Everyone has different financial goals—some want to save for retirement while others are hoping to simply pay off credit card debt. Then there are those who have a more specific, short-term plan, like budgeting for a vacation or buying a home. Whatever your dream may be, you’re going to need to start saving in order to achieve it. Below, a few smart-yet-doable strategies to get you there.
1. PAY BILLS TO YOURSELF.
If you’ve never heard the phrase “pay yourself first,” consider it the first rule in personal finance. Just as you prioritize monthly bills—like rent, cell phone payments, and utilities —you should make a point to add yourself as a de-facto collector. With every paycheck, or on the first of every month, set aside a specific amount of money to “pay” to your savings account, to your retirement fund, and to funds for bigger expenditures, like a new TV. Think of yourself as you would the electric company: There’s no excuse not to pay.
2. ENFORCE WAITING PERIODS.
Instant gratification is one of the trickiest urges to overcome, especially given the allure of one-click shopping and next-day shipping. To keep yourself from spending money on something you don’t actually need, institute a waiting period for big purchases. For instance, to get anything over $50, you need to wait 5 days before buying, and anything over $100 requires a two-week hold. Often, after this time has passed, the urge to buy has lessened as well. You might even come away with a new perspective as to whether that item is worth the investment.
3. NEVER SAVE YOUR CREDIT CARD INFORMATION ONLINE.
If waiting periods are too extreme, at the very least, opt out of auto-saving credit card information on e-commerce sites. The act of having to rummage for your credit card and enter in all those numbers might be enough to stop you from making a one-click instant purchase.
4. PRETEND YOU NEVER GET A RAISE.
Whenever you find extra money coming your way—whether in the form of an annual raise or a tax refund—simply pretend it’s not. Typically, people use these sudden windfalls to treat themselves with a lavish vacation or splurge purchase when it makes more financial sense to transfer that extra income into your savings account. If you survived just fine without it before, you can continue to do so.
5. KICK COSTLY HABITS.
That $4 latte doesn’t seem like much on its own—until you add up exactly how much you spend on your daily pick-me-up over the course of the year. Identify daily habits with hidden costs and find a cheaper solution, whether that’s making your own coffee at home, brown-bagging lunch instead of ordering takeout, or canceling subscriptions to magazines you usually just read online.
6. SHOP FROM A LIST.
When you hit the grocery store sans shopping list, you can rest assured that by the end, your cart will be filled to the brim with items you didn’t even know you needed until you saw them. Not only will sticking to a specific list help you avoid those impulse purchases, you’ll also be forced to think about what you’ll be eating over the course of the week, which will help minimize waste.
7. TURN OFF THE TELEVISION.
Cutting out cable can save you a ton in monthly fees, and with so many a la carte options available, the idea of having hundreds of unwatched channels just seems silly. If you wouldn’t dare dream of getting rid of the networks—you can’t live without live sports!—call your cable provider to ask about discounted rates, or about cutting your service back to a basic package.