Last time we talked about why it’s important to start saving money when you are young. Today we will look at how you can motivate yourself to save, and I will give you a few simple tips to get started.

Saving is like eating well, everyone knows they should do it, but finding long-term motivation is hard. So instead, many people eat badly and waste their money.

Willpower is like a health bar in a video game. It gets depleted gradually until it goes to zero and we give in.

If you’re on a diet it’s easy to say no the first time your friend offers you chocolate, but the second time it’s less easy and the third time it’s almost impossible.

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Another kick to the face and T. Hawk will be reaching for the Whittakers.

Deferring pleasure from the present to the future is incredibly difficult. To have the willpower to make smart decisions with your money, you need to see the big picture in every financial decision you make.

Here is a method I use to help me with this problem.

Come up with one short-term financial goal (next couple of years) and one long-term financial goal (next five years or more). Make it something positive so that the thought of it will help you stop yourself from the unnecessary expenditure.

Examples are; I want to go on a trip to Thailand in two years time, and I want to put a downpayment on a house in 5-8 years time.

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Must. Not. Waste. Money!

These are your drivers to save money. Every dollar you save is one step towards these goals, and every frivolous purchase you make is one step away.

Picture yourself with a cold drink on a Thai beach, or chilling in a sweet new house in the suburbs.

Next time you find yourself reaching for your credit card to pay for that round of drinks or upgrade your smartphone unnecessarily, think of your goals, and they should help you make the right decision.

“That’s all well and good, but I’m barely making ends meet as it is. How am I supposed to save also?”

A lot of people think saving is impossible for them, when in reality, there are likely to be many areas where they can trim fat from their expenditure. Most people will have ways they can save money without drastically decreasing their standard of living too.

Go after the big fish, throw the little ones back

Some people think they are smart by buying a $13 meal instead of an $18 meal. This is all well and good, but it isn’t where the big wins lie.

Look at your big expenditures. I’m talking power, internet, food, car, etc. It’s likely within these lies a way you can save a lot of money.

Recently I realised I was spending far too much money on delicious Subways and Pita Pits during the week. Resolving to cook more often (and eating the leftovers for lunch) has allowed me to save on my food expenditure.

Periodically you should ring up your electricity, internet and phone providers and make sure you are on the best deal for you. You should also call competitors and see if they have better offers.

Big banks and telecommunications companies thrive on passive consumers staying with the products they have as it takes an effort to change.

Don’t get bled dry by useless subscriptions

These days it’s easy to get hooked on ongoing monthly subscription services. It’s simple to overestimate how much you would use them.

Do you need that expensive gym membership when a cheaper gym gets you 90% of the value at 50% of the price? Do you need Spotify Premium and Tinder Plus?

But how else will I admire the beautiful people of Sweden?

But how else will I admire the beautiful people of Sweden?

Recently I downgraded my gym membership as I never go to classes, this will save me $350 over the next year.

Have your savings disappear from your account as soon as you are paid

Instead of forcing yourself not to spend the money that’s in your account, a better method is to have the money you’ve allocated to save disappear into another account as soon as your are paid.

If there’s ice cream in the fridge, it’s inevitable you’re going to eat it. A more efficient method is to remove the temptation entirely. Don’t rely on willpower.

This works even better if your savings account has penalties for withdrawing money and if it is with a different bank. Having your savings with a different bank will make it out of sight and out of mind, and penalties for withdrawing will make you think twice.

I have a long term savings account with an online-only bank, a portion of my income goes straight from my chequing account to my savings account with this bank.

Start slow and work your way up

You wouldn’t expect to able to dunk from the free throw line like Michael Jordan or bomb three-pointers like Stephen Curry if you’d never played basketball before would you?

Basketball 101

Basketball 101

As much as the above goals are unrealistic for beginners, it’s not realistic to go from never saving, to saving a considerable amount overnight. That is setting yourself up to fail.

Say you eventually want to be saving $300 a month. The first month you could try to save $50, the next month $100 and then $150 and so on. Small chunk your way to success! This builds momentum, when you set and achieve small goals, it helps you motivate yourself to keep progressing.

Next time you get a pay rise add at least half of it to your savings, this will stop you from falling into the trap of spending more as you earn more.

Exercises

  1. Write down one short term saving motivation and one long term saving motivation.
  2. Come up with an amount you want to be saving per month eventually and a smaller amount you think you can save this month. If you don’t have one already, get a savings account that penalises you from withdrawing. Preferably this account will offer a high rate of interest and be with a different bank.
  3. Set up an auto payment going from your chequing account to your savings account with your monthly saving amount. It helps if you align this with your paydays. If you get paid fortnightly, set your auto payment to transfer twice a month with half your monthly savings amount.

 

 

“Street Fighter” image from “Gamerscore Blog” at flickr.com Image Licence
“Thailand” image from Pixabay.com Image
“Blake Griffin” image from Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA Licence via Wikimedia Commons, Image

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