Most of us face our share of impediments to saving money, whether it's unplanned bills, peer pressure, or impulse buys. But the fact that Americans seem all too comfortable with debt makes saving money less of a priority for many.
That's a very bad thing. Without retirement savings, workers today won't manage to maintain their lifestyles once their paychecks go away. And without a healthy bank account balance, you may find yourself out of options the next time you need cash in a pinch, whether it's to fix your car or repair something in your home.
Yet a recent report by real estate service Clever found that more than 50% of Americans either break even or spend more than their income each year. As such, they don't save. If you can't remember the last time you contributed money to your IRA or 401(k), or even to a savings account, for that matter, it's time to rethink your approach to spending, stop falling back on credit cards, and get a handle on your finances -- before it's too late.
Carve out your own savings path
Saving money often comes down to personal motivation to do so. But there are steps you can take to make it easier on yourself.
For one thing, be judicious about using credit cards. They can easily lend to overspending when not managed wisely, as evidenced by the fact that Americans owe an average of $8,000 in revolving debt, reports Clever, most of which is thought to be of the credit card variety.
Let's not forget that the more credit card debt you rack up, the more money you waste on interest -- money that could otherwise be used for more important purposes, whether it's building emergency savings, funding a retirement plan, or gearing up for a major milestone, like marriage or college. As such, be prepared to cut up your credit cards and toss them away if you can't trust yourself to spend more modestly with them.
Another way to fuel your savings? Get on a budget. That way, you'll actually see where your money goes month after month, and you'll be able to identify those categories where you're going overboard.
To set up a budget, start by listing your recurring monthly expenses, like rent, transportation, food, and utilities. Then, factor in sporadic expenses -- things like quarterly property taxes or annual professional license renewals -- so that you're setting money aside for those expenses month after month. Finally, compare your total spending to your total earnings. If you find that you're depleting your entire paycheck, or, worse yet, spending beyond your earnings, then you'll know you'll have to start making changes that free up cash. Those could involve dining more often at home as opposed to restaurants, walking or taking the bus instead of constantly springing for rideshares, canceling the streaming services you can get by without, or even downsizing your living space to slash your rent costs.
You need money in savings -- for emergencies, retirement, and other purposes. If you're not in the habit of setting money aside on a regular basis, consider this your wake-up call to do better. You may need to rethink your habits and lifestyle, but you'll be thankful you did when your finances take a positive turn.