How to save money even if you’re not a saver
I used to be a saver up until very recently. I thought I was a natural saver because I had money saved. After a weekend with great saver’s friends, I discovered that I am not a good saver. They kept track of deals and had zero interest in impulse purchases. They also knew their budget was down right to the penny. I don’t keep a budget and keep a running count of what I spend in any given week or month.
My mistake was thinking I was a great saver. I discovered that I have learned how to save even though I am a natural spender. I have a set of nudges that I have learned over the years to help me save. These nudges don’t require me to make drastic changes or take any action that would leave me feeling depressed. They are small, simple routines that help me make wise decisions about spending my money and how I save it. These are my “nudges,” but you can use them to make your own savings methods easy to follow and not restrictive.
Autopay allows you to save money and invest in investments.
You likely already know that you must pay yourself first. This means you save money and invest it in savings accounts before you buy anything else. This sounds great in theory. Let’s say that you just received your paycheck and you realize that $500 should be transferred to savings. However, you also have plans for a vacation, and you want to make sure you have $500 in your checking account in case of an emergency. Spoiler alert! This was always me. I never made the transfer.
Autopay allows you to be certain that money is going to your investments or savings. Set up an automatic transfer to your savings from your checking account as soon as your paycheck arrives. Don’t forget about any contributions you can make to your employer’s retirement plan. Since setting it up, I have not missed a month of reaching my savings goal.
Barriers can be created.
My savings and checking accounts are kept at different banks. This has allowed me to save a lot of money. Although it may seem small, inconvenient, or even unnecessary, it has helped me avoid overspending. My savings account is kept out of my sight and mind by having a barrier between them and two different types of money. It prevents me from having to access my savings account funds too often. It takes me 2-3 days to transfer money from savings to my checking account. By then, I have decided to stop taking from savings.
Know your spending triggers
Being self-aware is key to staying within your budget. It is important to identify what triggers you to spend. Spending triggers could be people, places, or stores (example: Target). These can make it difficult to stick to a budget. My trigger was after-work stress shopping. When I was driving home from work, I would pass a Nordstrom Rack and, after a stressful day, I would pull into the lot to browse the aisles for 45 min looking for bargains. After realizing that stress was my main spending trigger, I began to look for ways of destressing without involving my wallet. I found cheaper ways to relieve stress and changed my commute home from work. Knowing your spending triggers will help you identify ways to fix them and avoid getting into that same situation.
Learn to master the art of the pause
This tip isn’t just for finances. It can be used throughout your life. Being more intentional and mindful about all your decisions will make a big difference. I was first introduced to the idea of being more intentional by Marie Kondo. I was inspired by Marie Kondo’s idea of organizing (and keeping vs. donating) based on what sparks joy. Why can’t this same principle be applied in personal finance? Now, I pause before I buy anything, and I mean everything, and I ask the question: “Will this make my life happier than [insert another thing I want to buy or save]?” This helps me to see if I am making a purchase that isn’t necessary or if the $20 Target shirt brings me joy. I have saved myself from making many unnecessary purchases that didn’t make me happy and saved my money for things that bring me joy.
Set exciting goals
Although a South African trip was on my bucket list for over ten years, it was expensive. I learned how to prioritize savings by setting a goal that excited me. I began saving money that I didn’t realize I was spending. I wondered if I would rather take an Uber or ride the bus to pay for my trip. Saving money was so much easier when I had a goal to reach. It made it more fun than thinking that I should have savings or focusing only on retirement. All of my purchases were considered tradeoffs. This taught me that I could save and can be great at saving. If I had set a goal to save more, there’s no way I would have saved the amount I did.
Technology can make my life so much easier. I love using it to order food, call a handyperson, and for transportation. Why not make it easier to save money by using an app? While many apps can help you save money, could you not rely on them to do the entire job? Apps are like the frosting on the cake. I have my automatic savings, but I add an extra routine to save money that I don’t notice but will in the long-term. Qapital is my favorite app. It allows me to round up purchases and set spending goals for the week.
Increase of 1 percent
I learned about routines that can help people avoid ruining their financial future during a business school behavioral economics course. Auto-escalation is a method that automatically increases your retirement plan contributions by 1% each year. This was something that stood out to me. This concept was applied to my personal life, and I started my auto-escalation. With an automatic transfer to my savings, set up at the beginning of each month, I would increase the by 1 percent every few weeks. It didn’t cost me any extra money. This technique has allowed me to double my monthly savings without feeling I am missing out on any spending money over the years.