Today is the first day of Military Saves Week 2019. If you’re not familiar with Military Saves Week, it is an education and awareness event to encourage military families to save money. It’s part of the larger America Saves program.
This week, the first day’s subject is Save With A Plan. Planning makes everything easier! Here are ten steps to make a plan that will work:
Find Your Why
It’s hard to be motivated if you don’t have a good reason. Sometimes it takes some thought, but knowing why you want to save is the most important first step. Your whys will change over time. When we were newlyweds, I just wanted to be out of debt. Then, I wanted to be sure we were in a position to react to family emergencies (like flying home from somewhere far away.) Now, I want to make sure we have enough money in our transition fund so that we aren’t running towards the first offered jobs. (Oh, yeah, and I need to get these kids whatever education they need for their future careers.)
Charts, graphs, and fill-ins can really help you to see your goals in a different way. Whether it’s a graph drawn on the bathroom mirror with dry-erase pen, a chart posted on the refrigerator, or a note wrapped around your debit card, visual reminders are processed bjillions of times faster than words.
Name Your Accounts
One of the great things about modern banking is the ability to have multiple accounts, or create sub-accounts within your main account (depending on your bank or credit union.) Making named savings accounts is a great motivator. You can make them serious (new car, braces) or funny (Maserati), or inspirational (On The Beach In 2024!)
Make Your Goals Your Passwords
You’ll never forget your passwords, or your goals, if you combine the two. “DisneyVacationin2020!” makes a pretty good password, even better if you throw some different characters in there. (Not the Disney ones, though I supposed you could figure out a way to do that, too.)
Don’t Go It Alone
Find a friend, an accountability buddy, or a community to help you towards your goals. The internet makes it easy to find your tribe. There’s bound to be an internet forum or Facebook group to help you reach your goals. I’m an admin of two Facebook groups: Military Money Questions and Answers and Personal Finance For Military Service Member and Families, we’d love to have you! Other groups that I know include Dave Ramsey Military and Military FIRE.
Track Your Spending
Find a method to track what you’re spending. It can be an app, receipts, an index card tucked into your pocket – whatever works for you. The important thing is to KNOW where your money is going.
Pick One Thing (Or Maybe Two Things)
Make it easy to succeed by focusing on one thing at a time. It’s natural to want to Go Big and do everything at once, but it isn’t the best way to be successful. Pick one thing that would have an impact, and get really good at it. That one thing might be stopping buying snacks out of the house, or meal planning, or paying cash instead of using credit. Once you’ve mastered the first thing, then add something new. (Though just to be difficult, I’ll throw out there that some research suggests that it is just as easy to do two things as one. But the point is that you probably won’t succeed if you try to do everything at once.)
Have A Backup Plan
Once you’ve identified a thing to change, brainstorm how you’ll handle the situation when it comes up. For example, I am really bad about running through fast food when I’m out running errands. Possible backup plans would income a box of snack bars in my glove box, packing snacks the night before, grabbing an apple on the way out the door, or running into the grocery store for cheese sticks. The important part is that you have a clear, no-decisions-necessary plan before you run into the situation.
Make Little Tweaks
This is sort of the same as a back-up plan, but not quite exactly the same. This involves making little adjustments that don’t replace your previous actions, but just make them fit in your new way of thinking. For example, let’s say you have a group of friends who meet every Thursday for dinner and trivia night at your local restaurant. Some ideas might include just getting an appetizer, skipping the food altogether, only going every other week, or inviting your friends to your house for Trivial Pursuit.
Build Yourself Some Guardrails
Build a physical structure that supports your goals. For most people, this means having their savings transferred automatically out of their spending accounts and into their savings accounts. And that is a tremendously good way to be successful at saving, so definitely do that.
But that’s not the only way. You have to figure out what works for you. Having your savings account at a different bank than your spending accounts is a good guardrail; it requires you to put in a little more effort to get your money into a place to spend it. Using cash is also helpful for some people – when you run out of cash, you stop spending.
Utilizing these ten steps will almost definitely make you more successful at saving. Join the Military Saves bandwagon and start saving! My question to you: What is your savings goal? Let me know in the comments. (My goal is to have a year’s worth of expenses before my husband retires!)
So, after I wrote this, I discovered that the America Saves people had already written something very similar! Great minds think alike 🙂 You can read their entire online booklet, Save With A Plan, Ten Tips So Your Future Self Will Thank You.
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