Consider for a moment your savings account as a garden. Yes, it takes a little effort to get it started. However, your garden is a self-fulfilling endeavor as it grows. Saving money is like planting a seed that continues to reward you with a sense of accomplishment and future possibilities that otherwise wouldn’t exist.
The hardest part is getting started, but you can rest assured that saving becomes more satisfying the more consistent you are with the practice. After all, saving money should not feel like a burden when it is in fact an opportunity. Here are just a few ways to turn your saving habits into a labor of love.
Identify Your Goal
Most personal finance experts will tell you that the most important savings account you can have is an emergency fund, and you can learn more about how to build one here. You also will be doing your future self a favor if you save for car repairs, home repairs, and other expenses that are bound to pop up even if you’re not sure when.
When identifying your savings goals, it’s also helpful to think beyond the things that we think we have to save for. You should also think of savings as a reward in itself—for vacations, your new car, or your dream home. Watching those account balances grow as we plan for our dream trip or future house is a rewarding experience all on its own.
The secret to getting ahead is to get started. If this is your first time committing to a savings plan, start small. It could be as little as $5 a week, which is no more than a cup or two of coffee. In 12 months’ time, you will have put away $260—not bad for minimal effort.
As you look at your spending habits and cut out unnecessary purchases, consider putting those saved dollars into your savings account too. You will find it easier to increase your savings deposits as you become more aware of your budget. Your $5 a week will quickly become $10, and you’ll begin to feel the rush of that multiplier effect. Before you know it, your savings account will be netting 15% of your income a month.
Make It a Game
One of the best ways to manage a savings account is to treat it as a game, and there are more ways than one to play.
For example, you could challenge yourself to match the cost of random purchases to your savings account. If you pay $50 for a new pair of shoes, you also must put $50 aside in savings.
Or you can plan “no spending” weeks, in which you only pay for essentials and eliminate all unnecessary purchases for seven days. Whatever is left over at the end of the week can be deposited into your savings account as a small boost to your regular saving routine.
Thought experiment: Do you know how much money you typically spend every week on nonessentials?
Simplify and Automate
Not that long ago the simple act of depositing money into a savings account required a trip to your bank, showing identification, and filling out a transfer form. Those days are fortunately behind us. In fact, the best way to guarantee that saving becomes a habit is to set it and forget it with automatic transfers. You establish a set amount to transfer automatically each pay period or at the frequency of your choice so you never have to worry about forgetting to feed your savings account. Check with your HR department too—it’s likely that you can have that savings amount directly deposited from your paycheck into your savings account when HR processes payroll.
You have established your savings account, contribute to it regularly, and have now amassed a comfortable balance. It’s time to enjoy some (not all!) of your hard-earned work. Keep in mind, we never want to take one step forward and two back, so be sure to reward yourself without jeopardizing all of your hard work. Just like a garden, we can enjoy a few ripe tomatoes without uprooting the entire plant!
It doesn’t hurt to budget your savings for future expenses, planned or unplanned, while treating yourself on occasion. A great way to do this is to set benchmarks for your savings account. Did you reach $1,000? Reward yourself with dinner at your favorite restaurant. $25,000? Take a vacation (that you’ve budgeted for!). And get creative—think of ways you can celebrate with no or minimal spending. Perhaps your intention for saving in the first place was to buy a new house or purchase a car—hitting your savings goal is a win-win!
Identify your benchmarks for progress along the way, and celebrate when you meet them. The more your savings account grows, the more fun you can have.