and were able to take a hit before dying? That’s what your savings account does. It’s the ability to take a financial hit without any nasty repercussions.
That alone is motivation to me! Knowing the more I save, the more stable I am, is a huge motivator for me. I’ve been in a situation before where a $500 bill would have wiped my account clean. I want to be in a position where I can get a $5,000 bill and know I can comfortably pay it and all my other bills without going into debt. That’s my personal dream.
Figure Out Where You Can Save
After you give yourself a goal, you’ll naturally start taking steps to reach it. Examine your budget and challenge yourself to make it shrink. Get creative, too. We all know that going out to eat or driving are big money sucks, but there are a million ways you can save.
I’ll use my life as an example. I have pretty low expenses as it is. I have rent, health insurance, food, and gas as my bare essentials. I work from home, I wear second-hand clothes, and I only attend free lectures and movies for entertainment outside my house. What can I possibly cut in such a bare bones budget?
Never fear, there’s always something. I switched from name brands at the grocery store to generic. I started working at the library instead of a coffee shop when my house started driving me nuts. I hosted a clothing swap instead of hitting up Goodwill.
Lots of little things add up to big things. If you save $10 in ten different areas of your life, all of a sudden you’ve got $100 saved. That’s a nice bit of money to kickstart a savings account.
It’s worth it to reprogram your thinking into a savings mindset. You’ll begin to see areas all over the place where you can save money. Once you start you’ll want to keep going and watch your progress add up!
Have you had to change your perspective on saving to get excited about it? What worked best for you? What are you currently saving up for?