Want to learn how to make saving money a habit? In this guide I reveal 10 actionable tips to help you make saving money a more consistent part of your life.
Saving money is one of those things that’s simple to talk about, but hard to actually get in the habit of doing. And if you’re struggling to put a sufficient amount of money away each month, you aren’t alone.
Many people go their entire life without much more than a few bucks in their savings account.
But if that’s not the future you’ve imagined for yourself, or you’re just tired of living without any kind of financial margin, there are plenty of things you can do to make saving money a more routine part of your life. And honestly, most of them don’t require earth shattering changes.
Truthfully, saving money isn’t that difficult when it comes down to it. The moment you resolve to make it a bigger priority in your life, all it takes is a few simple tweaks to ramp things up. And once you start to see the progress of your saving efforts, what started as a habit can even become a bit of an addiction.
So, if that sounds good to you, and you are ready to put saving mediocrity behind you, keep reading.
For the rest of this post, I’m going to reveal 10 of the absolute best tips I have ever discovered to make saving money a consistent habit.
Oh, and so we’re completely clear, I’m not just some guy blowing money-saving smoke over here. My wife and I have personally used every one of these tips in our own financial life, and we have experienced the incredible habit-forming results that come from them. Seriously, these few tips have helped us go from a net worth of -$34,000 to debt-free, and saving/investing approximately 40% of our income each month.
Put simply, the tips in this article have worked wonders in our life, and I am confident that they will do the same for you.
Ok, enough of the backstory, let’s get to the good stuff.
1. Start Small
If you’re like me, one of the hardest things about saving money, is that you always feel like you should be saving more. I can’t tell you how much I struggle with this every time I transfer money into savings.
The problem with this way of thinking is that if you spend too much time thinking about it, you may end up not saving anything at all. I mean, if the amount you are saving isn’t good enough, then why even save it, right?
Saving is a long-term game, and most of the time it won’t feel like you are making much progress. Sure, there may be months where you have the ability to save a little extra, but most of the time, the progress will feel slow; especially when you’re just getting started.
The key is to save money anyway, even if it’s only a small amount.
In fact, if you’re struggling to make saving money a habit, you might just need to lower your expectations a little bit. I know this might go against a lot of the ‘expert’ financial advice out there, but it works.
To put it in slightly simpler terms, if your goal is to make saving money a habit, then start small and stay consistent. It’s much easier to get in the habit of saving money when it doesn’t drain your bank account and squeeze your financial situation.
You can always increase your savings later on. For now, your biggest priority should just be to get in the habit.
2. Isolate Your Savings
When my wife and I first started placing an emphasis on saving more consistently, we struggled to let our money just sit in savings.
Because it was visible every time we logged into our bank account to update our budget or view our checking account balance. So, even when we were diligent about putting money into savings, the money was never really safe. With only a few clicks, we could instantaneously move it right back in our checking account, and of course, spend it. In other words, it was way too accessible.
And honestly, what’s the point of consistently saving money if you’re just going to dip into it anyway?
When we finally realized this was a problem, we came up with a solution. We decided to isolate our savings by setting up a savings account with a completely different bank. That way, our savings would remain out of sight whenever we logged into our checking account, and thus, we would be less likely to pull money out of it.
Additionally, by transferring our savings to an account at a completely different bank, if we were ever tempted to transfer money back into our checking account, it would take a couple days. This added an extra — and might I add, effective — layer of inconvenience to our all-too-common savings dip. And let me tell you, it made saving money a much more productive process.
Only 5 months after isolating our savings account, we had built-up enough savings to cover a little more than 6 months of our living expenses.
Most importantly, it was incredibly motivating to watch our savings grow; which fed our desire to remain consistent in our savings habit.
Side Note: If you want to isolate your savings, we highly recommend doing so through an Axos High Yield Savings Account. It has no monthly maintenance fees, no minimum balance requirements, and it only takes about 15 minutes to open an account online.
3. Pay Yourself First
Like any item on a priority list, the first item is the most likely to be accomplished. So, when it comes to your financial life, if you want to get in the habit of saving money, then you should make it the very first thing you do after getting paid.
Like exercising in the morning, it is best to just get it out of the way. That way, no matter what happens, you have already accomplished your savings goal.
Now, if you’ve never heard of paying yourself first, the concept might seem a little strange to you. I mean, how are you supposed to save money before you pay your bills, buy groceries, and buy gas for your car each month?
It’s simple… get on a well-defined budget. And when I say well-defined, I’m talking about the kind of budget where you write down every single expense you expect to pay for the following month.
This will not only help you determine the exact amount of money you can save, but also, help you trim any financial fat that might be weighing you down.
Side Note: if you want to learn more about how to set up a budget properly, be sure to read our post: How To Set Up A Budget In 10 Simple Steps. I wrote this article in order to help you learn the zero-based budgeting system, and develop a budget that you can actually stick to. If you want to maximize your savings, a budget is the way to do so.
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4. Embrace Patience
As I previously mentioned, saving money is a long-term, slow-growth process. If I’m being completely honest, at times it can be a little dull and underwhelming. But if you want to make saving money a habit in your life, then you need to embrace that boredom and learn to be patient.
