Now that the new year is here, Americans are making saving money a priority. According to a Fidelity Investments survey, 52 percent of survey respondents list “saving more” as their top financial resolution for 2013, up from 46 percent in 2012.
But survey respondents admit that sticking to financial goals is harder than other popular resolutions like quitting smoking, exercising more, and finding a new job. Fewer than half of those surveyed managed to accomplish more than 80 percent of their financial goals for 2012.
If putting more money in the bank is a top priority for you in the new year, you may need help to overcome the odds. Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson has tips to get started and make your saving goals a success this year.
Now that you’ve heard how to up your savings, here’s more on how to take action.
1. Set measurable and attainable goals
Setting goals is important, but setting the right goals is crucial.
For example, a goal to “save more money in 2013” has the right intentions but lacks a way to measure success.
Instead, get specific on the amount, the date, and the purpose. A better goal would be to “save $2,000 for the down payment on a car by April 1.” This way, you’ll know exactly what you need to do and by when. The more specific the goal, the better the chance of completion.
Having a purpose is important for motivation too. Which gets you more excited: saving $1,000, or saving $1,000 for your next vacation? No matter what the money is for, picking a specific cause gives the whole process meaning and urgency.
Keep goals realistic too. Planning to save 50 percent of your income this year when you didn’t even save 5 percent last year is setting yourself up for failure.
2. Break your goal into easy steps
Breaking down goals into manageable bites makes big numbers less intimidating.
Don’t try to save $5,000 for the year. Instead, save $100 a week. Yes, the goals are the same, but which sounds easier?
3. Make saving like paying a bill
Additions to your savings account should be like any other regular bill you pay. The only difference is the payee.
Include your savings in your budget, and write a check to deposit into your savings account when you’re sitting down to pay the bills. To make the process easier, set up automatic deposits into your savings account. Schedule transfers on your payday and move the money before you can spend it.
4. Start tracking expenses
Tracking your expenses isn’t just important for budgeting, it’s crucial to see where your money is going and how you can save.
For example, maybe you think you spend $200 a month eating out. Would it be a big surprise if you tracked your expenses and found you spend double that?
There’s no way of knowing what you spend until you’re tracking every dime. Use a budgeting site like PowerWallet to automate the process. For more, read How to Make a Budget You Can Stick With.
5. Find the money
Creating a goal to save more is a start, but the real challenge is finding the money within your budget to make it happen.
After you track your expenses and know where your money’s going, you’re in position to spend less. One way to do that is simple – cut back on discretionary spending like eating out. But try to avoid a “dollar diet.” Diets are about deprivation, which is why they’re so hard to stick with. When you’re trying to squeeze extra money from your budget, first try to gain without pain by having the same quality of life for less. For example, if you eat out with a coupon, that’s gain without pain. If you reduce your insurance bill by raising your deductible, you still have insurance; you’re just paying less for it.
Wherever you’re spending money now, you can typically find ways to spend less. Check out these and other articles – we have hundreds.
- 6 Steps to Pay Less for Car Insurance
- Tricks of the Trade: Car Dealers
- 5 Ways to Save on Your Cell Phone Bill
- 3 Steps to Cut Your Cable Bill 90 Percent
Don’t discount the little stuff, either, since saving a buck or two can add up. Check out these articles to save every day:
- 30 Tips to Save on Food
- The Single Best Tip to Beat High Gas Prices
- 26 Ways to Save on Entertainment
- 18 Tips to Dress for Less
Tried every trick in the book but still can’t make it work? See The 5 Best Ways to Make More Money to find ways to increase your income.
6. Track your progress
Tracking your goals is important for two reasons: to check up on your progress and to stay focused.
Using a site like PowerWallet will put your goal in front of you every time you log on, as well as the progress you’re making toward reaching it. Remember: Out of sight is out of mind. Keep your goal in sight, and remind yourself why it’s important to achieve it.
7. Reward yourself
Saving money sometimes requires sacrifice, but don’t forget to give yourself a break along the way. Kids have to go to school, but that school day also includes recess. Meet your savings goal for the month? Treat yourself to a $5 latte, or whatever you consider a guilty pleasure. But don’t feel guilty – you’ve earned it.