Is there something you’d like to buy but can’t afford right now? Maybe you want to take a trip, do some home renovations or are anticipating a large expense. If thinking about how much it will cost (and how you’ll pay your credit cards off afterwards) sends shivers up your spine, keep reading. There are ways to save money successfully, and it all starts with a plan.
Before You Start Saving, Set a Specific Goal
Before you start, decide what your goal is; how much do you need to save? Maybe you want to have $3500 available 12 months from now. Be realistic and specific. Your goal must also fit your budget. We all know that spending is much more fun than saving, so one of the best ways to make saving easy, is to make it fun and as painless as possible.
With that in mind, here are 5 steps that will get you started saving for your goal:
Step 1: Break Your Goal Down Into Bite-Size Chunks
The bigger the goal, the more psychologically painful it will seem to achieve. Break it down into monthly or weekly amounts that are easy to picture. For example, to save $3500 in 12 months, that means saving $292 a month or about $70 a week.
If you have kids or teens, involve them in the discussions about how you can achieve this goal. So many families don’t talk about money, and certainly don’t involve their kids in financial discussions and goal setting. By involving your children in a meaningful way you’re teaching them how to save for what they want and need. One of the biggest reasons people end up in trouble with debt is that they never learned how to budget and save for what they want.
Step 2: Decide Specifically What You Can Do to Save Towards Your Goal
Once your goal is broken down, decide specifically what you can do to achieve it. If it’s a family goal, each family member should choose their task, how they will save a part of the weekly or monthly goal.
Some ideas for how to save $70 each week include:
- Save $10 by making your own bottled water ($2/bottle x 5 days)
- Save $20 by bagging your lunch 2 – 3 days a week
- Save $25 by cancelling a utility service that you don’t really need to use right now, e.g. cable or satellite TV
- Save $5+ by scaling back a cell phone plan to what you’re actually using
- Save $5+ by buying generic brands at the grocery store
- Save $3 by avoiding the vending machine or corner store
- Save $25+ by eating/going out less often in the month
- Save $3+ by driving a bit less, e.g. combine several stops rather than running each errand separately
- Save $5+ by planning your grocery shopping and making a list, rather than stopping at the grocery store every day to pick up what’s needed for dinner (plus an impulse buy or three)
- Save $5+ by suspending your e-reader subscription temporarily or by switching over to borrowing e-books from your local library
- Save $2+ by buying fewer apps or making fewer in-app purchases
Step 3: If Spending Less and Reducing Your Expenses Isn’t Enough, Find Ways to Earn More
Luckily, saving for a goal doesn’t only mean spending less and reducing expenses, because sometimes that isn’t possible. Finding ways to top up a savings account can also mean earning more money, or doing a combination of both.
As you look for ways to earn money, keep in mind that this may be a temporary commitment and that you don’t want to take on more extra work than you can reasonably handle. If you have teens, helping them find ways to earn income happens to also be a great way for them to gain valuable financial skills.
Ideas for how to increase income include:
- Doing some house or yard cleaning for someone else
- Getting a paper route
- Picking up an extra shift at work
- Providing childcare or out of school care
- Working a second job
- Renting out a room, a parking spot or the garage
- Collecting bottles and cans for refund
- Using a skill you have to provide lessons for others
- Selling your crafts or handiwork
- Having a garage sale or selling an asset that will provide a lump sum of money towards your overall savings goal
Step 4: Set Your Saved Money Aside in a Savings Account
Ensure that the money you’re saving gets put into a savings account as fast as possible to keep it safe from yourself. Leaving it sitting in your chequing account, in your wallet or on a shelf in someone’s room makes it more likely to be spent on other things.
You might even want to set up a separate savings account specifically for this goal so that you can easily keep track of your progress. If you have kids, a separate account lets you control how much of your personal financial information you show them. Find an account that pays some interest and has minimal service fees.
Consider making savings automatic right on payday. Set up electronic transfers between your chequing and savings account and pay yourself first. What you can’t see, you won’t spend.
Step 5: Employ as Many Savings Best Practices as You Can
Here are some tips and “best practices” that can make it easier to save:
- Make your saved money hard to get to, e.g. don’t make your savings account(s) easily accessible on your debit card. This also helps curb impulse spending.
- Avoid friends who spend a lot of money. It’s much harder to spend within your means if you spend time with people who spend more than you do.
- Don’t spend to save. Some people call this “spaving” and it can turn into a lot of debt. Something is only a good deal if you truly need it and can afford it. All the points, discounts, 3-for-1s, etc. don’t matter if buying the item takes you further away from your goal.
- Stop collecting, or set a spending limit. Many people have things they like to collect but it’s probably safe to say, we all have more than we need. While you’re saving towards your goal, stay away from places where it’s tempting to spend on stuff you don’t need right now, including online forums like Ebay.
- Unsubscribe from marketing emails from your favourite shops. This way you won’t feel like you’re missing out on a sale or offer.