Most people will say that smart savings (or saving money at all) is all about self-discipline. If you want to save, you should “just do it.” However, from my experience, I have found that most people are dead wrong in that regard. Throughout my travels, having seen thousands of different budgets while helping struggling home owners find their way back from the brink of financial disaster, I have learned that a savings plan that works for one person doesn’t work for another, and sometimes self-discipline alone isn’t enough to make spenders into savers. For spenders who are struggling to find that path to enlightenment, I have learned the three tricks to saving more and saving better — and none of them has one iota of grit or self-discipline required, not really.
Trick No. 1: Quit looking at your paycheck
The first mistake most people make is living paycheck to paycheck. They create a budget based on how much they earn, and (despite their best intentions) they end up spending all of that money before their next payday. (I can personally attest to this, because I was guilty of it.)
Today, I tell my clients to do what I did: put their savings on autopilot. Automatically deduct 10 to 20 percent of your net income off the top and put it in an automatic draft to your savings on payday — you can do this on most direct deposit forms these days, or via a direct allocation from your bank. This way, the money you need to save is out of sight, out of mind.
Then, draft a new budget based on the lesser amount. It does require making cuts to your budget to be sure, but it is the first step in becoming a better saver.
Trick No. 2: Quit swiping your card
For chronic spenders, debit and credit cards can lull you into a false sense of security. A day at the mall can easily blow a budget when all you see is $7 here, $12 there and $20 somewhere else. What you do not see are those entertainment and “fun” expenses adding up to an amount that will make your careful planning crumble in its wake.
Instead of swiping, I get my leisure and “fun money” out in cash each payday. This way, when the money is gone, my mind automatically registers that I am done spending until my next payday. It is that simple. What I don’t spend, I save. Savings has become my reward, which leads me to my third and final trade secret of savings.
Trick No. 3: Retrain your brain
You have a relationship with money, and since money does not show emotion, the dysfunction you have with yours comes directly from you. Some people equate money with happiness, affluence with success and spending with feeling good. In order to become a better saver, I had to retrain my brain (and I tell my clients to do the same thing).
Money is just money. It is a means to an end, a resource, just like bread in your breadbox. By taking the emotion out of money, you take the emotion out of spending it.
Most people (me included) build bad money habits based on our self-imposed bad relationships with it. In order to get out of those dastardly money habits, I had to retrain my mind and put physical limits (cash) and accountability (budgets) on my spending in order to make a clear path to becoming a saver. Because, for me, the bottom line was that I was a much happier person when I didn’t have to worry about my dollars and cents. And, chances are, you will be too.
More from this Contributor:
The 5 Easiest Ways to Save on Gas
Living the Cash Back Life
From $45,000 in Debt to a Cash-Only Life