Have you ever been discouraged by the high down payment on a house or the cost of that car you’ve been wanting for a long time? Have you been depressed by the slow or even negative growth of the number in your savings account?
While nowadays, our minds tend to get derailed by the impulse to seek pleasure, it’s not surprising that even highly paid workers complain about how hard it is to save money. However, despite the fact that the cost of living has grown rapidly in recent years, has the ability to save money become a fortress that can’t be attacked?
Honestly, it hasn’t.
Attitude takes the lead
Before discussing methods, we need to correct our attitude toward saving. There is no doubt that saving money requires strong resistance to desire. The difference between success and failure lies in how we treat this resisting process. If you regard it as torture, your mind will be totally engrossed with the idea of hardship, which will prevent you from clearly seeing the long-term benefits—and will definitely hinder you in pursuing them. But this scenario can be completely reversed when you become aware of how saving money enhances your capacity for self-control and leads you to a better life.
Remember the famous marshmallow experiment? The kids who succeeded in resisting temptation for 15 minutes got a bonus—two marshmallows instead of one. Your bonus for resisting temptation on a daily basis would be far larger than that. Maybe a house, a car, or sufficient funds to travel around the world, start a business, and support your children through a top-tier college. When you aim at how much you can get from resisting, you get a purpose for saving those bucks, leading to accumulation and self-development, not torture.
You track, you learn
Once your attitude is on the right track, you can start preparing. The first rule, the one that comes before everything else, is never spend more than you earn. Many people don’t take this seriously, as it seems so simple and like something “everyone knows.” However, this is exactly where people fall down. To observe that rule requires you to check and compare your expenses and income continuously, not just each month or once a year. You can rob February’s budget to pay January’s extra expenses, but you just delay your financial crisis, not solve it.
With the top rule rooted in your mind, the next step is to build your personal balance sheet. Set up a new spreadsheet with an encouraging file name like “See how I become a money saver.” You can set up your accounting cycle based on your pay cycle or any fixed period you wish. The key elements on your sheet include expenses, income, and balance. Under expenses and income, there should be different categories for what you spend money on and what your income sources are.
Besides the above three key elements, you should also add an extra line/column for notes. At the end of each accounting cycle, skim through the sheet and note anything you find worthy of attention, alert, and praise. As you review the sheet, evaluate your financial performance and you’ll start to learn how to do better in the future. This process will have you making improvements and moving toward your goal.
If building a spreadsheet isn’t your preferred method, try an accounting app that serves the same purpose. Choose your means, and do your job.
Time to save
Okay, we finally come to SAVING.
When it comes to saving and where to direct those funds, we have more than one choice. You can put your money in the hands of investment professionals and wait for returns. You may also consider investing in real estate, which is often a safe bet compared with other complicated financial products. However, all these options require that you have the necessary funds already. Those who are just starting out on their own or are trying to play catch-up have more limited choices, but you must start by saving from every penny you earn.
Your plan should begin with a real savings account, which you cannot use for daily expenses. To make it more conspicuous, you can give it a nickname indicating its future use, like “My first house.” Every time you see that name, you’ll be reminded of your goal, your intention, and the efforts you’ve made along the way. Together, these tactics help fuel your determination and defeat the impulse to spend that can rise out of nowhere.
To put money into that account, you can go with either a fixed or flexible amount. As the name implies, the former option requires you to save a fixed amount of money within each accounting cycle. Take a look at your personal balance sheet, and set up a number that is reasonable for you. Let’s say you earn $5,000 a month and you believe you’ll be able to set aside about a fifth of that each month. What you want to bear in mind is that you have to put that $1,000 under expenses, so that the money you’ve saved is out of reach, making it no different from what you’ve spent.
If you’d prefer to add a little novelty to your savings journey, you have some flexibility. There are, after all, 52 weeks in a year. Try this: Clip 52 pieces of paper and mark each with a different number from 10 to 520 (in increments of 10). Put them in a jar, and draw one each week—that number is the amount you’ll save that week. So if you draw 30, then you save $30 that week. If you’d prefer to start from 100 and increase by 5, go for it! The point here is to set a goal and meet it. Don’t forget to mark the amount you save as an expense on your spreadsheet or in your app.
Hey, look ahead
Envision the future. You’ll no longer be frustrated with saving money because you know saving is for the sake of a better life. You’ll keep improving your financial performance with what you learn from your detailed balance sheet. You’ll hold on tight to your goal and never let your savings account skip a beat. And one day the money in that account will fulfill its purpose.
You are ready to start from this moment because now you know that saving is not that hard. Start your personal plans with Elisi today!
By Elisi Studio