We all want to set ourselves up for success, I mean who doesn’t. It’s not always that easy. We start off the new year with our resolutions, but by the time March rolls around they often get lost in the hustle and bustle of life. Did you know thirty-five percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions break them by the end of January. And only 23 percent of everyone who makes a resolution will see it through till the end. That’s crazy, I mean setting yourself up for success shouldn’t be that hard, right? Well the good news is it doesn’t have to be. While setting the intention is a great first step the most important part is actually following through with it beyond February 1. Here are some easy ways to keep you on a money-saving track all the way to 2021, and many coming years.
- Have a Goal
Sounds self-explanatory right? But you’re much more likely to change your spending habits if you’re saving with something specific in mind. Your personal goal could be something as large as a two-week vacation or a down payment on a house to something smaller such as a laptop or new sound system. When looking at a bigger goal you should mentally prepare for what will be more of a savings marathon. If your focus is on one of the smaller goals it’s more of a sprint. Once you achieve your goal, you should add something else, big or small, to your wish list.
- Track Non-Essential Spending
I cannot stress how important tracking your spending is. No matter how big your target goal is, you need to see where all of your dollars are going before you can figure out how much you’ll be able to put away. There are many ways to do this, but to make it simple, on the first day of next month look at what you spent the previous month and put essentials and non-essentials into different buckets. Essentials are relatively fixed costs (rent, student loans, car payments, groceries, insurance), while non-essentials are where you have some choice or freedom; think takeout, concert tickets, those impulse purchases. Once you have mapped out your essential and non-essential costs, look at what you can commit to cutting out or saving on. For example, can you skip lunch time takeout and brown bag it instead? What about dining out? If you’re spending $200 a month on dinners out, figure out a way to cut back and save $100. That could mean meeting friends for drinks instead of dinner or steering your crowd to less-expensive restaurants. The changes don’t have to be huge to make a difference. Try to save 10% to 20% of your income each month, if possible, to make a noticeable step towards your goal. If the thought of closely tracking spending seems too overwhelming, there are a number of apps that will do it for you by linking directly to your credit cards and bank accounts. Some of them will even alert you if you are at risk to overspending.
- Get Rid of High-Interest Debt
There’s no one solution when it comes to high-interest debt. High-interest debt is commonly associated with credit cards. Assuming you have a little money tucked away in an emergency fund, high-interest debt is the first thing you should tackle before meeting long-term savings goals. The benefits of eliminating high-interest debt are never ending, but there are two that stand out. The faster you pay it down, the less it’ll cost you in the long run. Plus, once the debt is paid off, you can put the amount you were paying each month into savings instead. The best part is you won’t feel the squeeze since you’re already used to putting away that money.
- Make It Automatic
Every month make it easy and schedule a regular amount of money to be transferred from your checking account to a savings account. This relieves you of having to remember to transfer the funds and reduces the risk of you spending the money before it’s saved. If you can, arrange to have part of your paycheck directly deposited into a savings account
- Don’t Spend “Bonus” Money
Quite often through the year we get little bonuses. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have grandparents who gift you $100 for your birthday or you typically receive an annual tax refund. Put this money toward your savings goals rather than spending it. After all, it wasn’t there before, so you’ll never miss it.
Set yourself up for success this year and save. Remember saving money isn’t always easy—if it were, we’d all be rich! Start 2020 with a bit of help if you know a friend, family member, or co-worker who is also trying to save, pairing up may help motivate you to stick to your plan. You can share progress and help each other over hurdles. Make little changes in a big way, and see the positive difference in your accounts.
Pam Little is a Chartered Professional Accountant with over 20 years of experience. She helps small and mid-sized businesses manage their revenue and expenses and maximize tax benefits. To book a free consultation contact Pam Little, CPA at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 416-268-1650.