If saving money were easier, perhaps more of us would do it. Unfortunately, Americans have a tendency to fall down on the savings front. An estimated 40% lack the money to cover a mere $400 emergency, while 42% of workers aren't setting any money aside for retirement.
If you've struggled to save in the past, you may be quick to blame things like your mounting bills or unexpected expenses. But in reality, saving money often boils down to getting into the right habits. If you're eager to do better on the savings front, here are three tactics to try.
1. Automating the savings process
It's hard to spend money you don't actually see. If you've failed to save in the past, it may be time to automate things so that you're effectively forced into setting funds aside.
You can automate your savings a few different ways. If you don't have an emergency fund, building one should be your first priority, in which case you'll want to set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account. Once you do, money from each paycheck will filter directly into that savings account, thereby removing the temptation for you to spend it.
If you have some money earmarked for emergencies but need to focus on retirement savings, your best bet is to sign up for your employer's 401(k). All you need to do is indicate how much money or what percentage of your salary you're looking to save, and that money will be deducted from your earnings automatically so that you don't need to think about it. And depending on the type of 401(k) you have, you could snag a tax break in the process. Traditional 401(k)s are funded with pre-tax dollars, so if you go that route, there are some immediate tax savings to be reaped. Roth 401(k)s, by contrast, don't give you an instant tax break, though there are benefits to funding them as well.
If your employer doesn't offer a 401(k), you can still automate your retirement savings by finding an IRA with an automatic transfer feature. And again, if you fund a traditional IRA, you'll lower your tax bill at present, saving additional money that way.
2. Following a budget
Saving money is difficult when you have no idea where your earnings go month after month. Rather than remaining in the dark about your finances, begin following a budget.
To create one, start by listing your recurring monthly expenses. Then add in once-a-year expenses like your roadside assistance plan or warehouse club membership. Once that's done, total up your typical monthly spending and see what it amounts to. Then go through that budget and identify those expenses that will be easiest to cut back on in order to boost your savings.
For example, you could save money by lowering your rent or by dining out less frequently, but cutting back on restaurant meals is a lot easier than packing up and moving. Having a budget will help you make the most of your money so that you're able to save more of it without hurting your lifestyle too badly.
3. Ignoring your raises
If you're lucky, you'll get a pay boost at work every so often, whether it's an annual bump or in conjunction with a promotion. Rather than spend that money, pledge to save every dollar of it. Since you'll be used to living on your former salary, you shouldn't miss the extra cash, so don't let yourself get into the habit of spending it in the first place.
Shifting your approach to saving money could spell the difference between boosting your bank account or retirement plan and coming up short. Use these tricks to boost your savings, and you'll be happier for it in the long run.