Banking dollars to achieve your financial goals is no different than losing weight to fit into your skinny jeans. It’s a matter of replacing bad habits with healthy ones. If a house is the size four you’re after, then you should second-guess that pricey double caramel macchiato. Offset your daily spending habits with some of these smart saving tactics instead.
1. Get specific.
Having goals is not enough. If down the line you want to save up for a kid’s college education fund, get real about that monthly commitment. Instead of, “I’d like to have a kid one day and send that kid to a good school,” try, “On the 15th of every month, I’ll need to dedicate $100 to a 529 account.”
2. Treat goals as destinations.
You would have to be superhuman to drive from one end of the country to the other in a day. The same applies for going from zero to goal. Realistically, the best and most rewarding route to your destination is the scenic, yet efficient one. Enjoy the ride, just don’t fall asleep at the wheel!
3. Be flexible.
It’s been said that the more things change, the more they remain the same. That’s because change is inevitable. Check in regularly with your goals and yourself to make sure that both of you are still on the same page and working effectively. Changes in your life may mean tweaks to your goals, your priorities and your approach.
4. Don’t obsess.
While it’s key that you stay on track to achieve your goals, don’t obsess over them. A great time to check your progress is at the end of the year, when you can compare it to the end of the previous year.
5. Save One Dollar at a Time.
Focus on the road directly in front of you: the dollars and cents you can stow away today to get you to tomorrow. Thanks to the miracle of compound interest, that $50 a week (roughly $7 a day) you manage to put away earning 2% interest could equal more than $8,000 in just three years.
6. Have Some Discipline.
When you created your budget, you spent time tracking every dollar, whim and penny spent, from bills to bubblegum. Now it’s time to ditch the bubblegum. Take a look at your three most recent bank and credit card statements and mark every charge and debit you can eliminate entirely. Now apply that savings to your goals. And when you get a raise, take at least a portion and add it to your savings plan. It’s increased savings you’ll barely feel!
Technology is a wondrous thing. Take advantage of the 21st century by setting your goals on autopilot. For example, have $100 automatically transferred from your checking to savings account each month. Automatic bill payment will also save you from late fees, which will go a long way to establishing the credit you need to get what you really want.
8. Let Your Company Play Matchmaker.
If your company has a match plan in place, go ahead and max out your retirement plan contribution. Let’s say your employer contributes 50 cents for every dollar you put in, your $3,000 investment gets a $1,500 bonus. That’s basically free money. You heard right, FREE!
9. Get a Roth IRA.
Withdrawals from a traditional IRA or 401(k) will be taxed. But withdrawals from a Roth IRA are not, provided they’re made within certain provisions. It’s never encouraged to borrow from your retirement, but depending on your goals a Roth IRA may be a great addition to your savings portfolio.
10. For as little as…
You’ve probably heard that line before, but you might be surprised how little it would cost to buy a million-dollar life insurance policy, something to think about if you’re a mom or dad.
11. Embrace lucky number 13.
Try this: if you add an extra payment to anything, you will pay that thing off that much faster.
12. Get a saving buddy!
Who knows you better than you do? Your best friend. Team up with someone close to you who has similar financial goals in mind. Money is a delicate topic for most people, but your dollars will go a lot further if you’ve got someone in your corner that will keep you honest, accountable and on track.