America Saves Week: A Plan for Savings
Have you heard that you’re more likely to achieve a goal if you write it down? Well the same thing goes for having a plan. While it might seem so simple, people who have a written goal AND a written plan for savings are more likely to follow through.
Choose A Savings Goal First
What is your savings goal? Do you want to have an emergency savings fund as a safety net? How much do you need to feel comfortable? Are you saving for a car, a trip or next year’s school/sports fees? Determine what you need to save for and how much you need to save, then write that down. The average person likely has something they want to do that they can’t just pay for outright today.
Make It Fun
You could make a goal/savings board with motivational words/phrases/pictures, etc. that show what you’re saving for and what your goal is. Doing it with others also creates built-in accountability and an understanding that you might have to cut back in other spending areas, like meeting up for dinner or drinks. Knowing that you’re all working toward a goal can allow each of you to spend less and save more. If you decide to make it a family thing, it’s a great way to teach kids of all ages the importance of saving. Plus, you can enjoy an inexpensive activity with the family. Who doesn’t like arts and crafts with the kids?
Time to Plan
Now that you have a goal, develop your plan. The first place to start — as you’ll hear me say a lot — is either review your budget or create a budget if you don’t have one yet. Determine what you can realistically save each month, and write it down.
Don’t Think You Have Anything Left Over to Save?
Go through your budget, and figure out what you’re able to cut and how you can do activities cheaper. Here are some ideas:
- Get rid of unused or unnecessary subscription/streaming services.
- Cancel cable and use a cheaper alternative.
- If you have free weights, access to YouTube videos and a little floor space, work out at home for free instead of at the gym.
- Bring lunch, snacks and coffee from home to avoid excessive costs of buying those items on the fly.
- Dine out less and plan more meals.
- Make a list when you go to the grocery store.
- Pay at the pump to avoid going inside the gas station to buy snacks and other items that you can get cheaper somewhere else in bulk.
If you are already on a bare bones budget, then you need to think about ways to increase income — perhaps a part-time job, overtime, shoveling snow, mowing lawns or babysitting, for example. Or think about using cash windfalls, such as annual bonuses or tax refunds to kick-start your savings fund.
It’s ”Make it Happen” Time
Now that you know what you need to save and have made room in your budget for it, it’s time to start saving. Seems simple, but if you don’t have a plan in place, it won’t happen. Are you going to save change in a jar? Or set up an automatic transfer from your main bank account to a savings account? Will you set up automatic deposits directly into a separate savings account from your paycheck? Determine what works best for you, whether it’s one strategy or several. Just make it happen.
What If I Slip?
We would all love to be perfect at saving, but we’re human. We sometimes buy items on a whim that we may not need because it feels good, we just want to, or we’re with our friends or family. If you slip, don’t beat yourself up. Just acknowledge that you had a slight relapse, then get back on track. Whatever you do, avoid creating or building up more debt. Adding on debt can increase monthly payments, making it even more difficult to achieve your savings goal(s).
The hardest part of saving is getting started, but now that you have a goal and a plan, what are you waiting for?
Is debt holding you back from reaching your savings or other financial goals? LSS Financial Counseling can work with you to create a realistic budget and an individualized action plan with concrete steps to achieve your goal. Complete your free, confidential session online, or call us today at 888.577.2227 to schedule your session over the phone or in person.
Author Elaina Johannessen is a Program Director with LSS Financial Counseling.