If “I’m really going to buckle down and save” were last year’s famous last words, one of the following savings strategies might help you keep the promise in 2013.
- Start small.
For those never been able to get into the saving habit, Paul Richard, vice-president of the National Center for Financial Education in San Diego, recommends starting by setting aside at least a dollar a day in pocket change. “It will become a habit if you do it every day,” he says. After 30 to 45 days, open a savings account and deposit your accumulated change monthly.
- Eliminate the need for willpower.
If a raise boosts this year’s take-home pay, set up an automatic payroll deduction that shuttles the amount of the increase-or even half of it-to a savings account, mutual fund or U.S. savings bond. Saving will seem less like self-denial if you’ve never had your hands on the extra money.
- Set goals.
A specific goal, such as saving for college tuition or for a down payment on a new car, is a better motivator than saving for saving’s sake, says Judy Lawrence, a financial counselor in Albuquerque, N.M. Determine how much you need to set aside monthly to reach your goal. Treat that amount as a fixed expense, just like the mortgage or the phone bill, or as a loan you’re obligated to pay off.
On the other hand, a horrible savings device, says Richard, is increasing your tax withholding and treating that as forced savings. Getting a tax refund may seem like a windfall, but Uncle Sam has earned interest on your money, and you haven’t.
Another tactic to avoid, says Lawrence, is cheating on your checkbook by rounding expenditures up to the nearest dollar or by “forgetting” to carry forward a balance when you deposit a paycheck. People who have trouble saving fool themselves about how much-or how little-money they have, she says. Playing games with your checkbook just compound the problem. You never really know your balance. Later, reconciling the account becomes a nightmare. Remember to fix your finances.
A final motivation: Figure out how much you stand to lose by putting this resolution off for another year. If you’re 35, £50 a month at 8% win grow to £74,518 by your 65th birthday. If you wait until next year to get your savings account started, the pot will be £6,286 smaller.