This is not such an easy question to answer.
Many of us may shoot up our hands, quickly realizing that what follows is a tough call-to-action: “Then start saving!” So we shrivel back and think we’ll rather start saving next month, or when we get our next increase.
Others, already encumbered with tough monthly expenses, may take a slightly more cynical response off the bat, realizing that saving often feels like an impossible task in our current world-economy.
But deep down, most of us want to save more. We don’t have to be sold on the benefits of saving.
What we need is a workable solution to actually saving more!
Self-help books on this topic are a dime a dozen, but here are some ideas from Behavioral Economist Wendy de la Rosa. She wasn’t happy with how much she was spending, and like many of us, felt like she couldn’t stop. Here are two behavioural changes that she employed in her own life to reduce her spending and increase her saving.
- Take aim at your small, frequent purchases
Big purchases are easy to reign in – but it’s the small ones that are a doozy.
Eating out is a frequent purchase that many of us make regularly, but, savings-wise, it’s death by a thousand cuts. A lunch here, a smoothie there — it all adds up and decreases our savings ability. It’s not just the big dinners or take-outs for main meals, it’s the small snacks and convenience foods that we spend on when we haven’t put proper planning into our meal prep.
You may have other small ‘luxuries’ that you afford yourself, but if you spend longer than 30-seconds thinking about them, you could probably avoid them.
A helpful hack to reduce these is to switch from using a credit card for daily spending, and using cash or a capped debit card. Using a credit card to pay for meals on the fly or last-minute lunches keeps us detached from the accumulating costs until we receive our statement a month later. But, spending a finite amount of cash from our pocket or seeing our balance drop on our debit account keeps us far more in tune with just how much we’re spending and influences our behaviour.
- Commit your Future Self
De la Rosa says: “Fundamentally, we humans think about ourselves in two different ways: there’s our present self and there’s our future self. We have an optimistic view of our future selves. Our future selves are the one who will work out, who will call our parents more, who will save for retirement. And one reason we don’t save is because we believe that our future selves are going to take care of it. We forget that our future selves are actually the same as our present selves and that our present selves need to start doing this good thing now.”
Here’s a great hack that she offers – plan to save a percentage of your tax refund. It doesn’t have to be a massive amount, but it’s something! In their research they found that if they asked clients how much they would like to save BEFORE they received their refund, it was 10% more than those who were asked after they received their refund.
Our present self… is actually more likely to make better decisions than our future self!
We can apply the same to our annual bonus, or payback from our rewards schemes. Deciding today, and committing to that, is far more effective than saving as an afterthought.
One of the key points to saving more is looking at the behaviours that need to change in our lives. Financial success is based on financial behaviours – not just knowledge. There is a lot of time spent on financial education, but if it doesn’t change our choices for the better – they’re just words on a page or sentiments in a conversation.
Start with one thing you’d like to change, and take it one behaviour at a time.