10 Expert-Approved, Low-Lift Tips To Save $ For Big Life Events
You're over one hurdle: You've made up your mind and you're committed to saving for the next big thing. And making that mental commitment is the first step.
Maybe it's a bucket list trip, wedding, a home, or any number of purchases. Whatever it is will require a significant stash.
Now, the challenge is how to get started systematically socking away what you need to achieve your goal.
Pay yourself first
"When you get paid, immediately take 10 to 20% out and put it in a savings account, almost as if it's a bill you owe already. See it as money that you can't touch," says Rachel Hirsch, founder and principal of Wellness Growth Ventures, a wellness sector seed fund focused on investing in female-founded brands in the wellness industry.
If you can't save that much, anything beats zero. "Don't be discouraged if you can only save a small amount at first. The key is consistency. Think of it as planting a seed—it starts small, but with regular care, it grows into a mighty tree," says James Allen, a certified financial planner and founder of Billpin.com.
Automate your savings
Make saving easy on yourself! If your money doesn't hit your hand, temptation doesn't have a chance. Set up automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings account. You can also work with your payroll department to have a certain percentage of money from your paycheck deposited into your bank account. You won't miss what you don't see.
What gets budgeted gets done
If you're going to save you need to be clear about what you have coming in and going out. This will let you know how much you have to work with. If you find that you don't have the funds to save as much as you would like, go through your expenses, and see what costs you can eliminate or reduce. Create a budget that includes your savings goal. Once you have a budget you know what you have to do to get where you want to go.
Go the extra mile
If you have multiple sources of income, consider dedicating one of them specifically to your big-ticket item. "Working a second job or side hustle can be much less demoralizing if every dollar you earn from it goes into a vacation fund, for example," says Ann Martin, operations director at CreditDonkey, a financial review and comparison website.
Another thought is once a month do a no-spend week, where you spend money only on what is absolutely necessary. Money that you would have put toward that morning coffee at Starbucks or drinks after work that will go into savings instead.
Another idea: You could have extra cash lying around in your garage or attic. Are there clothes and other items you might be able to sell online or elsewhere? Put that money in your stash. If you get a bonus or a tax refund or any pleasant monetary surprises, a portion of it can go toward your goal.
Make it a family affair
Depending on what the goal is, say you're saving for something like a family vacation or a new TV that the whole family will enjoy, get the entire family involved.
"Work together as a family to save for it. Have everyone, even the kids, contribute a share of their income toward the purchase," says Martin. However, do make sure to give the kids input in your final purchase decision if they're putting money on the line, she adds.
Just like exercising and dieting, getting started can be hard enough, staying the course can be tougher still. Be mindful of impulsive spending habits and avoid unnecessary expenses that could derail your savings plan.
Keep motivated by filling your mind with thoughts about the end goal and celebrate small wins along the way. Not only will this feel good, but it'll help you become more confident in your financial journey.
Get an accountability partner
Ask a friend or family member to help keep you accountable for reaching your goal.
"We're always more motivated to achieve our goals when we know someone is watching and cheering us on. Find a friend, family member, or partner that's also saving for something and keep each other accountable. Go on regular 'money walks' to catch up on your savings goals while enjoying some fresh air together," says Gillian Dewar, chief financial officer of Crediful, a personal finance site.
Track your progress
One way to stay on track is to monitor your progress. If you see you're moving in the right direction you'll feel good, and if you're not, take steps to get where you need to be. Use tools like spreadsheets, mobile apps, or online trackers to see how close you're getting toward achieving the milestone event.
Know where best to save your money
Sticking your money under your mattress isn't ideal. Explore options for high-yield savings accounts or other investment vehicles that offer better interest rates. "Maximizing your earnings on savings can significantly accelerate your progress," says Jon Morgan, CEO of Venture Smarter, a website that is a resource of financial and other information for entrepreneurs.
Set realistic goals
All you can do is all you can do. If you can realistically save only $50 a month, do that, and do it consistently. That is far better than a goal of $100 a month that you can't swing and you get frustrated and quit saving. Better to plug along at $50 a month and reach your goal.
Remember, slow, and steady can win the race too.
Sheryl Nance-Nash is a freelance writer specializing in travel, personal finance and business. She enjoys sharing smart money strategies and loves writing about the intersection of travel, history, wellness, art and culture. Her work has appeared on CNTraveler.com, Fodors, Afar, The Daily Beast, Newsweek.com, TravelAwaits, Global Traveler Magazine, among others. Her business writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, Newsday, among others. Follow her on Twitter @NanceNash or Instagram @snntravels.