A Winning Savings Plan Takes the Right Amount of Sacrifice
For most of us, saving is not easy. We can’t simply say, “I’ll scoop off the 15% of income I couldn’t figure out how to spend anyway and add it to my already overflowing accounts.” Rather, to save anything at all, let alone the suggested amount takes real sacrifice and planning. Saving for the long haul takes a winning savings plan.
What is a Winning Savings Plan?
If we are waiting until the end of the month to stash what’s left over, our savings journey is going to feel like an uphill battle because we all tend to spend what we perceive as extra. This means we will only find money to save if by chance we don’t spend it all!
One simple strategy to help us save money is to pay ourselves first. Lack of discipline is bypassed altogether when we commit to setting aside money before we begin to spend it on payday. We can begin as soon as we identify how much we can afford to save. We’ll need to carefully comb through our expenses.
Elimination of Expenses
Every savings plan requires we find money to save. In order to do so, we might need to trim some of our expenses back. This is not the same as depriving ourselves.
Some savers driven by the dream of financial independence have been known to aggressively cut spending to save more. They postpone vacations, move into tiny homes, jilt entertainment, and penny pinch themselves into misery. In the end, they find eliminating expenses that brought them real joy was unsustainable.
Finance experts in touch with human limitations would wisely advise that saving is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. The second piece of our winning savings plan is to find a balance we can live with.
So, while we should eliminate some expenses altogether (like unnecessary banking fees or an unused gym membership), others may earn their place in building a life of true happiness and substance.
We can indulge in meaningful ways and still save adequately if we are willing to find worthy substitutions.
Substitution of Expenses
We all have a guilty pleasure; that something that gives us a fix the way few other things can. It adds value to our every day and maybe helps us get through week after week. Certainly, it would be asking a bit too much to sacrifice these things completely. However, if these small purchases are harming our long-term financial stability, it’s time to assess what compromises can be made. Consider these 3 examples of substitutions as part of a winning savings plan:
Everyone should get to attend a concert by their favorite music artist or see an award-winning musical once in their lifetime. However, if we’ve created a habit of buying tickets to these or similar events multiple times a year, it could be impacting our ability to save for an emergency or live comfortably in retirement. An easy substitution would be to find free or lower cost performances.
Cultural centers have been known to sponsor free events, churches put on concerts during the holidays, and colleges might provide the excitement of Broadway at a fraction of the cost.
It’s so easy to rationalize clothes shopping especially when it feels like it’s only a bell-sleeved blouse here and a pair of ballet flats there. Unfortunately, this small leak in our finances ruins our opportunity to fill a savings reservoir. If we’d still like to add to our wardrobe while building savings, then substitutions are in order.
We could try organizing or joining a clothing swap. It can be fun to shop from someone else’s closet and bonus: what we take home is free.
We could also stick to a rule that should we want to buy one thing, we have to sell one (or two or three) things to a “Buy and Sell” Facebook group or local store to offset the cost.
Lastly, in those times when we feel all too bored with what’s in our closet, we can invite a friend to lend a fresh pair of eyes. The outfits they come up with will make our clothes feel new all over again.
Food and Drinks
Some might say they live to eat and drink as much as they eat and drink to live. If this is the case, then we can switch off with friends taking turns as the appointed wine supplier for girl’s night in, stick to happy hour if others want to meet up around town, or ask for gift cards to use at a distributor of our favorite adult beverage. Each option is a substitution that will help us develop a winning savings plan.
If our real weakness is dining out, then recreating the experience within our own home is the way to go. We could commit to learning one new recipe a week, binge watch international cooking shows, or find exotic ingredients to explore. Balsamic vinegar, as any fancy edible, costs a pretty penny per bottle, but the supply lasts months and is certainly cheaper than satisfying our craving at a restaurant where we’ll also pay the premium for our meal, drinks, and dessert.
If there is no acceptable substitute, then we can opt to only go out for the oysters like no other, or perfectly textured crème brûlée and grab the rest of the meal at home.
Winning Savings Plans are Systematic
All the previous effort is in vain if we don’t have a system in place to redirect our new-found cash. We can choose to transfer money to a savings account after each paycheck, on a weekly basis, or after we’ve found an opportunity to save money. There are even apps now that can round purchases up to save the change after each transaction. It’s amazing how quickly these little changes will add up over the course of a month, 6 months, and over a year.
How to Grow Your Savings Faster
To gain more speed in saving, we can choose a savings account or other method that offers a high return. A good Annual Percentage Yield (APY) usually falls between 1-2.5%. Let’s not be afraid to make our banks work for the privilege of housing our money.
For more insights and options, check out this guide on how to save money.
Making progress with saving comes down to these three simple keys: eliminate or substitute to lower expenses, set aside new-found money before you can spend it, and then funnel it somewhere that offers a helping hand in growing it. If we apply the steps consistently year after year, we can accomplish even our farthest-reaching goals.
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