At some point, almost every American adult has made a New Year's resolution to save more money -- and almost every American adult has also broken that resolution. Why? Because one of the major issues with financial resolutions is the failure to set specific goals. "I'm going to save more" is too vague, while "I'm going to save enough for a down payment on a house this year" may be too ambitious. So if one of your 2016 resolutions is to save money, here are some tips that may help.
Know What You're Saving For
Understand why you're saving. Do you want to go on a trip? Save enough to buy something special? Saving money is much easier when it’s tied to something specific.
There are two important savings categories. First, “rainy day” savings for unexpected expenses (e.g., your car breaks down), and second, savings for medium or longer term goals (things you’re excited about).
Think about your reasons for saving. In April, September, or even next December, are you more likely to remember a resolution to simply save more in 2016 -- or that you're saving for new car?
Once you know what you're saving for, you need to understand how much money’s required to make that goal a reality. Let's say you want to take a vacation in 2017. What will that cost? Be sure to include transportation (gas or airfare), food, and even souvenir money for family or friends. Add these items up and you’ll have your 2016 savings goal for your 2017 getaway.
Make Sure It's Realistic
Now it's time for a little reality check. Is that savings goal really achievable in one year? Take the overall number and divide it by 12. Can you really save that much per month? If so, great! If not, reassess. If you can't take that dream vacation you want with one year of savings, perhaps plan a trip that’s less expensive. Either way, having a realistic goal will help you stay on track.
Treat It Like a Bill
The most important thing for any savings goal? Treat it like a bill and do your best to never miss a payment (if your goal truly is realistic, this shouldn't sound too scary).
Check with your employer to see if you can automatically deposit your savings goal amount directly into your savings account. It's much easier to save when it's done behind the scenes, and if you get in a jam and really need that money, you can typically transfer it to your checking account with the push of a button. Just be sure to only tap into those savings if it’s absolutely necessary.
Track Your Progress
Now that you have a specific, achievable savings goal for 2016, figure out how you’ll track your progress. If you don’t already have a separate savings account, set one up. Make it a habit to watch it grow each month -- and be proud of how far you’ve come.
A year is a long time, and sticking to any new goal is difficult. Just remember: Take the steps to create a specific and achievable savings goal for 2016, and treat the goal like a bill or any other financial obligation. Invest the time and it’ll be worth it -- and send us photos from that vacation!
Would you like more tips on saving? Check out our course on paying yourself first. Is there an area of personal finance that you’d like us to cover in a course or Fast Financial Fact? Where do you struggle with managing your finances? We’d like to know! Or are you an organization that’s interested in collaborating? Please get in touch at education(at)lendup(dot)com.