Maybe your goal was to save $5,000 in 2018. Maybe it was to sock away $10,000 for retirement. No matter what number you had your mind set on, if you didn't get anywhere close, you're probably beating yourself up for not doing better. But rather than focus on what you didn't accomplish, focus on what you can accomplish in the new year. Here are a few steps you can take to be a better saver in 2019.

1. Follow a budget

It's hard to save money consistently when you have no idea where your paychecks go month after month. If you're serious about being a strong saver in the coming year, start off by creating a budget. This will allow you to see exactly where you're overspending so you can take steps to cut back. And while you might think budgeting is something that will eat up a ton of your time, the reality is that you can create your budget in about an hour. Just go through your credit card and bank statements to get an accurate read on your monthly bills, type them into a spreadsheet, and see how they stack up against your earnings.

Jar labeled savings filled to the top with coins.


2. Automate your savings

You can't spend money you don't actually gain access to. If you want to do a better job of saving in 2019, automate your savings so that you're putting money into either the bank or a retirement plan off the bat. If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, for example, you can sign up and have a portion of your earnings deducted automatically. Otherwise, you can set up an automatic transfer to a bank account or IRA.

3. Cut one major expense

You'll often hear that cutting out your morning latte will help you save millions over time. The truth is, skipping that latte will help you save some money, but probably not a life-changing amount. A better bet, therefore, is to look at your budget and slash one expense that's been monopolizing a lot of your income. It could be your rent, your vehicle, or your habit of ordering takeout almost every night of the week. The key, however, is to reduce or eliminate one major bill so that the cash you free up is yours to save.

4. Fight for a raise at work

The more money you make at your job, the more you'll have available to save, so if you've yet to broach the topic of salary at your place of work, get moving. An estimated 56% of workers have never come out and asked for a raise, according to CareerBuilder, but of those who have, 66% were successful in getting more money. So do some research to see how your salary compares to folks in your industry, and then schedule a sit-down with your boss where you can present data in your favor. It also helps to go in equipped with a list of ways you add unique value to your company so that your manager is reminded of why you deserve a bump.

5. Get a second gig

When you work full-time, the last thing you want to do with your evenings and weekends is more work. But if your paychecks don't offer much opportunity for savings once your basic bills are met, then you might need to take on a side hustle to meet your goals. The good news, however, is that you don't have to get a second gig you hate. Find something you enjoy doing, whether it be dog-walking, writing, or photography, and turn it into a moneymaking opportunity. Since the earnings from your second gig won't already be earmarked for other purposes, you should manage to stick all of it in the bank.

Saving money often boils down to making smart lifestyle choices and setting priorities. If you're not happy with your savings efforts in 2018, pledge to do better as 2019 kicks off. With any luck, you'll meet your goals and be in a more financially secure place in about a year's time.