Saving money is difficult, and if you're having trouble socking cash away for the future, you're not alone. Roughly a quarter of U.S. workers have less than $1,000 saved, according to a report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, and nearly half have less than $25,000 in total savings.
Saving for retirement is a particular challenge, because you'll likely need to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in just a few short decades. But no matter what your financial goals look like, you can start saving more money by using a few simple tricks.
1. Make saving part of your monthly budget
Part of saving more money involves going into it with the right mindset. If you prioritize all your other goals and then only save whatever you have left in your budget at the end of the month, it might feel like you simply can't afford to save. But if you build saving into your budget, you can force yourself to prioritize it as a goal.
Try to think of saving as another bill you have to pay every month. Sometimes it's easy for us to convince ourselves that saving isn't as important as, say, paying the electric bill, because there are no immediate, drastic consequences to not saving like there are when you don't pay your bills. However, the long-term effects of not saving can be just as painful. For instance, if you don't build an emergency fund and you're hit with a large unexpected expense, you could be forced to skip paying your bills or rack up credit card debt. Or if you don't save for retirement, you'll need to make some serious financial sacrifices in your golden years.
If you don't already keep a budget, establishing one should be your first step. Next, set a savings goal, and be willing to make sacrifices in other areas of your budget to reach that goal each month. You'd probably be willing to make cuts if it meant being able to afford your rent, so try your best to do the same to reach your savings goals.
2. Don't eliminate all of your guilty pleasures
That said, you don't need to slash your budget with a machete to save more. Although it's important to be willing to make some sacrifices, if you cut your budget down to the bare bones, it's all the more likely you'll get frustrated and give up in a few months.
In some ways, saving money is like trying to stick to a healthy diet. If you eat nothing but kale salads every day, you might be healthy as a horse. But if you don't treat yourself occasionally, you may be tempted to eat a dozen donuts when the cravings hit, undoing all your hard work.
Think of saving the same way. Sure, you can save a lot of money if you cut out every expense you love. But that's not a sustainable way to live. So treat yourself to that morning latte or the occasional dinner out at a fancy restaurant. You'll still need to make some financial sacrifices, but if you allow yourself to splurge every so often, the cuts won't be quite so painful.
3. Put your savings on autopilot
One of the best ways to save more is to forget you're actually saving. When you set up your accounts so that a portion of your money goes straight to your savings account or retirement fund on a regular basis, the advantages are two-fold. First, you won't have to remind yourself to save every week or month. And second, it's easier to build that amount into your budget because you know exactly how much you're saving and when it's going to be transferred from your bank account.
This trick is especially helpful if you're saving in a 401(k) through your employer. Often, you can set up your account so that a portion of every paycheck can be automatically transferred straight to your 401(k). When the money isn't even deposited into your bank account to begin with, it's a lot less tempting to spend it before you get the chance to save.
And it's not just 401(k)s that allow you to autosave. Many IRAs and savings accounts have the feature, too, making it easy for you to put your savings on autopilot. Before long, saving will become a part of your everyday financial life, and it will feel more like a healthy habit than a chore.
Although it's not easy to save money (especially if you're already stretched thin financially), it might be more achievable than you think. By establishing healthy financial habits and making minor lifestyle adjustments, you can save more and give yourself a better shot at reaching your financial goals.