When you rang in the New Year last month, chances are you were trying to psych yourself up to start strong on your money resolutions. And if you're like a lot of people, you probably resolved to save more cash: According to the 2016 LearnVest/Barclaycard Financial Literacy Research survey, more than a third of people said that increasing their savings was their most important short-term financial goal.
But here's the big challenge: Like a strict diet that cuts out all our favorite carbs, we tend to equate saving with depriving ourselves—which makes it easy to lose motivation for a savings resolution by month two.
So we tapped behavioral and money pros to dish out their best tips for staying inspired, in the hopes that you'll keep stashing money away toward your goal, whether it's a dream vacation a year away or a dream retirement decades away.
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Get started with a free financial assessment.
Have Your Target Locked Down
Just as you’re more likely to follow through on a New Year’s resolution when it’s specific (think: “I will work out for 45 minutes three days per week” versus a vague “I will get in shape”), having a clear financial goal will keep you on target.
That means immediately nailing down what you’re saving for, how much you ultimately need and how long you have to get there. So as with the example above, rather than say “I’ll save more,” try something like “I’ll put $250 a month toward next June’s vacation,” or “I’ll save $300 a month in order to have at least $10,000 for a house down payment in three years.”
“It’s really important to be specific, because otherwise [it feels like] you’re putting money into some black hole,” says financial expert Chellie Campbell, author of “From Worry to Wealthy: A Woman’s Guide to Financial Success Without the Stress.”
Make Saving a No-Brainer—Literally
The less you have to think about putting money aside for savings, the better. Set up a monthly automatic transfer from your checking account to a separate savings account earmarked for your goal, choosing an amount that works within your budget.
Because it’s done automatically, you won’t have to remember to make a transfer, and you may not even notice when the money leaves your checking account.
“The best ideas are ones that take self-control out of the picture,” explains financial psychologist Stuart Vyse, author of “Going Broke: Why Americans Can’t Hold On to Their Money.”
Since not everyone is initially thrilled about parting with a portion of their paycheck, think of it as paying yourself first, suggests Campbell, which can make the move feel more self-fulfilling and worthwhile, rather than depriving and restrictive.
Put Extra Income Toward Your Savings Goals Right Away
If you find yourself with a well-earned promotion, bonus or chunky tax return, take a portion of that money and drop it right into your savings account—before you’ve had time to think about all the things you want to buy with it.
“When you get a windfall like that, [some] see it as free money and spend it,” Vyse says. However, if you’re committed to saving more money, you may see that unexpected influx of cash in a different light—as a welcome boost to getting to your goal faster—and choose to stash it instead of spend it.
The same goes for any small cost-of-living increase you get from your paycheck. “You’re used to living with a certain amount of money, so keep doing it,” Vyse says. “Commit to staying at your same level and putting that extra money automatically into savings. Do that a few years in a row, and it can really increase the amount of money you’re saving.”
Call in Your Savings Squad
Going at anything alone over a long stretch is likely to leave you feeling deflated. To stay motivated, share your savings goal with a like-minded friend or group of supporters who are also trying to sock away some cash to reach a goal. You can hold each other accountable, share tips and cheer each other on as you make progress.
“After 26 years of [teaching, I’ve found that] most people never discuss money with anybody because they’re all embarrassed that they’re doing it completely wrong, so they never talk about it or get advice,” Campbell says. But, she says, “it’s so important to have a little money mastermind group” to open the dialogue and continue your own money self-improvement.
Track Your Money Wins
Set up an email or text alert with your bank to notify you when money has been deposited (or transferred) into your savings account. That way, you can get a little motivation boost—and instant gratification—every time you hear that chime, knowing some "cha-ching" is landing in your account.
In that same vein, Vyse recommends monitoring your bank balances regularly. Not only will you have a better grasp of where your spending and saving is going over time and be able to adjust as necessary, you can also delight in seeing your savings grow in real-time.
And don’t forget to build in mini-treats (within your budget, of course!) to celebrate your savings milestones and really keep the momentum going.
Contrary to what it may feel like, following through with an ambitious goal like saving more money isn’t only for the most perfectly resolute among us. With these five strategies in tow, you are better armed to stick to your money-improvement plan for the long haul.
LearnVest Planning Services does not specifically recommend any particular security product or service. This article is presented by Barclaycard in a paid partnership with LearnVest Planning Services.
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. Unless specifically identified as such, the individuals interviewed or otherwise listed in this piece are neither clients, employees nor affiliates of LearnVest Planning Services and the views expressed are their own. 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. LearnVest, Inc., is wholly owned by NM Planning, LLC, a subsidiary of The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company.
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