Think about this time last year, has your money situation gotten better or worse? Every year your finances should be better than the year before. Increasing your income, paying off debts, cutting out unnecessary expenses, and keeping an eye on your spending are foundational habits that take your situation to the next level. They can also help you when you can't seem to save.
If you aren’t implementing those habits and your situation has gotten worse, it could mean a few things:
- You took on more debt and/or only paid the minimum on debts that had a promotion (i.e. 0% interest for 12 months)
- You spent more money on things you didn’t need
- Unexpected expenses came up and put you out of budget
- You were already living paycheck-to-paycheck and still paid the same or more on living essentials
If any of the scenarios above happened to you, it could explain why you haven’t saved much money, if any at all. Trust me, it’s a tough pill to swallow, but acknowledging what is holding you back financially is the first step to making improvements. So, if you have acknowledged that one of the scenarios, or something similar, has kept you from saving money and getting ahead, the next step is to fix it. I’m going to share 5 steps to take if you can’t seem to save money consistently. I say consistently because putting money into savings, only to keep taking it out, is not really saving.
#1 Review Your Spending for the Past 90 Days
In my 28 Days to Becoming a Super Saver course, one of the early activities I have the course participants do is a 90 Day Spending Lookback. The purpose of this activity is to help the course participants see where there money really is going. The results of the lookback were eye-opening for everyone in the course. One participant even found out she was being double charged for a subscription!
Taking the time to review your spending from the past 90 days can give you a clear answer as to where your money is being spent. Long gone are the days of assuming all of your money went to food or gas. After the review, you should know exactly where your money went. I highly suggest doing this activity. It will provide a lot of clarity on your spending habits. If you know that saving money isn’t your strong suit, consider taking the 28 Days to Becoming a Super Saver course. I will walk you through the 90 Day Spending Lookback, and much more.
#2 Create a New Budget Based on Income and Adjusted Spending
Once you have taken the time to pinpoint exactly where your money is going, you can start making adjustments. Do you really need that waxing package? Have you spent too much money on your hair and nails? Or, like most women, are you spending most of your money on food? Think about how much money you can save each month by simply cutting back your discretionary spending by 10%.
After you’ve decided where you can (and will) cut back to help you save more money, it’s time to create a new budget. Make sure that the cut backs you plan to implement are still beneficial for your situation. Think about how much money you bring home. Subtract your regular living expenses from that income amount. What are you left with? If the number is negative, it means more cutbacks are needed. If the number is positive, budget out a little for discretionary spending, then the rest goes to savings.
#3 Think about How Can You Make More Money
Referring back to the section above, if your budget shows that your current income doesn’t cover your living expenses, you can cut back those expenses (hopefully) or you can find ways to bring in more money each month. Can you get a second job? Can you ask for a raise at work? Whatever you can do to bring in more money on a consistent basis should be a high priority. You will not get out of your situation if you aren’t willing to do what it takes.
Maybe you’ve already started a business, you just haven’t realized it. Think about a certain skill or product you have that people always compliment or ask you about. Do you help review your friends’ resumes? Do people rave about your paintings? Those are good indicators that you can potentially make money on things you are already doing. You can also review the City Girl Savings Income articles for ideas on making more money.
#4 Make Savings Automatic
Why don’t you make saving money easier for yourself by setting up automatic transfers? The best way to do this is having an automatic savings amount deposited into savings directly from your paycheck. Not only do you not get the chance to spend the money because it never hits your bank account, but you also don’t get the chance to miss it! Out of sight, out of mind.
Since your budget already told you the amount you can afford to save, there should also be no reason for you to touch the savings once it’s deposited. The only instance where your savings should be tapped into is if an emergency comes up. If your situation seems prone to unexpected expenses and budget setbacks, then an emergency fund should be a top priority. Check out the article How to Build a Successful Emergency Fund. I also really enjoyed the Money Talk News article that shares 9 ways to build an emergency fund when you’re short on cash.
#5 Set and Prioritize your Goals
Lastly, you need to have a purpose for your savings. Otherwise, you will be more likely to spend it because there’s no reason to keep it. To give reason to your savings, set and prioritize your money goals. What do you need to accomplish? Paying off debt and building an emergency fund should be priority goals. What do you want to accomplish? Owning a home and traveling the world are great goals, but may not be high on the priority list (or maybe they are).
The point is, setting and prioritizing your goals will make it easier to save for them, even if money is tight. You know what you’re working towards, and that will make it okay to sacrifice and scrape by every month. It will all be worth it once you have reached your goal. It’s very possible to save for multiple goals at the same time, although not always easy. You do have to be disciplined, know your numbers when it comes to your budget, and stay consistent.
The ability to save money is open to everyone, regardless of how much or how little they make. It’s all about keeping your spending under your income. That’s where a budget and an expense/spending tracking system can and will come in handy.
Does your situation feel like it’s not getting better? What struggles are you currently facing with saving money? Share your thoughts, questions and experiences with me and other CGS readers by leaving a comment below!
The CGS Team