We’re well on our way into a fresh new year. With that comes new resolutions, self-improvement, and loads of opportunity to check in on your financial health. Are you ready to up your savings and planning game in 2019?
Here are six tips to help you stay on track and rock your saving goals all year long!
1. Set SMART savings goals.
Why are you saving money? Having clear goals and reasons behind your action will immensely improve your savings success. Goals will give you a focus and allow you to measure and track your progress which in turn rewards your brain and makes you want to stay the savings course. Imagine if you set a personal goal to run a 5K race and you’ve never run before. Most likely you wouldn’t lace up your shoes on race day and just show up hoping you can make it. In order to have a better chance at completing the race, with sanity intact, you would probably set several small goals that are attainable until you’re able to run the full 5K without stopping. Week one, you may tell yourself just walk for 30 minutes each day. Week two, jog for 1 minute and walk for 5 minutes for a mile each day. Week 3, jog for 2 minutes and walk 4 and so on until you have reached your goal of running a 5K.
Just like your body gets accustomed to the longer running distance over time and practice, your ability to save and budget will get accustomed to your goal.
The trick with setting goals is to make sure they are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Rather than saying “My goal is to save money,” it’s much better to have a goal that uses SMART strategy. Here is an example of a great SMART goal: “To save $50 each month for the next 12 months and build my emergency savings to $600.”
You may have several financial goals that you can accomplish whether its saving for a trip, a new toy, down payment on a house or anything else. Just have a goal!
2. Pay yourself first by automating your savings.
The phrase “pay yourself fist” is a staple amongst financial investors and savvy savers. It simply means that you should save money (pay your own savings account) first before you spend your money. Most people will pay all the bills first then save whatever is left over, assuming there is any money left over, oftentimes there isn’t.
Treat your saving account like it’s a bill!
The best way to pay yourself first is to automate your savings. This forces you save and minimizes the ease of spending money. If you have direct deposit set up with your employer, then you could split your paycheck so that a certain amount is deposited into your savings account and the remaining into checking. Another way to automate your savings is to set up bank transfers and have money automatically transferred from your checking account into your savings account.
3. Start a piggy bank.
Okay, this sounds a little ridiculous right? Well, grab an empty milk jug or an old shoe box and each day empty the coins from your pocket or change purse. Some people even take it a step further and won’t spend their $1 bill’s and will save them in their piggy bank. At the end of the year you could easily have hundreds of dollars!
4. Get a cash back credit card.
Many people redeem their rewards points on travel, gifts, or statement credit. However, you could choose to use them for cash back savings! When you have a great rewards credit card, like Arbor Financial's Rewards card, you could earn up to 3% or triple the rewards points on purchases. All of these points can add up over the year and the points never expire so this would be a great way to build a nice stash. When you’re ready, simply select the cash back option and add it to your savings nest.
5. Record your expenses.
How can you be a prudent saver if you don’t know where your money is going? If you haven’t already, create a monthly budget worksheet with all your expenses (rent, mortgage, car payment, insurance, electric, cell phone, gas, etc.). This is the big picture of where your money goes each month. Now, take it a step further and record your daily purchases. This includes your coffee, lunches, trips to the grocery store, entertainment and so on. Do this for at least a couple of weeks to a month or longer. With an accurate picture of where your money is going you can now make decisions on whether or not the expense can be reduced or eliminated. If so, that gives you more money to set aside in your savings account.
6. Share your vision
Not only will sharing your goals with family or close friends increase your accountability, but it will often lead to greater support from them as well.