If you had to rely on your savings to live, do you know how long it would last?
Forty-seven percent of Americans said their savings would last three months or less if they went through a financial crisis.
Whether your stash is large, small, or somewhere in between, putting away a little – or a lot – more doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, following a few steps can make a large impact, especially over time.
The following strategies can help you boost the amount you’re putting away, and build momentum into your savings plan.
Have goals for your savings.
The idea of saving more may sound appealing, but without direction, following through is usually an uphill climb. It’s incredibly hard to get anywhere without a destination.
Sit down with your family and talk about what you want to accomplish, both in the coming months and also in the years ahead. Together, create a list of what you want to save more for, such as a plush emergency fund, an upcoming two-week vacation, college, another vehicle, a new deck, or retirement.
Narrow your focus.
If, after outlining your goals, you have a long list, circle the top two or three you want to accomplish.
Then, consider zeroing in further, and start setting aside more for just one of those goals.
Researchers at the University of Toronto found that focusing on a single savings goal led to a higher probability of being able to carry through and reach the actual target.
One of the reasons for this lies in the way different goals can compete for one another.
If, for instance, you can’t decide whether the extra funds should go for a new washer and dryer, a home renovation, or retirement, that can actually make it harder to save more.
Focusing on just one simplifies the process.
If you center your efforts on a single goal for six months, reevaluate after that time period. You may want to switch the focus to a different goal, or increase what you’re putting toward the original goal.
Look for small improvements.
More than two-thirds of those recently surveyed by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, said they could set aside $25 more a week toward retirement than what they are currently saving.
One way to do this is to simply reduce a couple of small expenses you have each month. Just look at the plans you had for upcoming weekend night then “choose a substitute.”
That might mean a cheaper dinner, just going out for drinks, or renting a movie instead of going to a theater.
If you take one day of the week to plan out your meals, you can make one big grocery trip – and later on, avoid grabbing takeout several nights in a row for dinner.
Make it automatic.
Treat savings as a bill. And just as you can pay some bills automatically each month, consider doing the same with savings.
Some financial institutions let you arrange an automatic withdrawal from your checking account to a savings account. Also check with your employer for automatic deposit into your savings accounts.
After lining up automatic payments, take a few months to try out the setup. Aim to increase the amount saved by a certain dollar or percent each year.
Build on inertia.
Think about any skills you have that could generate some income to dedicate to your savings. This might be babysitting, yard or garden work, tutoring, teaching a foreign language, turning a hobby into a moneymaker, or taking on a part-time retail job.
A few other options to create additional funds to save: hold an annual yard sale, clean the garage and sell extra items on eBay, or work toward a bonus at your job, and when you receive it, transfer it directly to your savings account.