Saving money is difficult. It’s especially in the modern age when one-click purchases, Instagram ads, free shipping, and fancy $7 coffees assault us to buy from all corners. As a parent, it’s your duty to save and be prepared for your family’s future. But we’re guessing you could use a little kick in the boot-cut jeans every now and then to make sure our emergency funds, 529s, and retirement accounts are growing. If that’s the case, here are nine small, simple ways to help you save a bit more, from naming an account after your child to make it a bit more important, to becoming a big fan of passive savings. Take a look.
Abide by the 24-Hour Rule
Some of our most regrettable buying decisions come on the spur of the moment, when something on the store shelf suddenly catches our eye. The start of a new year is a good opportunity to shed that tendency, Rebecca Kennedy, owner of Kennedy Financial Planning in Denver, told us. A rule of thumb? Sit on discretionary purchase decisions for 24 hours before following through. “Often the allure of that new thing will fade, and you’ll have a clearer head to decide if it’s truly a smart decision,” she says.
Hang Out With The Right People
The people you spend time with have a massive impact on your spending habits. Think about it: If you always hang out with couples who insist on monthly steakhouse dinners or love going to “secret” speakeasy pushing where bearded men with a penchant for everything steampunk sling $19 cocktails, you’re going to be inclined to spend more money. It’s enticing! It’s herd mentality. It’s peer-pressure. No, you shouldn’t ditch these friends. And if you can afford it, well, good for you. But it’s important to find link-minded folks who can help you stay within your budget and not pressure you to spend what you don’t want.
Automate Your Savings
Saving money is hard and we’re less likely to make a routine of it when it’s intentional. It’s easier to save money when you don’t realize you’re doing it. This is where passive savings comes in and why apps like Digit are so beloved. Using an app — or a simple scheduled monthly deposit into a savings account —doesn’t make much of difference in the moment. In fact, you won’t even realize the money has been moved. But, over time, it will and you’ll reap the rewards without feeling like you’re doing an effort.
Name an Account After Your Child
When it comes to building up your savings, behavioral finance expert Brad Klontz is a proponent of making your goal as tangible – and as personal – as possible. So, if you’re creating an emergency savings account for your new family, he suggests actually naming it after your child. Perhaps it becomes “Jamie’s Security Fund” or the like – something that emotionally links each transaction with your son or daughter’s welfare. Suddenly pulling money from the account to eat out or sip venti macchiatos five days a week becomes a whole lot harder.
Pay in Cash
There are budgets and then there are limits. When you whip out the debit card and swipe at random you’re not really feeling the impact of your purchases. Forcing yourself to bring a decided-on amount of cash and only spending that amount prevents you from over spending and also makes you literally feel the purchase: Research from Avni Shah at University of Toronto proves that using cash actually does cause a small amount of physical pain.
Limit the Number of Credit Cards You Carry
The average American under the age of 35 carries $5,808 in credit card balances, according to data compiled by the ValuePenguin. That number jumps to $8,235 for those in the 35 to 44 age bracket. It’s hard to bump up your 401(k) contribution when you have that kind of debt on your shoulders. The best thing you can do is reduce that temptation. Rather than shoving a handful of cards into your wallet, limit yourself to one or maybe two. Cutting down on your collection of plastic will not only help you reduce the urge to splurge, but make it easier to track how much you owe.
If that carrot is always dangling just out of reach, what’s the point in continue to chase after it? That’s where rewards come in. Giving yourself treats and rewards helps good habits stick and makes the effort worthwhile. Also, rewards yield positive emotions, letting you feel good about reaching certain goals. This helps you stay on course. Hit a monthly savings goal? Stuck to your budget? Paid off a giant bill? Give yourself a small reward for a job well done. Your brain will thank you.
Trick Yourself into Saving More
Once your paycheck hits your bank account, there’s a big chance you’ll use it for something other than your retirement account — and probably much less important. So, don’t give yourself that temptation. If 10 percent of monthly earnings is being diverted toward your 401(k) now, Klein recommends going up a notch to 11 percent. “It might feel tight for that first month or two, but you acclimate,” she says. “Then incrementally increase again until you reach 15 percent or whatever your target is.”
Rodger Friedman, a founding partner at Steward Partners Global Advisory in Bethesda, Maryland, says he uses a similar approach for clients who are just starting on their nest egg. He tells younger workers to start by putting away 1 percent of their income, or $750 a year for someone making a $75,000 salary. “It’s just a cup of coffee a day,” says Friedman.
Over time he asks them to increase their contribution by one percentage point at a time. “Over the course of a year, they may be saving three, four, or even five percent,” he says. “It’s like getting into a cold pool one toe at a time.
Wrap Your Credit Card
This one comes from The Simple Dollar and is a failsafe to keep your spending in check: create a credit-card sleeve from a picture of your child. Why? “When you feel the urge to pull out that card, you’ll pull out that picture, too, and it will serve as an immediate reminder of the big dreams you’re postponing to make this little trivial purchases,” they write. Hey, the little things count.