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4 Common Excuses for Not Saving Money -- and Why They're Bogus

Maurie Backman, The Motley Fool

Are your savings falling by the wayside? It’s time to stop making excuses and start making changes.

An envelope with various bills sticking out
An envelope with various bills sticking out

Image source: Getty Images

Are you in the habit of making excuses for why your savings aren’t growing?

You’re not doing yourself any favors.

Here are a few common justifications for not saving money that don’t hold water.

1. "I don't earn enough."

Many people attribute their lack of savings to limited earnings. To be fair, it should, in theory, be easier to save money if you earn more. But if you’re smart about managing your limited income, you can eke out some savings regardless.

First, set up a budget. It’ll help you manage your money and keep tabs on your spending.

Next, automate your savings. Make a small amount of money go directly from your checking account to your savings account each month. That can be $20, $40, or $100 -- whatever you can afford. The key is to work with the income you have and prioritize savings above other bills.

2. "I don't know how much I'm supposed to save."

The amount you should save each month depends on what your goals are. If you don’t have an emergency fund, that should be your first priority. Your emergency fund should contain enough money to cover three to six months of essential living expenses, like rent, transportation, food, utilities, and healthcare. Just the things you absolutely can’t live without.

If you’re good on emergency savings, you can move on to other goals like retirement. Ideally, you should aim to sock away 15% to 20% of your income for retirement each year. If that’s not possible, do what you can.

Either way, don’t give up on saving money because you’re not sure what to aim for. There’s no such thing as having too much money in the bank or in a retirement plan.

If you’re not sure how to narrow down a savings target, go with saving as much as you can. Consider enlisting a financial advisor who can help you narrow down your goals and get more focused.

3. "My bills are too high."

Stop blaming your bills for monopolizing your income. Instead, start lowering them. There are probably some expenses in your budget you can reduce or cut out completely.

For example, if you rent an apartment for $1,000 a month, downsizing to a smaller space might reduce that bill to $850. If you pay $40 a month for your gym, drop your membership and get outdoors instead -- walking and running are free.

If you really can’t bear to cut back on expenses, get yourself a side hustle. Having a second job boosts your income and makes it easier to add to your savings.

4. "I don't need savings anyway."

You might think you don’t need savings. Conceivably, there’s the option to charge expenses you can’t pay for on a credit card. But what happens when you max out your credit limit and can’t get approved for more because your credit score is in the dumps?

That’s just one reason you need savings on hand. Here's another: The more you charge on a credit card, the more costly interest you’ll accrue. And the more you risk damaging your credit in the process.

Stop making excuses

We all need savings for various reasons. If yours haven’t been growing at all, it’s time to rethink some habits.

Rather than make excuses for not saving, start following a budget, automate your savings, map out some goals, cut back on recurring bills, and get a second job if necessary. It’s the best way to protect yourself from life’s many financial unknowns.

The Motley Fool owns and recommends MasterCard and Visa, and recommends American Express. We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule. If we wouldn’t recommend an offer to a close family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Ascent either. Our number one goal is helping people find the best offers to improve their finances. That is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.