Do you have a hard time saving money? Do you find yourself constantly having to rob your saving account to get through an emergency? You’re not alone. It turns out we Americans are terrible savers. Our national savings rate as of June 2017 is at 3.8 percent and dropping.
The statistics on saving by Americans are downright scary.
When our daughters were 3 and 5 years old they wanted a trampoline. We weren’t crazy about the idea, so we decided the best way to get them to give up on it was to make them save for it. Have you noticed that kids aren’t good at waiting? To make it even more difficult and ensure we would prevail, we also made them work for the money so that the saving would come from their own effort.
My wife, Natalie, created a chore chart and assigned different financial rewards for completing them. Drying dishes was 10 cents, vacuuming 10 cents, cleaning up after the dog 25 cents, and so on. Every time they completed a chore they would check off a box, and every two weeks they got paid for the chores they completed.
The trampoline cost $125 before tax, a significant amount when you’re earning nickels and dimes. We hoped they’d quit before they reached their goal, however, in less than 3 months, with a little saving from a relative’s employee discount, they had enough to buy it.
How did they reach their goal?
How could a 3 and a 5 year old do something that most of us adults fail at so often? It turns out my daughters, with the help of their super smart mother, implemented a very effective strategy that almost guaranteed their success. That same strategy can help you become a more successful saver.
Saving must be purposeful.
The reason we fail to save is because we aren’t specific enough about why we save or what we’re saving for. We save for emergencies but fail to identify what an “emergency” is. This gives us permission to rob our savings for just about anything we want to identify as an emergency.
In the “save for a trampoline” story the girls implemented a strategy.
- identified their specific goal and the amount they had to save to get trampoline.
- tracked how much they were making and able to save - visual chore chart.
- kept a jar to collect the money in - a visual picture of their saving as it grew.
- visualized the reward - hours of fun jumping on the trampoline.
- talked about it often, with each other and everyone else who would listen.
- enlisted the help of others to reach their goal - asked for extra chores and asked their aunt to purchase it for them to get a discount.
Saving doesn’t have to be this impossible undertaking. Applying the following 4-step strategy will ensure your success.
4 Steps To Successful Saving
1. Be specific
We fail to save because we are too general about what we’re saving for. You must be specific about what you’re saving for. Having a goal to save for a new refrigerator is different than having a $2,300 saving goal toward a NEW Samsung 25.6 cubic inch,… stainless steel,… side-by-side refrigerator… with filtered ice and water dispenser,… and a bunch of other cool features, which are all listed on a brochure with a picture of “Your New Refrigerator” which you placed on your old refrigerator, so you can look at it every time you open and close it.
2. Tracking Your Progress.
Without a doubt the biggest reason for a lack of savings is the lack of a good money management system; a budget. You need a plan. Saving should be a category in your budget. Setting aside a specific amount in your budget to save each month will help you reach your goal. The budget makes it easy to track your progress. Plus, having a budget to identify and provide for all your other needs will help you avoid robbing your savings.
3. Visualize The Reward
Visualization is very powerful. The most successful olympian athletes visualize their routines hundreds of times before they compete. You can implement the same technique to achieve your saving goals. Whatever you’re saving for, visualize what it will be like to achieve it. What will it feel like to posses the item you want? How will you feel when the emergency fund is fully funded, and what will you do with the extra money? Be as specific as you can. Consider writing it down and reading it out loud every day. This is a powerful exercise that will help you keep your focus and motivate you to stay committed to the end.
If you can get a picture or a cutout of the item you’re saving for, that’s even better. For building up your emergency fund, use a savings thermometer so you can see your savings grow.
4. Enlist Help From Others
When our girls were saving for the trampoline they told everyone. It wasn’t because they wanted to get donations. It was because it happened to be the most exciting thing happening in their young lives at the time, and they wanted to tell everyone about it. In the end it turned out to be a real benefit to them.
Sharing your saving goals with a family member and/or a friend can have many benefits. Accountability can have a significant impact on reaching your goals. Having someone to report to keeps you sharp and keeps your goals present in your mind. Chose someone that is successful in this area. You may even learn some additional money skills you didn’t have before.
What steps have you taken to be a better saver? Share your triumphs and if you're brave, your failures. It may help someone.