The older I get, and the more I learn about personal finance, the more I realize that patience is one of the most important behaviors of the wealthy–if not the most important.
For instance, if you want to become wealthy, the best thing you can do is invest your money, month after month, for decades. It’s not very sexy, but it works. And the sooner you embrace the fact that the personal finance game is a life-long endeavor, the easier it will be to get in the habit of saving money.
The more time and energy you spend trying to cut corners and get rich quick, the further you will drift from wealth.
5. Focus On The Process Rather Than The Outcome
I have learned a lot of lessons in my life, but one of the most important things I’ve ever learned, is that I can’t control the outcome of the decisions I make. Rather, the only things I can control are the process, and how I react to any given situation.
For instance, when I invest my money, I can’t control whether or not the market goes up or down. Now, I can increase the odds of my investing success by doing research, investing consistently, and making wise, long-term decisions, but ultimately, I can’t control the outcome of the market. All I can control is the process.
Even when you save money consistently, you can’t control the outcome of your financial situation. For example, your car could break down and end up costing you thousands of dollars to fix. You could get laid off from work, or lose a few clients and be forced to use your savings to make ends meet. Or, as we’ve recently discovered, a worldwide pandemic could hit and cause all sorts of unforeseen problems. There are just too many variables in life to control the outcome of our decisions.
The best we can do is focus on the process (i.e. saving money every month, avoiding debt, and investing consistently), so that when something unforeseen happens, we have the financial ability, and fortitude to withstand it.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “how does focusing on the process instead of the outcome help me get in the habit of saving money?”
Well, it frees you from the weight and defeat of an undesirable outcome.
In other words, if you set a goal to save 25% of your income every month, then every month you save 25% of your income, you are meeting your goal.
On the other hand, if you set a goal to save $15,000 over the next 12 months, and six months later your car breaks down and you have to spend $3,000 to get it fixed, then you might end up feeling so defeated that you don’t even see the point of saving money.
Put simply, if your goal is to get in the habit of saving money, then don’t focus on the outcome of your savings. Just stay focused on the habit of saving money each month.
Important: Just so we’re clear, I’m not saying that setting a specific savings goal is bad, and that you should never do it. All I’m saying is that until you’ve ingrained the habit of saving money consistently, it’s better to focus on the process rather than a specific number.
6. Implement Some Accountability
If you want to get in the habit of saving money, and you want to do it fast, then I highly recommend finding an accountability partner.
This can be your spouse, a friend, a sibling, a parent, or anybody else you can trust to keep your financial life between the two of you. Regardless of their relation to you, just make sure they are willing to be completely honest with you, and call you out when you are drifting off-track with your savings habit.
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7. Visually Track Your Progress
I am a numbers guy, and a bit of a personal finance nerd. Because of that, I like to track our financial progress using spreadsheets, calculators, and investment growth graphs. I find it so motivating to look at a chart of the last 6 months, and see how our savings has grown.
My wife, on the other hand, is a more artsy, visual person. So, in order for her to feel a strong amount of motivation, she needs a more hands-on kind of reminder of how much progress we have made with our finances in order to keep going. (i.e. A savings thermometer she can color-in every time we save money.)
While we each have our own way of doing things, the motivation we draw from a visual reminder is incredibly helpful when it comes to saving money. And if you want to get in the habit of saving money, I highly recommend you figure out a way to track your progress in a way that gives you a visual reminder of how far you’ve come.
8. Make It A Competition
If you’ve never met me, you should know that I have an incredibly competitive streak. But here’s the thing, the person I like to compete with the most, is myself.
Seriously, there is nothing I enjoy more than taking one of my past accomplishments, and setting a goal to beat it. Whether it is beating my best round of golf ever, writing more blog posts in a month than I ever have, or earning more money than the previous month, I love a good challenge.
And if you have a competitive streak, you should tap into that to help you get in the habit of saving money each month.
For instance, you could set a goal to increase your savings by 5% every single month.
You could start a side hustle and try to earn $1,000, 12 months in a row.
You could even make your savings a competition with your accountability partner.
Competition can be an incredibly powerful thing. So, don’t be afraid to use it to your advantage in your financial life.
9. Don’t Forget To Have Some Fun
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when trying to adopt the habit of saving money, is to completely neglect fun.
Look, saving money is important, but so is enjoying your money. After all, if you save money and end up miserable, what’s the whole point of earning it?
Money is a tool that should be used to build your financial future, as well as enjoy the present. As with anything, balance is important. So, find a healthy combination of fun and discipline, and stick with it.
10. Don’t Give Up (Even When You Make Mistakes)
I don’t care what kind of habit you are trying to form, there will always be obstacles and hurdles waiting to trip you up along the way. And no matter how much willpower you can muster, you’re still human, and therefore, you will make mistakes.
And when you make a mistake (because trust me, you will), show yourself a little grace, and get back to it.
You are going to have good months, when saving money feels easy and you crush your goals.
But on the flip side, you will also have difficult months when it seems like the entire world is standing between you and your desire to save money.
Either way, press on.
Because there’s one outcome I can guarantee: if you give up on your goal to make saving money a habit, your savings account will never grow.
You’ll be glad you did.