Let's face it: There are probably things you'd rather do with your money besides sock it away in an IRA or 401(k) plan. If you don't make an effort to save for the future, however, you may find yourself dangerously cash-strapped during retirement. If you've struggled to save for your senior years in the past, here are a few steps you can take to simplify the process next year and come away with more long-term wealth.

1. Save your raise

The beauty of getting a raise is that the extra money you receive is money you were never counting on to pay the bills. If you bank your raise in its entirety, you'll work wonders for your savings without feeling the pain.

Imagine you get a raise that boosts your income by $3,000 next year. If you were to take that entire $3,000 and put it into long-term savings, invest it at a 7% average annual return (which is doable with stocks), and then leave it alone for 30 years, you'd grow it into nearly $23,000.

Smiling person using a laptop at an outdoor cafe.

Image source: Getty Images.

2. Automate the process

With 401(k)s, you don't need to write out a check each month to ensure that money goes into your long-term savings. You just fill out a form and your payroll department will take care of contributions all year long.

IRAs work differently, though. Since they're not employer-sponsored, you can't just have funds deducted from your wages. What you can do is find an IRA with an automatic savings feature. That way, you can arrange for a portion of each paycheck received to go from your checking account into that retirement plan before you get a chance to spend it.

3. Take full advantage of your 401(k) match

Many employers have, unfortunately, cut back on 401(k) matches during the coronavirus pandemic. If your match is still in play, snagging it in full will grow your retirement savings with minimal effort.

Imagine your employer is willing to match up to 5% of your salary, and you earn $60,000 a year. That means all you need to do is put in $3,000 from your earnings, and poof -- your employer will give you the same amount. As we just saw, even a single year of saving an extra $3,000 could boost your nest egg significantly.

Saving for retirement takes sacrifice, but it's necessary. Without savings of your own, you might struggle to pay your bills in retirement, especially given the limited buying power of Social Security. Of course, for a lot of people, funding an IRA or 401(k) means skipping the fancy vacation every year or living a more frugal lifestyle in general. As you can see, saving for your senior years doesn't have to be overwhelmingly stressful. All it takes is the right tricks to make the process easier and more successful than you may have imagined.