In the financial world, there are very few free lunches. But if you are interested in putting more cash away towards your future, there are quite a few no and low cost “buffets” open – with no waiting lines either.
In my experience, there are 5 very juicy ways to beef up your monthly saving. Let’s skip the appetizers and get right to the main course:
5. Track Your Spending
When I meet with clients the first thing I ask is “how much do you think you spend each month on average?” I’ve noticed that over 95% of the people I meet with underestimate their spending by 25% or more. This is dangerous for a couple of reasons.
First, if you don’t know what you spend on average, it will be very difficult to build a plan that mandates how much you really can save and how much you’ll spend when you retire.
What I ask people to do is simply track their spending without necessarily cutting back. Once people actually keep tabs on where the money goes, they spend more mindfully. That’s right. Just by watching what you spend the magic will happen and you’ll actually spend less. Don’t believe me? Why not give it a try yourself? You’ll see that you won’t need to force yourself to save more – you’ll want to.
4. Eliminate High Cost Debt
Just because you aren’t able to pay off all your old debts doesn’t mean you are stuck with enormously expensive interest costs. Consider refinancing your debt with lower cost options and use the savings to get out of debt that much sooner. Every dollar you save in interest cost is better than a dollar earned. That’s because you don’t really have to do anything in order to achieve these savings.
3. Maximize Your Retirement Plan Contributions
After getting out of high cost debt, the smartest place to put your money is in a retirement plan – preferably one that matches your contributions. Of course if your employer throws in towards your retirement, that’s found money amigo.
And even if the boss doesn’t step up, retirement contributions are a great option for most people. That’s because traditional plans offer immediate tax benefits and deferrals that can make you rich. And if you opt for the Roth retirement plan, you’ll still make out. You won’t get an immediate tax benefit but the earnings and withdrawals are tax free – also, not bad at all.
Assuming you aren’t carrying high-cost consumer debt, you simply must automate your savings. This is the process of setting up an investment account and instructing your bank to fund it every month with a specific amount on a specific day. It doesn’t matter how modest you begin these auto contributions with, but it does matter that you do it.
This says to the world that saving is a priority rather than an afterthought. And once you make that announcement, it takes on a life of its own and it happens.
People who invest “when they have extra money” rarely seem to have any. That’s because when money is laying around it’s easy to spend. I’m as guilty of this as the next Pilgrim. The way I solved that problem was by automating my investments. You can (and should) take advantage of the same tactic.
You can plan to use all four of the techniques I mentioned above. But without accountability, the chances are high that you won’t stick with it. At the same time, you could abandon all the top 4 ideas and still achieve your goal of saving 20% more money as long as you stay accountable to someone else.
Figure out how much you want to save each month – and then add 20% to the figure. Figure out how much you spend on average now and then track it to see how much you save over time. Refinance high interest cost debt and once you get out of debt, max out your retirement plan contributions. Just as you set those up on automatic, automate your non-retirement savings contributions so the money flows out of your bank account (where you can’t spend it) to your investment account.
If you add up all these savings, they will very likely exceed our 20% target. But even if you can’t quite reach that goal now, you will surely be much further along towards your target if you do take advantage of these 5 tactics.
Are you going to use these techniques to increase your savings? If not, what are more effective ways to do so?