If saving money were easier, perhaps more of us would do it. But it's hard to establish a healthy level of savings when bills beckon and temptations constantly loom.
Think about it: You might have every intention of socking away $100 a week, but when your friends call and invite you to dinner and a concert, it's easy to forgo that goal in favor of instant gratification and let your savings fall by the wayside.
There's just one problem: If you don't work on building your savings, you'll risk destroying your finances the next time an unplanned bill falls in your lap. And you can pretty much count on experiencing some sort of unpleasant financial surprise in the not-so-distant future, whether it's your car breaking down, your furnace dying, or your company deciding that after years of service, you're being let go. So if you'd rather not put yourself at risk of racking up costly debt -- which is probably what'll happen if you continue to uphold your savings-free existence -- you'll need to start working on building some cash reserves.
If you're currently in the no-savings camp, you're not alone. An estimated 23% of Americans don't have a savings account, according to new data from Comet. But here's how to change that in the most painless way possible.
1. Find one major expense to cut
You probably have one big expense in your budget that you have the flexibility to reduce. Maybe you're a two-car household that can get by on one. Maybe you're enjoying a large apartment in the center of town but can manage with a smaller space and a longer walk to restaurants. You'll hear a lot of people tell you that making a series of small changes will be instrumental in saving money, but let's face it: You're probably better off slashing one larger expense and leaving the rest of your spending intact.
Imagine your goal is to save $500 a month. You can get there by moving to a smaller apartment, or you can get there by never eating out, staying in every weekend rather than paying for entertainment, canceling your cable plan, and giving up the cab rides you treat yourself to when it's raining.
At the end of the day, you'll achieve the same goal, but think about which option will have a greater impact on your quality of life. Chances are, cutting out multiple luxuries will make you unhappier than downgrading your space, which is why it often pays to focus on cutting a single expense rather than sacrifice across the board.
2. Get a side job
There often comes a point when you can't keep slashing expenses, so if that's not doing the trick or you'd rather limit the extent to which you're cutting back, a side hustle can help. These days, an estimated 44 million Americans have a second gig, and the beauty of getting one is that the money you earn from it won't already be earmarked for another purpose, like your rent or car payment. Rather, you'll have an easy opportunity to stick your earnings in savings and build some reserves that way.
3. Be smart about banking surprise cash
There are periods in life when we come into extra money, whether it's a performance bonus at work or a generous gift from a relative. Tempting as it may be to spend that cash, you're better off socking it away and boosting your savings if you're behind. Again, since it's money you were never really counting on (at least in theory), putting it in the bank shouldn't negatively impact your life, nor should it affect your ability to cover your bills.
The fact that nearly a quarter of Americans are without savings means many of us need to do better. If you don't have any money in the bank, consider this your wakeup call to prioritize your savings -- even if it means making some sacrifices along the way.