Develop the Habit of Saving
Americans are notoriously bad at saving money. The habit has become to spend beyond our means. This doesn’t result in a rosy picture for too many. In fact, being in debt seems to be a way of life for most.
But debt and spending is a topic for another day. Today’s topic is the habit of saving.
Almost everybody says they want to save. They just never seem to manage to make that first deposit, never mind the second, third, and beyond.
Saving, at least in the beginning, is a habit to learn. A habit to train yourself in. And like any other habit, takes your commitment, intention, and action.
Has saving been on your list? Have you tried before to save and just haven’t been able to? Has it just seemed too big a goal for you? Are you really ready and willing to do what you have to do?
There are many ways you can start this process AND there is no one right way so start wherever you are now. I was motivated to take on the 52-Week Challenge for myself this year: Not so much because I need to develop the habit of saving, but because I love the thought of having $1,326 at the end of the year to use any way I choose. (Or $1,379 if you look at December 31st as the beginning of a new week that’s included in 2017.)
The 52-Week Saving Challenge
The concept is easy. Week 1 you save $1. Week 2, $2; Week 3, $3; and so on. Each week you save one more dollar than the previous week. By week 52 (or 53), you’re saving $52 (or$53). At the end of the year, you have your little nest egg.
You can’t retire on it, but it’s certainly an amount you can use to do something that matters to you. Better, if you actually follow through each week, you’ve created and lived the habit of saving. The game is not about the amount you save, it’s about establishing a habit of saving that allows you save more as you move forward.
The first quarter of the year isn’t too much of a challenge for most of us. A dollar here, $5 there…most can do that without having to give anything up. But as we get into the later part of the year and the saving amount gets to be $20 a week or more, it can become a hardship.
Step back, though, and look at why it might be a hardship. Where are you spending that money instead of saving it? Do you really need that next latte? How much cash are you wasting on fast food instead of saving and brown-bagging? Do you really have to buy a book instead of using the public library?
You can save every week. If starting with a weekly dollar and ending at $52 seems too much given where you are right now, start with 50¢ the first week and increase by 50¢ each week? When you find yourself in a better position, raise the weekly increases.
Again, the numbers aren’t what’s critical to this game. What matters is that you DO IT!
Sample Tool for Playing
I’ve created an envelope for myself with dates for Sunday of each week of 2017. Next to the date I’ve written the amount I’m to save. I then have seven days to make that deposit to my envelope. When I do, I’ll record the balance of cash I have in the envelope.
So now not only do I have my mental trigger for saving (as the envelope is easily seen by me at my desk), I can also touch my cash and watch the balance grow. That can be pretty heady.
A Bigger Game
Want to play a bigger game? Start with $5 the first week and increase by $5 each week! That’s a pretty hefty balance at the end of the year! Make sure the amount you commit to is something you can maintain and be consistent with for 52 weeks. $5 a week adds up really fast! (By week 10 you’re at $50 for the week. Week 52 your saving amount is $260.)
You can also use this (modified, of course) to help teach your children about saving.
Money and saving don’t have to be a burden. It can be fun. Start the habit now. We’re only a couple of weeks into the new year. You can catch up easily (or just start where you are) and begin establishing the habit of saving. It’s never too late to start, and you have to start someplace.
(NOTE: There are many teachers and methods for creating the habit of saving. It doesn’t matter which teacher you follow, or what method you use. What matters is that you do something. I have many other games I share with clients so if you don’t like the 52-week money challenge, give me a call or do some of your own research. There is something that will work for you!)