Editor’s Note: Today, Marc highlights one of the most common New Year’s resolutions – saving more – and explains how to do it step-by-step.
It can be hard to put funds away when everyday life is already expensive, but Marc has discovered three foolproof strategies that will make it possible by keeping it out of mind. Read on below for actionable strategies for how to save money and meet your goals in 2020 – or even sooner.
(After all, why wait?)
– Mable Buchanan, Assistant Managing Editor
I grew up middle class in an upper-middle-class neighborhood. As a result, most of my friends’ families had more money than mine and my friends had more “stuff” than I did.
Don’t pull out your violins. There’s no pity party here. I’m glad I grew up that way. I worked from the time I was 10 years old, shoveling snow off driveways in the winter. And as soon as I was old enough to get a job that was “on the books,” I did.
That hard work taught me the value of money, and I didn’t spend it frivolously. If I wanted something, I saved for it.
So I’ve been a saver all my life. I realize not everyone is.
Saving money is not easy. Life is expensive, even when we’re not buying wasteful things. Just paying the rent, eating and putting gas in the car can eat up most of a paycheck.
But contrary to what you may believe, everyone can be a saver. And they absolutely should be.
If you’re not saving money each month, I’m not going to lecture you. You know you should be. Rather, I’m going to provide concrete steps you can take to make saving easier or to accelerate it. And it has nothing to do with budgets or telling you what you should and should not be buying.
The easiest way to save is by doing it automatically. If you don’t have to think about it each month, if it just happens, the funds will accumulate and you’ll have enough to invest and fund your retirement, education, new home, vacation, etc.
How to Save Money Automatically
I can nearly guarantee that if you take the following steps, you will be successful. Share this with your kids or grandkids, as this can help set them up for life.
401(k) plan. If you enroll in your company’s 401(k) plan, or can set it up so that a percentage of your paycheck automatically goes into some kind of investment account, you’ll barely notice that the money is missing.
You’ll figure out how to get by on a few dollars less per month. Because it’s automatic, you won’t have to think about or worry about saving. And putting money in a 401(k) will lower your taxes too – an added benefit.
Recurring payments. Some banks or brokers will allow you to move money on a regular schedule. So if you get paid on the 15th and 30th of the month, you can order your bank to send $100 every 16th and 1st of the month to your brokerage account.
It’s very similar to automatic bill pay, which is popular with some banking customers. The only difference is instead of sending the payment to the electric utility, you’re sending it to your brokerage account.
Rounding up programs. There are programs that will round up your purchase cost every time you buy something and put the difference between the actual price and the rounded-up number into a savings or investment vehicle.
For example, if you buy something for $3.23, it will be rounded up to $4. The $0.77 will then be automatically saved in your account. Now, $0.77 might not sound like a lot, but think of how many transactions you make in a week or month.
Each time, you’re putting a few nickels or dimes in your savings, which adds up after a while.
A colleague of mine saved $157 in just six weeks this way.
Bank of America has the Keep the Change Savings Program, where the money is deposited in your savings account.
There is also an app called Acorns, which rounds up all of your purchases and invests them in various portfolios that you can choose from. That way, the money not only is being saved, but also is being invested so that it will grow.
The toughest part about investing for the future isn’t picking the right stocks or investments. It’s coming up with enough money so that successful investing achieves the results you want. The greatest investor in the world is still going to be living on a tight budget if they don’t have enough capital to invest.
There is ample data that investors are their own worst enemies. By getting into an automatic savings or investing plan, you won’t drive yourself crazy worrying whether it’s the right time to invest.
You’ll just do it, and that will pay off big in the long run.