LearnVest's New Year, True You Challenge: Week 1—Flex That Savings Muscle

LearnVest's New Year, True You Challenge: Week 1—Flex That Savings Muscle

To help get you motivated to make progress on your money in 2015, we're offering up weekly to-dos as part of our inaugural New Year, True You Challenge series.

If you’ve ever worked toward a health or fitness goal, you know that success doesn’t happen overnight.

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You can't, for example, expect to bench-press 100 pounds when you can barely pick up a 20-pound weight. It takes months of training to build up your strength and hit that target.

Can you guess where we’re going with this?

Yep, financial goals work in much the same way. If your aim is to save more in the new year, you’ll need to slowly strengthen your savings muscle, starting with small to-dos that you can build upon.

To get you started, this week's challenge is designed to help you find areas in your budget where you can trim costs that can be funneled toward your savings goals—a move that will help get you "used to" the feeling of saving on a regular basis.

Think of it as a fiscal fitness regimen that you can personalize to meet your goals!

The best part about this challenge? It not only helps you save but also lets you figure out which expenses you can—or can't—live without.

Week #1 Challenge: Save by Starting Small

If the idea of saving puts you into deprivation mode, this exercise will show you that it is possible to stash away cash without feeling like you're giving up too much.

To start, choose a small expenditure—say, your daily morning cup of Joe on the way to work—and refrain from spending money on it for a full week. The following week, bring the coffee back but eliminate something else, like the newspaper you get for your commute.

For weeks three and four, try amping up your cost-cutting slightly: Perhaps you brown-bag your lunch for a week, or carpool for a few days so you can skip one weekly trip to the gas pump.

At the end of the month, add up how much you've saved by not spending on those various items. Chances are, the dollar amount is probably higher than you expected. But regardless of whether you've scrimped together $20, $50 or $100, transfer that amount to a savings account for a goal you've been trying to reach.

The best part about this challenge? It not only helps you save, but it also lets you figure out which expenses you can—or can't—live without, enabling you to figure out which areas of spending you could potentially eliminate in the long run.

Of course, we’re not saying that this challenge will be a piece of cake. For an extra motivational boost, consider coming up with your own “phrase to save"—a mantra that reminds you of what you’re saving for—at the beginning of the month.

For example, every time you’re about to shell out for a latte at your local coffee shop, say to yourself, “Is this coffee more important than my vacation to Europe?”

Once you realize that this small purchase could hinder your ability to visit the Eiffel Tower, you may be more inclined to skip it—and keep that savings muscle flexed.

RELATED: 4 Strategies to Reach Your Money Goals Faster

LearnVest Planning Services is a registered investment adviser and subsidiary of LearnVest, Inc., that provides financial plans for its clients. Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment, legal or tax planning advice. Please consult a financial adviser, attorney or tax specialist for advice specific to your financial situation. LearnVest Planning Services and any third parties listed, linked to or otherwise appearing in this message are separate and unaffiliated and are not responsible for each other’s products, services or policies.

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