Saving money can be a difficult process. Whether you’re saving for your first home, a new car, trying to pay off debt, or you simply want to buy a new outfit or store up a rainy day fund, it can be frustrating when you feel like you’re making efforts to save money and you’re not going anywhere. When your savings come to a standstill (or, god forbid, are going down), it’s important to take a moment to step back and troubleshoot, and see where you can make changes. Here are nine reasons you might not be saving money.
1. You’re Not Setting Goals
This is the #1 mistake most people make when they set out to save up for a new item. If you don’t set a goal, e.g. “I want to save $100 this month for (a new car, my house, that dress I like)”, then you’re not going to be focused. If you’re not focused, it’s easy to get distracted by little things.
Set your goals, and then make a conscious effort to achieve them. If you don’t have a direction, you’ll end up standing still.
2. You’re Not Budgeting
If you’ve set a goal, but you haven’t budgeted for that goal, then you’re probably not gong to make that goal no matter how hard you try. Get your goal down on paper, move your money around and figure out how to make your goal work, then go after your savings. Without a proper budget, you won’t make your savings goal. So sit down and make one today.
3. You’re Not Paying Yourself First
Paying yourself first makes your whole life easier. Instead of leaving your savings until after you’ve paid your bills and bought your coffees, and paid for that scarf you saw on sale, try popping $50 or so into your savings account at the beginning of each paycheck. Better yet, make it automatic. After a while, you won’t even notice the missing money, and your saving account will grow itself.
4. You’re not Changing Habits
Bad habits and thought patterns are hard to break, but you have to break them if you’re going to save money. Doing small things like switching to cash, reminding yourself of the difference between wants and needs, and changing where you shop can make a huge difference.
5. You’re Not Shopping Secondhand
If you can, you should try to find items secondhand first, with the exception of a few things. Buying things you need secondhand drastically reduces their prices, saving you hundreds of dollars on clothes, books, and household items. It’s worth a shot.
6. You’re Not Looking for Sales
If you can’t find it secondhand, try to find it on sale. Taking advantage of sales is both a habit and a skill to learn. Get into the habit of shopping for retail items just after they go out of season.
For instance, buy coats in spring, and electronics just after Christmas, and Halloween decorations the day after (and then store them for next Halloween). Once items are no longer in-season, retailers will be trying to get rid of them and will sell them for up to 90% off. This is a great way to save an immense amount of money.
7. You’re Not Buying in Bulk
Buying paper goods and dry goods is a great way to spend less money. Always check the price per ounce, but usually, the more you buy of an item, the less it will cost. That pack of 16 rolls of toliet paper will be a lot cheaper than buying just one, obviously, and it’ll also save you gas, because you won’t be constantly running to the store to restock.
8. You’re Not Getting Accountability
If you don’t have accountability for your savings goals, you’ll be tempted to break them. Get a savings buddy and hold each other accountable for how much money you’re spending on items you probably shouldn’t be buying. Being accountable to someone will make you more likely to stick to your goals.
9. You’re Not Setting Up Consequences…or Rewards
This works like accountability. Set up a little accountability for yourself. Of course, if you don’t save money, there’ll be long-term consequences (like not being able to buy your car when you wanted to), but the human brain functions much better with short-term consequences and rewards. Think the carrot and the stick. Maybe if you make your savings goal for the month, you can spend (a little!) money on a treat, like a candy bar, a latte, or a rented movie. If you don’t make your savings goal, you have to get rid of an item in your house, or do a hundred push ups. This’ll help keep you motivated, and you’ll be making your savings goals in no time.