If you’re convinced that another raise or a windfall will finally jump-start your savings account, stop right now and read this. While extra money might seem like the key to a big bank balance, the truth is that savers often don’t have the biggest paychecks. What savers do have is the right mindset and a habit for stashing cash—two assets that anyone can develop.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit. — Aristotle
Why not make saving money a habit?
1. Start Small
Savers know the idea that “you need a lot of money to save a lot of money” is a big misconception. Every savings account starts with an initial deposit, whether it is $1 or $1,000, and either amount represents a commitment to save. Savers save however much they can depending on their circumstances, and they save on a consistent basis.
2. Pay Yourself First
Frugal-minded individuals are keenly aware that if you pay everyone else first, there will be nothing left for savings, which is why they generally pay themselves first. If they determine that they can stash $50 in their savings account each month, they make that their first “bill” to be paid, which ensures they meet their savings goals. And if they happen to have a little extra later in the month, they sock that away as well.
3. Cut Costs, Save the Savings
Savers save at every opportunity. They know that each dollar that stays in their pocket after a purchase can be funneled into savings. This means before making most purchases, they seek out any potential savings in the form of coupons and sales, and they take advantage of any technology that allows them to save, like money-saving apps and online coupons.
4. Live Below Your Means
Savers rarely overspend and generally stick to a budget. If super savers want a nonessential item or to make a large purchase, they only buy the item if they have the cash to pay for it. Supersavers purchase on credit when they are able to pay the balance off without interest, and they use credit for a purpose that saves them even more money—such as for rewards points or during a zero-interest promotion.
5. Regularly Check Your Finances
Analyzing their budget on a regular basis and making adjustments when necessary is something savers do, no matter how busy they are. This review includes checking on the progress of financial goals, analyzing investments and setting new financial goals. They also keep themselves up-to-date about the financial world and heed advice from the top.
6. Be Realistic
Supersavers stay motivated to save with realistic dreams that they can actually reach. Rather than daydreaming about lofty goals like owning an island and retiring at 30 when they’re 29 and have very little in the bank, they set their sights on attainable goals they can reach, such as saving for a down payment on a home in their price range and saving for a weeklong vacation to the tropics. Along with their dreams, they have realistic plans for saving the necessary money.
Though they may seem like it, super savers aren’t superheroes with wealthy backgrounds. They made saving money a habit and stuck with it, and it paid off. Financial success is different for everyone, so start small, make saving a habit, and stay on track to reach your goals.
Julie Bawden-Davis is a widely published journalist specializing in personal finance and small business. She has written 10 books and more than 2,500 articles for a wide variety of national and international publications, including Parade.com, where she has a weekly column. In addition to contributing to SuperMoney, her work has appeared in publications such as American Express OPEN Forum, The Hartford and Forbes.