If you truly want to learn to save money but have tried and failed (spending it on fast food and Amazon, you say?), then what might be lacking is a place to start and a path to follow.
You need to establish a habit of saving money.
To establish that habit, you need to have a set of rules and a starting point. The beginning rules should be very simple and very easy.
For this money saving habit, you will start with a tiny amount and keep repeating. And repeating. Until you reach a point that it feels disturbing to skip the habit, even once. When you reach that point, the habit has become locked in a neuron path in your brain.
You can now start increasing the amount that you save – in small increments that get larger over time. One day in the not so distant future, you will be surprised at how much and how easily you put money into your savings.
Here is an example of how to start saving money – perhaps it was the easiest example until COVID created a coin shortage!
In this example, you set a rule: Save one coin every week by Friday at midnight. That’s it. Just one coin, even a penny. Starting right now.
You find a jar (or a box or a container) and set it on your dresser. Deposit your first coin and your habit has begun.
Do not go out a buy a fancy piggy bank or jug for your coins. Start with what you have. When you have reached a milestone … say 12 weeks of faithful saving, then you can get yourself something better if you still want it. But don’t reward yourself by buying a fancy savings container at the start of the new habit. Make yourself earn the reward. If you reward yourself before you start, you fool yourself into thinking you have already accomplished your goal and your mind begins to lose interest.
After a couple of weeks, if you want to add in miscellaneous pocket change or even a dollar bill or two, go ahead. But don’t change the rule. One coin. Once a week. That is all it takes for you to have a successful week. After a few weeks, step up your game. Increase the required number of coins or make it two days a week. Yet stay within a limit that you know you can reach. Don’t try to jump from saving a few coins once a week to saving a $20 bill once a week. It’s better to go from a coin, to a few coins, to a $1 bill, to a $5 bill over time.
Create reminders and make absolutely no excuses. If you wake up and remember that you forgot to save your coin, then get out of bed right away and find a coin to deposit in your savings bank! Self discipline means you follow through on your commitments even if it is inconvenient, even if you are tired or had a bad day, and especially when there is a voice in your mind insisting that it doesn’t really matter if you skip this one time. It matters.
You are doing two things right now. First, establishing a habit – repeating it until it is naturally and permanently a part of your routine. Second, you are changing your self image from an image of one who “can’t save money” to one of “I save money on a set basis without fail.”
Once you are hard wired to save money, you will be surprised at the ideas and opportunities that begin to appear that will help you to begin to grow your savings.
Now, our example was saving coins in a jar. No coins? Perhaps you can put $1.00 in your savings account every time you get a paycheck. Or every Tuesday you can drink water at lunch instead of a soft drink and then transfer the price of the soft drink into your savings account. (Hint, make it really easy and calculate the soft drink cost once and continue to use the same figure week after week. )
You make the rules. Make them easy, with a set time and place to perform, and at an initially very low set amount.
Look at you. Now you are a person who makes a habit of saving money. You are awesome!
Share your rules and your progress in the comments!