Do you have a hard time saving money? Many people do. In fact, more than 60 percent of Americans surveyed say that they don’t have enough in the way of rainy day funds to deal with even minor mishaps or emergencies. Don’t blame yourself (too much). Human beings aren’t really wired to be good at saving money. It's easy enough to understand why we prefer instant gratification.
Over the years, though, researchers and scientists have come up with a number of ways you can fool yourself into doing the right thing (i.e. saving more) when it comes to your finances. And today, I'm sharing five of those simple savings hacks.
- Make it visual. When you have a picture of what you’re saving for, you have an easier time not spending on other things.
- Picture yourself at retirement age. There are apps that can help us do this. The "you" of 30 years from now (retirement age!) is essentially a stranger to you today. That makes it tough to convince today’s "you" that she or he should save money for tomorrow’s "you." Get it? But research has shown that if you can picture yourself older, it’s an inspiration to boost the amount you’re socking away in savings. And, no, a picture of your mom (no matter how much you look like her) won't work.
- Sign a contract. (And make it painful for you to fail). A website like Stickk.com can help you do it, or you can simply sign a contract with a friend or family member. The founders of the website, professors at Yale, have conducted years of research on commitment contracts and say that they can triple your chances of success. If you don’t meet your goal, there should be consequences, like a donation to a charity you abhor.
- Use a new measurement tool. We get so used to measuring in dollars and cents. If you come up with a new unit of measurement that is meaningful to you, and if you use it to measure other things, it helps. For example: Frappucinos! If you spend $5 a day on your morning beverage, and you love it, you can start to think of other things in those terms. "This pair of shoes is 14 Frappucinos." Worth it? Maybe not. Or hours of work: "This shirt is going to cost me three hours or work, or 10 hours of work." It just may not be worth it.
- Save every $5. This turns saving into a game, and makes it a little bit fun. The idea is that every $5 bill you get goes directly into savings. Your rule doesn’t have to be $5. It could be $1, or even every quarter. But the premise is the same: You come up with an arbitrary rule that you’re going to follow. Agree on it with your spouse or tell a friend (that’s key!) and you’ll end up with hundreds of dollars in $5 bills by the end of the year.