We all need savings, whether it's for emergencies, retirement, college, or another purpose. But if you can't remember the last time you had money left over at the end of a given month after paying all of your bills, then it's clear that you're seriously lacking in the savings department. And chances are, it's due to at least one of these reasons.
1. You don't follow a budget
When you spend money left and right without really tracking it, saving becomes difficult. That's why it's crucial to stick to a budget. Without one, you'll have a hard time knowing where your earnings go month after month, and you may not realize just how needlessly expensive some of your bills are.
Say you typically spend $200 a month on rideshares. You might think that total is more like $80, but without a budget, you won't know, and your brain won't sound an alarm warning you to cut back.
Rather than continue to be in the dark about your finances, carve out some time to set a budget up. You can do so by combing through your bank and credit card statements from the past year, seeing where your money goes, and listing your various spending categories and their respective totals. From there, you'll be able to see which bills you're spending too much on -- like the $250 a month on takeout that should really be cut in half.
2. You don't have specific goals in mind
It's hard to be diligent about saving money when you don't really know what you're saving it for, so to this end, think about your different needs and the level of savings that will address them. For example, as a general rule, you should aim to sock away 15% to 20% of your earnings for retirement purposes. If your annual salary is $60,000, that's $9,000, at a minimum, that should be going into your IRA or 401(k).
Meanwhile, you should have at least three months of essential living expenses tucked away in a savings account to serve as your emergency fund. If you typically spend $2,500 a month on essentials, aim to amass $7,500 in cash reserves to cover unforeseen bills or periods when you're out of work.
3. You think small amounts don't mean much
Many people get discouraged from saving money because they don't have a lot of cash to part with on an ongoing basis. But while you might think that saving $50 a month won't do much for your finances and adopt a "why bother?" attitude, the reality is that small contributions to savings can really add up over time.
Imagine you're able to save $50 a month in an IRA or 401(k) over a 40-year period. If you invest your savings at an average annual 7% return (which is a reasonable assumption when you're dealing with stock investments), you'll be sitting on $120,000 after four decades -- not exactly a small pile of cash. Therefore, don't assume that when it comes to saving money, your choices are to go big or do nothing at all.
4. You're a sucker for impulse buys
These days, it's virtually impossible to walk into a store without being smacked in the face with a so-called deal. The same holds true online, too -- you can visit a website to purchase socks and come away $50 in the hole after buying a discounted jacket you didn't need to go along with them. Impulse purchases are a huge savings-zapper, and if you don't learn to avoid them, your savings are likely to suffer.
The solution? Prevent impulse buys with the 24-hour rule. The next time you're tempted to buy something, force yourself to wait a full day before going through with it. Chances are, you'll come to your senses during that time and talk yourself out of making that purchase.
Another tactic? Make shopping lists before going to stores, leave your credit cards behind, and only bring enough cash to pay for the things you absolutely need. This trick won't work when you're shopping online, but it'll at least stop you from overspending in physical stores.
Let's be clear: Saving money is hardly easy -- but it's extremely necessary. Figure out what's stopping you from ramping up your savings game so you can take steps to overcome those obstacles and attain the financial security you deserve.