Saving just a small amount today could help you reach longer-term goals, like getting a better apartment or car. It could also help in the time of an emergency or unexpected expense — but according to a recent study, less than half of U.S. households report good progress in meeting their savings needs.
So how can you contribute more to your savings? We’ve probably all thought about the biggest expenses in our budget, but have you thought about the smaller things? It’s useful to think deliberately about budget drain and what may be causing it.
Is there an item you often find yourself impulse buying? For example, do you love to get dessert with your meal, or find it hard to resist a good shopping deal? Of course we all have some guilty spending pleasures, and it’s okay to reward ourselves in moderation. And even if you stick to your budget like glue, it may not always seem easy to save. Maybe your paychecks are inconsistent or your hours have been cut. In this case, it may be tougher to curb expenses.
If you don’t have any savings goals, begin by setting a small one. Assign a numeric value to it and write down what you want to buy with the money. Then, record your expenses. To start, we’d like to challenge you to record your expenses for one week.
Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Pick a realistic goal. If that means saving (or not spending) $25, that’s a good place to start.
- Pick a method to record your expenses. You could make a spreadsheet, use a pre-made online form on a smartphone or tablet, or even use good old pen and paper. Just make sure that whatever method you select, you’ll be able to record what you’re spending money on — before you forget.
- Write down every single expense (yes, even a cup of coffee). It may help to create categories. For example, you may expect to spend money on groceries, dinner, gas, a prescription, or bus fare. If you sometimes treat yourself (here’s where that dessert comes in), plan for it, too.
- At the end of the week, look at your expenses. Are there any categories that seem to be making a larger dent in your wallet? Review each expense in that category and think about whether there’s anything you could eliminate.
- Celebrate your successes. Even if you didn’t quite meet your goal for the week, you took a great first step to identify where your money goes. Once you identify this, you can take action to get closer to your goals.
To learn even more, read one of previous posts about savings or check out our savings-themed education course. And once you’ve built up some savings, you may consider investing some of that money. The government even offers a flexible retirement option that doesn’t require a high starting balance. Check out the Department of Treasury for more details.
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! Please get in touch at education(at)lendup(dot)com.
Disclaimer: LendUp is not providing financial, legal or tax advice. If you need or want such advice, please consult a qualified advisor.