If saving money were easy, perhaps more of us would do it. But there's a reason 23% of Americans have no emergency savings whatsoever. When the bills keep piling up and our earnings don't increase, finding even a small amount of cash to stick in the bank each month can seem next to impossible.
If you're having a hard time saving money, you should know that you're in good company. But you should also follow these tips to make socking cash away just a bit more feasible.
1. Automate your savings
Maybe you kick off each month with the best of intentions: You'll keep your spending to a minimum and stick your leftover cash in the bank after all of your bills are paid. But we all know how that one goes. Things creep up, temptation strikes, and before you know it, you've spent your entire paycheck.
Rather than getting stuck in that trap, arrange for a portion of your earnings to go directly into a savings account so that it's not actually available for you to spend. You can do this a couple of ways. If your emergency fund needs reinforcement, set up an automatic transfer with your bank and have a small amount of your paycheck filter directly into your savings account. If you're OK on emergency savings but need to focus on your nest egg, sign up for your employer's 401(k) so that part of each paycheck gets allocated directly to retirement. The benefit of automatic savings is that it tricks you into thinking the money you're putting away isn't there in the first place, which means that after a while, you won't even miss it.
2. Reward yourself along the way
The problem with saving money is that it just doesn't provide the instant gratification you get from life's many luxuries. That's why it pays to establish some sort of rewards system wherein you grant yourself an indulgence for meeting savings goals.
Imagine you're looking to save $5,000 over the course of a given year. You might decide that for every $100 you put in your bank account, $10 goes into your vacation fund. Achieve that goal and you'll have $500 for your getaway of choice. Similarly, you might decide that for every $150 you save, you get to treat yourself to takeout from your favorite restaurant. The choice is yours, but the key is to create an incentive for yourself to keep saving.
3. Get a side job
Sometimes, despite our best efforts to stretch our earnings, our paychecks can only go so far. And that's where a side hustle comes in. Whether you earn $20, $50, or $200 per week, getting a second gig is a good way to help your savings efforts, especially since the extra cash you bring in is money that isn't already earmarked for other bills.
Another benefit of working a side hustle is that it might spare you the agony of having to cut other expenses to make room for savings. Say you're hoping to set aside $200 a month, but the only expense category with wiggle room in your budget is leisure and entertainment. In the absence of extra cash, you may need to deprive yourself of concerts with friends and happy hours with your colleagues. But if you get a side gig that allows you to earn that $200 per month, you can meet your savings goal without having to cut back on the things that allow you to enjoy life.
Saving money takes dedication, effort, and self-control. The payoff? A degree of financial security that many of your peers are still struggling to achieve. And that's reason enough to push yourself to save money, even if it does mean making some sacrifices along the way.