Breaking news: frugality doesn’t mean austerity and saving doesn’t have to mean sacrificing. If saving is a dreaded chore like going to the gym, eating more vegetables or visiting the in-laws, you can still save without needing superhuman willpower. Here are five ways to trick yourself into saving more money. You can also check out our list of favorite ways to save money.
1. Make it automatic
Have money taken out of each paycheck and put into your 401k automatically. Automatic means you don’t have to think about it to do it; effort and decision making is minimal. The same strategy can build a savings account with automatic transfer from each paycheck. Now your default setting for your finances is saving, not spending. Another habit to save: once you finally pay off your credit card debt or finish making car payments, make payments of the same amount to your savings account instead.
2. Save your windfalls
Did you come across some extra money this month, like an unexpectedly large tax refund, a bonus at work or twenty in your winter jacket pocket? Save it. It might seem small or you might reason that you can use it to indulge because it’s not coming out of your regular budget, but the money will do much more for you if you save it. If you really can’t resist a treat, save half and spend half, but once you see the power of interest growing your savings over time, the pull of the fancy restaurant, the movie theater or the new shoes won’t stand up to the long-term reward.
3. Play mind games
When it comes to saving, psychology is working against you. Your brain chemistry encourages instant gratification over long-term gains. Fortunately, there are ways to fight back. If you buy on impulse, set a rule of separation; wait a day or two after seeing an item you want before buying. Chances are you will decide that you really don’t need it or even forget about it completely. Another way to bolster your defenses against overspending is to make a custom sleeve for your cash and credit cards that will remind you why you’re saving. A quote that motivates you, a picture of your dream home, the slogan of the home business you’ve been wanting to start or any other reminder of your big goals will make the abstract more tangible and help you think twice about your spending.
4. Have consequences for failure
Fear of failure can be a powerful motivation. Here’s where you can enlist the help of friends, family or coworkers to hold you accountable. Set a reasonable goal for saving and a consequence if you don’t meet that goal. Tell your significant other that failure means you will watch a movie of his or her choice without complaint. Love to talk politics? Say that losing means you have to donate a specified amount of money to a party whose views you oppose. Anything that makes failure hurt will help you succeed.
5. Reward yourself by saving
Positive reinforcement helps you stick to a goal, so recognize when you are spending less and save it consciously. When you brown-bag your lunch, put the cash you would have spent going out into a savings jar. Same for home brew coffee vs coffee house spending and a movie at home instead of the theater.
Saving doesn’t have to be a raincloud over your head or a constant worry. Keep it simple and you’ll be saving with ease.