“My New Year’s resolution is to set up an emergency fund.”
“Alright, no excuses this time, I’m setting aside money each week to grow my savings.”
“Ok, why is this so hard? I just want to save a little so unexpected expenses aren’t always so stressful.”
If any of those situations sound familiar, you aren’t alone. Nearly 40% of Americans would need to borrow money to cover a $1,000 emergency expense, according to a January 2020 Bankrate poll.
So why is it so hard to save money and how can you break the cycle and start building your savings (for real this time!)? Read on to find out.
Why it’s hard to save money
- Needs vs. wants. Starting in the late 1940s, young adults saw a remarkable rise in their post-war spending power. Jobs were plentiful, wages were higher and Americans were investing in TVs, cars, refrigerators, toasters and vacuum cleaners to modernize their homes. That quickly turned into looking for ways to get nicer, newer, top-of-the-line appliances, and so, consumerism was born. Today we are bombarded by ads telling us to buy or upgrade nearly everything we own, from our cars and homes to the earbuds we use to block out the noise in our current COVID-19 work and learn-from-home environments.
- Immediate gratification is, well, right now. Who likes waiting? We like our food, internet and travel to be fast. We like to get things such as cleaning supplies, snacks and tech gadgets quickly, and thanks to many retailers and ecommerce sites offering same-day or next-day delivery, there are very few instances we need to wait for anything. While we may have the money in our accounts to purchase things like that cute cat mug on the aisle endcap, that $7.95 could have easily gone into savings instead. After all, who really needs 50 coffee cups? Multiply that by four a month for a year and you could have added more than $380 to savings. See where we’re going here?
- Saving pennies can feel worthless. This ties very closely to our last point—saving money takes time, so if you have a goal to save $10,000, but only set aside $50 a month, it could feel like you’re never going to reach your goal. Set aside just over $40 a week and you’ll have $10,000 saved up in five years.
How to make saving money a habit that sticks
- Write your savings goal down. Right now. No really, go grab a pen and a piece of paper and write down your savings goal (i.e. build a $1,000 emergency fund by February). Have your goal written down? Good! Now here’s what you need to do. Don’t believe us about the importance of writing your goal down? Check out this research.
- Make it about building a habit. Saving with a goal and end date in mind (like a new TV to watch the Big Game on in February) is much easier to accomplish than building an emergency savings. We know that an emergency fund (so we can cover surprises like fixing a flat tire) is more important than a new TV, but it’s not as fun or rewarding. Set up smaller goals and rewards along the way, and soon you’ll have a savings habit. That means instead of saving for a year, tell yourself you will set aside $20 a week for three months. Odds are that once those three months are over, you will have a sense of satisfaction over your accomplishment and will be ready to tackle another three months, and hopefully another three months after that and so on.
- Save by keeping it “out of sight, out of mind.” While your grandparents (or great, great grandparents) may have kept their savings under a mattress, we recommend a separate savings account dedicated to your goal. Keep it separate from your checking so you don’t accidentally spend it. Better yet, keep it locked up by saving your money in share certificates, like our Save to Win account, which have set account terms, meaning you’ll pay a penalty if you use your money before the term is up. Or, put it in a Pick Your Payout savings account to avoid tapping into your savings when you’ve spent a little too much time on your favorite shopping app.
- Make saving pennies automatic. Remember when we said saving pennies could seem like it wasn’t really adding up? We’re here to tell you that it really does make a difference. In 2019, 7,319 members used Verve’s Round Up to automatically round up debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and deposit the change into savings. Together members saved $1,383 per day and $505,061 over the course of the year!
- Wait it out. Instant gratification isn’t as great as it seems. Seeing something and then buying it right away may seem great, but research shows that delayed gratification actually leaves us MORE satisfied. The longer the wait, the more time we get to look forward to and imagine ourselves using said purchase, adding to the enjoyment of actually using the purchase.
Ready to start building your savings, but don’t know where to start? Give us a call! Verve offers free financial coaching to help you get your finances in order. Verve’s certified financial coaches can help you set goals, develop a basic budget, overcome financial hardships, improve credit scores and save for the future. For more information, visit verveacu.com/coach.