Saving money is harder than it seems. While most people know they need to put aside cash for the future, actually coming up with money to put into retirement accounts and other savings accounts often seems impossible due to pressing expenses you're facing today.
The good news is, there are tried and true tactics that really work to help you increase your savings rate. In fact, if you try these three techniques, you could find your spending falls and your savings account balances grow bigger than you ever imagined they could.
1. Focus on the big stuff
Saving money generally requires you to spend less, and there are two ways to do that. You can cut out tons of little things that make life enjoyable, depriving yourself of your lattes, dining out, comic books, shoes, or whatever your indulgences are. Or you can keep your big costs low and save the difference.
When trying to save more, most people take the first approach. That's because it seems easier to track spending and find areas where you're "wasting" money rather than make a big lifestyle change. And this sometimes works. But if you have to cut too many little indulgences to make a meaningful difference in your savings rate, you'll probably end up with a budget you can't stick to.
It can actually be much easier to make just one or two big changes that free up a lot of cash because it can be easier to get accustomed to just a single change in circumstances that happens only once.
If you're used to driving a new car and having expensive costs for insurance and maintenance, for example, it's not that difficult to get used to driving a cheaper used one -- and you'll reap lots of savings over the long term.
Some other big changes include downsizing to a smaller and cheaper house or cancelling one or more expensive subscription services.
2. Earn more
No matter what approach you take to cutting spending, you'll eventually run out of expenses to reduce.
You won't ever run out of chances to earn more, though. And if you can increase your earnings without giving into lifestyle inflation, you can save all of the extra money you're making.
You can increase your earnings by improving your skills so your labor is worth more, or by simply working more hours. Ask about training programs to open the door to advancement at work, or think about taking on a side gig.
3. Make it impossible not to save
Saving money is something you have to do for your future, so treat it as an obligation, and don't give yourself a choice about whether to do it. You can do that by automating a transfer of funds to savings when your paycheck hits your account.
Workplace 401(k) plans are set up to withdraw money from your check before you even get it, and you can take a similar approach to other savings accounts, too. Whether you're putting money into an IRA or a taxable account, set up a transfer on payday, and don't touch the money in those accounts unless you're using it for its intended purpose.
Try these techniques to increase your savings
While cutting your spending and finding extra income can be challenging, it's worth making the effort to boost your savings rate. You need money invested for retirement and future financial goals, and the sooner you start putting away cash to help bolster your financial security, the easier it will be to achieve your savings objectives.