9 Creative Saving Strategies that Actually Work
When it comes to saving, sooner is always better than later. Interest compounds over time. A longer horizon ultimately yields a bigger pool of money. And it’s just easier to ingrain healthy habits if they’re built earlier in life.
But as you’ve probably already found, saving is easier said than done. It requires more than just good intentions and vague resolutions. To achieve results, you need a solid game plan – complete with creative approaches that don’t just work in theory, but are actually effective in practice. Fortunately we have nine such strategies for you right here.
1. Pay yourself first: automate savings transfers
If you’re serious about saving, don’t wait until the end of the month to squirrel away what’s left over (spoiler: it won’t be much). Rather, set up automatic recurring transfers into a dedicated savings account immediately after payday so you lock away some cash before you spend a dollar on anything else. Your employer might even be willing to split your paycheck so that a percentage of your earnings are deposited straight into savings.
2. Apply the 50/30/20 rule
This tried-and-tested budgeting method calls for you to allocate 50% of your after-tax income to needs, 30% to wants, and 20% to savings monthly. The approach requires a bit of calculation and rejigging of finances, but it works because it treats savings like any other expense category – as something you prioritize and plan for. It also encourages you to set aside a fair chunk of your pay (quite a lot more than the average U.S. household saving rate), which will help your stash to grow quickly.
3. Try out the 52-Week Money Challenge
This popular “game” helps to inject a bit of fun into the saving process and will leave you with a nest egg of at least $1378 at the end of a year. The idea is to pinpoint a starting day and put away just $1 in that first week. Then, save $2 in the second week, $3 in the third, and build up from here until you’re setting aside $52 in the final week. As it breaks down a larger sum into manageable weekly chunks that gradually grow, this strategy makes saving feel more attainable and less intimidating.
4. Establish specific, realistic goals
The above challenge works well because it encourages you to set a bunch of clear, achievable goals. Research shows that there’s a definite link between savings goals and savings behavior – having specific objectives in place significantly increases the odds that you’ll save regularly. So even if you don’t follow the 52-week format, it’s a good idea to establish some clearly defined, time-bound goals for yourself, and to turn big, vague wishes into a series of small, attainable targets. Even better, write your goals down and stick them up somewhere you look daily (e.g., your bathroom mirror) to keep them top of mind.
5. Subdivide and earmark your savings
A study in India found that partitioning savings into separate buckets and earmarking each for a specific purpose can improve savings rates. So it’s worth giving this strategy a go: Rather than pooling all your savings into one general account, subdivide your funds into distinct accounts labeled for distinct purposes – one for a down payment on a house, one for an emergency fund, and one for kids’ education, for example. This ‘trick’ is based on the concept of ‘mental accounting’ – essentially, if you earmark separate pots of money, you assign them more meaning and value, and so are more motivated to nurture them.
6. Digitize the savings process
There are plenty of digital apps out there that you can lean on to help boost savings. Most will help you automate deposits, aggregate financial information, and keep track of spending. And this sort of money management assistance can really make an impact. Some digital tools also gamify the savings journey, which could be a good strategy for you if you need to trick your psyche into saving.
7. Refinance your loans
If you have a mortgage, car, or student loan, you might be paying more than you need to monthly and effectively wasting money. One potential saving strategy is to look into refinancing your debt to revise the terms of your initial agreement for the better – think lower interest rates and monthly payments. This could work in your favor if your credit score has improved since you took out the loan and your repayment status is faultless.
8. Add automatic escalation to your retirement plan
Too many people who were automatically enrolled into companies’ 401(k) plans make fairly low contributions and forget to raise them over time. One way to save more in the long run – without even thinking about it – is to chat to your employer about activating automatic escalation on your plan, which will automatically increase the amount you contribute to your 401(k) savings by a fixed percentage annually (up to a set ceiling). This strategy, once employed, requires no effort on your part, and the evidence shows that it’s an effective way to swell your retirement nest egg.
9. Reward yourself for hitting savings targets
As humans, we respond well to rewards. They incentivize and motivate us to keep engaging in certain actions. It’s for this reason that behavioral economists recommend that you boost your likelihood of saving by rewarding yourself regularly along the journey. For instance, every time you enjoy a win on the savings front, treat yourself to a small indulgence – a bar of chocolate or drinks out with friends, for example.
At the end of the day, you want the act of saving to have positive associations – there are few better ways to encourage yourself to actually commit to it.