We all want to be making progress toward our financial goals. But, one of the hardest parts is knowing where to start.
It’s generally easy to find things to spend money on – housing, groceries, bills, or going out and having fun.
But, we also all have future goals for our life that we want to achieve.
So how and where do you go about finding extra money to actually put toward those goals? And, how do you do it in a way that doesn’t require you to severely cut back on your lifestyle?
We’ve all seen the articles about how to be thriftier or modify your lifestyle to have extra cash. But is there a way to find more savings without having to do this?
We rounded up six strategies for boosting your savings that don’t have to do with cutting back on expenses. These are easy ways that you can get smarter about savings and potentially actually find more money to put toward your goals in the process.
1. Annualize your spending
Many people set a weekly or a monthly budget that they try to stick to. But, we know that life happens and not every week or month is the same.
Having these short term spending rules is just asking for them to be broken.
Once you break them, it can create a vicious cycle, where you give up for that month and go over your budget. Then, set a stricter budget the next month that you probably don’t stick to, and you’re back at the beginning.
Instead, try setting your budget for the whole year. Having a larger budget for the things in your life gives you more flexibility on how you want to spend your money on them.
This in turn may lead to a smaller likelihood that you blow your budget and get sucked back into that vicious cycle.
Let’s say you had budgeted for going out to eat once a week for $100. You may easily exceed that budget if there’s a week you go out to a restaurant multiple times.
Instead, let’s make that an annual budget: $100 per week for 52 weeks in a year, gives you a total budget of $5,200 to spend on going out to eat.
Now that seems a lot easier to stick to! And that annual budget gives you more flexibility to decide when and how to spend that money.
2. Take advantage of workplace benefits
Many workplaces offer benefits that can help you save money. Make sure you’ve checked what is being offered by your employer so you can make sure you’re not leaving money on the table.
Sometimes the benefits are obvious when, for example, an employer offers discounted rates for things like booking travel, your phone bill, or an internet package.
Other benefits may be less obvious ways to save money but can make a big impact. In particular, retirement and health savings plans.
If offered, make sure you’re taking advantage of any retirement savings plans. Depending on your job, you may qualify for a 401(k), a 403(b) or a 457(b) plan.
Each of these plans allows you to contribute savings pre-tax, meaning that you will get tax benefits by potentially qualifying for less income tax in that year.
Many employers also offer a match. This means that for every dollar you put into your retirement savings plan, they will match your contributions up to a certain point. This is free money!
Lastly, check to see if you have a health insurance plan that offers a health savings account (HSA). An HSA is a savings account for health-related expenses.
HSAs can be beneficial because you also are able to contribute pre-tax. And, when you take the money out to use on medical expenses, you also don’t have to pay taxes.
Lastly, HSA savings are not use-it-or-lose-it. You can accumulate savings, use it whenever you need to, and it can move with you even if you change jobs.
3. Automate your savings
The easiest kind of money not to spend is the money that you don’t have. So, treat the amount of money you want to save each month like money you don’t have.
How? Set a goal for how much money you want to be saving. Then, have that amount automatically deducted from each of your paychecks and deposited into a savings account.
That way, it will go straight to savings before you even have a chance to see it in your checking account! Almost like money you don’t actually have.
You can even create a personalized strategy for where your savings money is deposited. If you have multiple accounts flagged for different goals, you can have your savings deposited into multiple accounts.
Or, if you have an investment account, you can have your automatic deposits go into that account.
It’s up to you. You may be surprised how quickly your savings accumulates using this trick without even realizing you are saving money.
4. Put your money somewhere it will grow quickly
When you are considering what types of accounts to use for your savings, make sure you are selecting accounts that are working the hardest for you.
What does this mean exactly? Well, if you plan to use a cash savings account, then check to make sure you have selected an account with the highest interest rate possible.
If you’re going to have money sitting in a bank somewhere, you may as well be earning something off of it! So, make sure the account you select has an interest rate that at least keeps up with inflation.
Alternatively, if you have money you don’t need to touch anytime soon, an investment account may be a good option. Investment returns can be higher than what you will get through interest in a savings account.
But, be aware that investments will have ups and downs with the market so none of the returns are guaranteed. If you have the time to ride out the ups and downs though it can be a good way to more quickly grow your money than a savings account.
5. Set specific goals
Setting specific goals that you want to achieve can help you get focused around how much money you need to save. It can also help you not to cheat.
Your goals should be specific around what you are saving for, whether that is retirement, or education, or a new house. And, they should also be specific around how much you will need for that goal.
Having a specific dollar amount will make it easier to break down exactly how much to be putting away to hit that goal. When we blindly save money, it can be hard to gauge whether we’re doing enough, not enough or even too much.
Instead, when money has a purpose and specific targets it is easier to make sure you’re making progress and doing exactly what you need to to reach your goals.
6. Prioritize your goals
You likely have many life goals you want to hit. Having a priority order for those goals can help you develop a better savings strategy.
When you know which goals are the most important to save for, you can ensure that you have money going toward those. For the less immediately important goals, you may have some wiggle room to defer saving.
This can make saving money feel a little less daunting if you don’t feel like you have a million things to be saving for.
Knowing what is your ‘non negotiable’ savings versus your ‘nice to have’ savings can help you understand where your next savings dollar should go.
In a month where money is tighter, you can make sure your ‘non negotiable’ savings is covered. Then, de-prioritize the ‘nice to have’ savings and stop putting money into those accounts.
On the flip side, when you’re in a month where you have some extra money, you can start up again saving toward those ‘nice to have’ goals.
We know that saving money can be hard. Hopefully some of these tips will help you find more money that you can be putting toward your life goals.
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