Saving money is hard for most people, especially if there isn’t a lot left over at the end of the month after you’ve paid your bills. And if you aren’t careful, it’s easy to spend everything you earn and never set anything aside for savings.
But spending less and saving more is the best way to accomplish your goals and eventually reach financial independence. And if you’re not currently in the habit of saving, that’s okay. There are little ways you can trick yourself to spend less money and save more each month.
How to save money and spend less
Let’s look at 10 ways you can trick yourself to spend less and save more. If you choose even one or two of these suggestions and stick with them consistently, saving money will become a habit that you don’t have to think about.
1. Start paying for purchases in cash
I know, I know — paying for purchases in cash isn’t convenient these days. Mobile banking makes it possible to avoid banks and ATMs altogether. Not to mention, some stores won’t even accept cash payments.
But if you’re trying to spend less each month, paying in cash is one of the best ways to do it. That’s because psychologically, it’s more challenging to let go of cash than it is to swipe your debit card.
When you make a cash payment, you feel the pain of that purchase in a way you don’t when you pay with plastic. The Journal of Consumer Research found that paying with credit cards can cause overspending by 83%.
So try to start making a habit of paying for small purchases with cash. Over time, you’ll probably start to notice that you’re spending less and have more money to save each month.
2. Save your change
If you’re in a difficult financial situation, you may feel like you can’t afford to save any money right now. So why not start by saving your spare change?
Once you start paying for purchases in cash, you’re bound to have some extra change left over at the end of the day. And most people don’t like carrying around a lot of change anyway.
Set a jar out on your counter and start saving all your loose change in that jar. Over time, it will begin to add up, and you’ll start to build a savings buffer.
3. Use an app like Acorns
Another option is to use an app like Acorns, which is the digital version of saving your spare change. With Acorns, you can set up an investment account in under five minutes and start setting aside a little bit of money each month.
Acorns round up your purchases on everyday items, like gas and eating out. The extra money is invested in a diversified ETF portfolio, which is automatically rebalanced.
The money Acorns takes out each month is so small you probably won’t notice it. But like saving your change, over time, the savings will start to grow. Overall, it’s an excellent hands-off investing option.
4. Wait 24 hours before making unnecessary purchases
Do you ever find yourself impulse shopping or spending money when stressed? It’s an easy habit to fall into — something goes wrong during the day, and you find yourself scrolling Amazon looking for things you might “need.”
The purchase makes you feel better temporarily, but the feeling quickly wears off. And you’re left with a sense of guilt and less money to save.
If this scenario sounds familiar to you, then you might consider implementing a 24-hour rule on new purchases. Whenever you feel tempted to buy something, you have to wait at least 24 hours and then decide.
Adding a time buffer ensures that you’re not engaging in emotional spending. And if you do end up buying the item, you’ll feel good knowing the purchase wasn’t an emotional decision.
5. Automate your savings
Do you know what’s hard? Looking at your paycheck at the beginning of the month and trying to decide whether or not to save some of it.
Instead, it’s a much better plan to automate your savings each month. Set up a recurring transfer from your checking account, so the month comes out of your account without you even realizing it.
Automation removes willpower from the equation, and saving money becomes a habit you don’t even think about. You can begin to slowly increase the amount of money you’re saving over time.
6. Pay yourself first
If you wait to save money until the end of the month when all your bills are paid, you’ll never save as much as you could. Instead, you should get into the habit of paying yourself first.
When you come up with your budget each month, decide how much you’re going to set aside for savings. And then save that money first, and make do with whatever is left.
This can be hard to do initially, but you’ll probably find a way to pay all of your bills. And paying yourself first will help you stop seeing saving money as optional.
7. Save any extra money you receive
The chances are that you receive extra money throughout the year. Maybe you received a Christmas bonus, or your mom gave you $50 for your birthday.
Instead of immediately spending that extra money, make a habit of saving it. Automatically saving these extras will train you to get into the habit of saving.
It will also help you avoid lifestyle creep as your income increases. Occasionally, you may want to put some of that money toward a purchase, but the bulk of it should always go to savings.
8. Use a budgeting app to track your expenses
Do you ever feel like there’s never enough money left at the end of the month? If you’re not budgeting or tracking your expenses, then you’re probably wasting more money than you realize.
Creating a budget and tracking your spending is the best way to see where your money is going each month. To get started, you can sign up for a budgeting app like Mint or You Need a Budget (YNAB).
These apps will sync to your checking account and automatically track and categorize your expenses for you. It can be eye-opening to see that you’re spending hundreds of dollars on restaurants every month and setting nothing aside for savings.
Over time, you’ll start to see areas where you can cut back and start setting aside some money for savings.
9. Plan your monthly splurges
You know how when most people start a new diet, they regularly schedule “cheat days?” The idea behind a cheat day is that it’s too hard to cut out every unhealthy food you love.
So instead, you schedule one day where you indulge in some of those foods. This helps you avoid getting so frustrated that you eventually give up on your diet altogether.
It’s a good idea to do the same thing with your money. It’s too difficult to cut out every unnecessary expense from your budget and save every extra last dime.
And the truth is, a cup of coffee isn’t going to make a massive dent in your budget. So instead, try to plan these splurges ahead of time.
Instead of getting fed up and spending money on impulse, you plan your monthly splurges in advance. That way, you can enjoy life and make progress on your savings goals.
10. Make your savings hard to access
And finally, the best way to stay on track with your savings goal is to make your savings account hard to access. If your savings is tied to your checking account and you see it every time you log in, you’re going to be tempted to spend that money.
You want to see your savings as something that isn’t available to spend. That way, when an unexpected expense comes up, you’re not even tempted to dip into savings.
The best way to do this is by keeping your savings account out of sight, out of mind. Put it in an account at a different bank that you won’t see every day or think to check.
I recommend opening a high-interest checking account at Ally or a similar online bank. You’ll earn a little bit of interest on your savings, and if you’re tempted to spend the money, it’ll take several days to access the funds.
The bottom line
Getting in the habit of saving money isn’t easy, but it is possible. And it’s important to understand that spending or saving money is just a habit you’ve built up over time.
Right now, you may be in the habit of spending every last dollar you earn. Or you may be in the habit of emotional spending. But with the right strategies, you can train yourself to start saving money each month.
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