Without retirement savings, you'll risk struggling financially once your career comes to a close and the paycheck you once relied on disappears. And if you're thinking you'll just fall back on Social Security, think again. The average recipient today collects just about $18,000 a year, which is probably a lot less than the income you're used to. As such, you need independent savings to bridge that gap, which is why neglecting your nest egg is a truly terrible idea.

But what if you've been trying to sock away money for retirement, only you keep failing when other expenses get in the way? It really does happen to the best of us, but the sooner you identify the specific expenses that are causing your savings efforts to fail, the sooner you can work on reducing them. Here are a few things that could be the reason your IRA or 401(k) balance just isn't growing.

Man in suit at laptop holding his head as if frustrated


1. Too high a mortgage payment

As a homeowner, your housing costs, including your mortgage payment, property taxes, and insurance, should not exceed 30% of your take-home pay. If that's what's happening at present, you may need to think about finding yourself a less expensive place to live so that your housing costs don't eat up such a large chunk of your income. You might consider downsizing to a smaller home if you're intent on staying in your current neighborhood, or moving to a less expensive area where you can get more for your money. Either move could free up a nice amount of money each month for your IRA or 401(k).

2. Your restaurant habit

The typical American spends $3,456 a year on restaurants and meals prepared outside the home, and if you tend to do the same, it could explain why you're not making headway on your retirement savings. Rather than keep paying those huge markups to dine out, pledge to cut that spending in half and cook more of your meals at home. Doing so might improve your health as a bonus.

3. Your car that's too expensive for its own good

It may be nice to drive around town in a new car, but doing so will cost you. The average monthly car payment for a new vehicle is $554 a month, according to Experian, while the average used car payment is $391. Stick with a used model, and you could be looking at nearly $2,000 extra per year that could go directly into your retirement savings plan.

Building a solid nest egg for retirement ultimately comes down to setting priorities. If your goal is to be financially stable and comfortable during your senior years, map out a budget that leaves you with plenty of room to consistently fund your IRA or 401(k). Remember, it's easier to set money aside month after month over a long period of time than to scramble later on in your career as retirement nears. Contributing steadily to an IRA or 401(k) is the best way to ensure that you ultimately have enough money to pay your bills when you're older.