Saving money can seem impossible. How are you supposed to save if you aren’t earning enough? According to The Wall Street Journal, nearly half of Americans would struggle to come up with $400 in case of emergency. Why do so many of us have this problem?
There’s some interesting research that looks at the psychological reasons people struggle to save. Behavioral economists have found several reasons people have difficulty saving:
We Are Irrational: We constantly make choices that don’t make sense when it comes to finances. We fail to see the big picture, and instead, make choices based on our emotions.
We Prioritize Current Desires over Long-Term Goals: We often have “present bias” when it comes to purchasing. When that paycheck comes, we’ll splurge on a new outfit rather than setting aside funds for a rainy day.
We Don’t Fix Problems that Don’t Need Immediate Attention: It’s easy to brush aside tasks when doing them won’t have an immediate effect on our lives. And so, we delay planning for retirement or doing something as simple as filling out a form—even if it will save us money in the future.
We Underestimate the Frequency of Special Occasions: It may seem like buying that birthday present or celebrating a night out is a one time ordeal, but studies show these events occur much more frequently than we account for.
So, what can we do with this information? We can be aware of our bad habits and try to replace them with good ones. Here are some ways you can trick yourself into saving:
1. Hide Your Money
Have a percent of your paycheck automatically deposited into your savings account. If you never see the money in the first place, you’re less likely to be tempted to spend it.
2. Re-Name Your Savings
Doing something as simple as changing the name of your savings fund can have a big impact. If your extra money is labeled “Europe Vacation” or “Emergency Savings,” you’re more motivated to actually use it for that purpose.
3. Track Your Budget
Use an app like Mint to keep tabs on your budget. You can link it directly to your bank accounts and see an overview of how you’re spending your money. You may be less likely to order take out every night once you realize how much of your income those meals are costing you.
4. Divert Funds
When you pay off a bill or cancel a subscription, continue to take that monthly payment out of your account and put it towards savings. After all, if you’ve been getting by without extra money, you won’t miss it. You can also use an app like Digit, which periodically takes a few bucks out of you account and puts it in a rainy-day fund for you.
5. Play the “Save Money” Game
Set yourself up for success by turning your financial goals into a challenge. You could stash every $10 bill you get, or you could reinforce a good habit like exercising by adding money into savings every time you skip your morning run.
6. Shop Smart
Whenever you buy something online, you should check for coupons, in addition to using cash-back sites like Ebates. Also, make sure you are getting the most out of your credit card purchases by finding a card with rewards that suit your needs.