Add ''saving money" to your to-do list—and feel good while doing it

There it is. That nagging feeling you get knowing (for a while) that it's time to finally organize your closet, schedule that dental appointment or wait in line to get your car inspected. They're all part of life's everyday tasks that are so easy to put off. Same goes for saving money—but with a little prioritization and an action plan, mastering the basics of saving doesn't have to feel like a task. In fact, it can feel like a major accomplishment.

Consider starting with a number in mind

One of the easiest money-saving tips (especially if you don’t know where to start) is to simply start with a goal. As Alyson Klug, Head of National Sales for TD Wealth explains, “Without a goal, it’s easy for all of this savings stuff to get away from you.” She adds that if you're always reacting to what’s in front of you, instead of proactively making a plan, saving won’t become a priority.

That's why Klug offers a few "starter" tips to get you on the path to saving:

  • In case of emergencies: “The very first thing you need is an emergency fund,” says Klug.
  • A home to call your own: If buying a house is a goal, start looking into house prices in your area and working toward a 20% down payment.
  • No more workin’ for the weekend: Saving for retirement now sets you up for peace of mind later in life.

If those goal ideas are too ambitious for you right now, start smaller. Even just opening your first savings account is an accomplishment.

Change your “how to save money” mindset

Saving money is usually thought of as spending less and putting more away. Klug recommends challenging that idea.

“Start thinking of a dollar as an opportunity,” she says. “If I’m going to spend a dollar, is this going to help something grow? Will it go towards education? Investments? A certificate that helps me get a raise at work?”

Instead of only focusing on how to not spend money, reflect on where your spending is going (and where it could go instead). You might end up finding a way to spend that actually helps you save money.

Make saving as easy and direct as possible

When you don’t have to think twice about saving money each month, it becomes more of a habit. Talk to your employer about splitting your direct deposit into both a checking and savings account—and if that’s not possible, set up automatic bank transfers instead.

Klug says to “pay yourself first, not last” when figuring out how much to save each month. Just as it’s necessary to build your bills and monthly expenses into your budget, it’s good to build saving in, too. “I think a lot of people say, ‘I’m going to pay everything off first and then I’ll save whatever’s left at the end of the month.’ But there’s never anything left if you do it that way,” says Klug.

Turn saving into a challenge

Get creative and turn saving into a game! How could you save money on groceries? What everyday expenses could you easily cut back on (such as turning down the thermostat or not using your car once a week)? As you ask these questions and pay more attention, you’ll start seeing results. Little by little, it all adds up.

You could even set up a friendly competition with a partner, friends or coworkers. Think of a fun treat or reward that costs little to no money—such as doing an activity of the winner’s choosing or having a picnic at a park—and track your savings while putting it into your account.

Feeling a bit more motivated to get saving? “Start today, do a little bit, then do a little bit more,” says Klug. As you’re mastering the basics, you’ll feel rewarded (and relieved) to see the balance in your accounts grow.

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This article is based on information available in February 2021. It is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide specific financial, investment, tax, legal, accounting, or other advice and should not be acted or relied upon without the advice of a professional advisor. A professional advisor will recommend action based on your personal circumstances and the most recent information available.