Getting Back on Track

10 ways to shift your habits to start saving more

From Christmas splurges to vacations to nights out with friends to everything in between, it’s easy to spend beyond your budget. Start with a quick review of your budget. You’ll likely find that making a few simple adjustments can get you back on track. Consider using these simple, practical strategies to put your savings on the right track.

1. Track your spending.

Try using a monthly budget worksheet and see how much you could save per month. Once you begin carefully tracking your family’s spending, it will be clear where you may be going overboard (lunches, movie outings, coffee, etc.). Now, instead of spending $80 on movie tickets and concessions, the family could rent movies and watch them at home. With a budget worksheet, you can ask yourself, ‘Do I really need this?’ and track how much you are saving each month.

2. Rethink mealtime.

The average American spends thousands of dollars on dining out every year. If you dine out often, try making meals at home to cut costs—and possibly calories, too. Set a grocery budget (and make a list before you go shopping) so you only buy exactly what you need.

3. Automate your savings.

If your paycheck burns a hole in your pocket, consider creating a savings account that’s funded with automatic withdrawals. That could be as simple as setting up a monthly automated transfer from your checking account to your savings account. Remember to take advantage of salary-deferral contributions to your Servant Solutions’ 403(b)(9) retirement plan

4. Be accountable.

Writing down your financial goals and sharing them with others makes those goals more concrete. Ask your spouse, a friend, or your financial professional to check in with you at determined intervals (a few times a year, annually, or every few years) to ask if you’re on track. At Servant Solutions, you have financial planners at your fingertips. Our “Financial Roadmap” financial planning tool is free to all of our members!

5. Avoid credit (without hurting your score).

Giving your credit cards a rest can help you save. If a purchase doesn’t work within your (newly adjusted) budget, don’t buy it. Don’t fool yourself. If you are using credit cards to make ends meet or to satisfy your “splurges,” you need some belt-tightening.  

6. Control your splurges.

Speaking of splurges, we all like to treat ourselves. But purchasing too many “wants” instead of “needs” can do a number on your budget. Having a 30-day moratorium on all purchases can help keep unnecessary spending under control.

7. Look for deals.

When you do need to make a few purchases, it always feels great to find the best price available. Products and services have months that are better than others for purchasing. For instance, September is often a good time to buy things like an iPhone or clothing. Thinking of buying a new car? The end of the year is typically the best time, as dealers make way for next year’s model.

8. Make a list of free or cheap activities.

Getting back to your saving ways doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Going hiking or biking, checking out community events in your hometown, or watching sports with friends are just a few activities that are inexpensive or free.

9. Start saving for future expenses.

Vacations, holiday gifts, home improvements—certain expenses can add up fast. But they don’t need to derail your savings progress. Start setting aside money now to help keep your overall budget on track.

10. What about retirement?

How much of your income should you be saving for retirement? First, it’s important to consider your goals and what your expenses may be in retirement. Consider building up to 15% of your salary for retirement, then dedicate additional savings to create an emergency fund of 6 to 12 months worth of pay. In fact, putting aside just $100 a month can make a big difference, especially if you invest it for your retirement. Really: Invested for 20 years or more at a 7% rate of return, that $100 a month could ultimately grow to more than $52,000.

At Servant Solutions, we have never heard a member say, “Wow, I saved too much for retirement!” That fact should be a warning to us all that savings needs to be part of our budget and planning. It’s not always easy, but you’ll spend the rest of your life enjoying the benefits of good savings habits today—not worrying about playing catch-up. Let us know how we can serve you. We are here to help!