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As a financial planner, I work with young professionals who are great savers. They know the basics of saving, such as cutting the cable cord, making meals at home, and shopping smart. After they’ve mastered the basics, my savvy clients aim to take their savings rates to the next level.
If you already have an emergency fund, have paid off high-interest debt, and are maxing out your tax-advantaged accounts, you deserve a high five! You’ve already developed good savings habits that lay the foundation for financial freedom.
When you’re saving at least 20% of your income, how do you save even more? Here are a few suggestions:.
Stack your savings
We tend to spend what’s in our checking accounts habitually. As your income increases, spending can increase over time. Before you know it, luxuries become necessities. This is known as “lifestyle creep.”
Even if you’re saving a large percentage of your income now, this percentage can actually decrease as your income increases. Making adjustments to prevent this is crucial.
If you find yourself with more than enough discretionary income, develop the habit of increasing your savings slowly. Start with transferring an extra amount (such as $100) each month to your savings account. Increase that amount by $100 a month every few months. As you earn raises, commit to saving at least 50% of the increase. Doing so will help you save more money over time, and you can still enjoy a portion of the extra income.
Save those ‘extra’ paychecks you’re already receiving
If you’re paid biweekly, there are two months out of the year when you receive three paychecks. Since you live off two paychecks most of the year, save those “extra” paychecks when they come in.
Another option is to save the amount of those two extra paychecks biweekly throughout the year. For example, if you receive $3,000 every two weeks, your two extra paychecks total $6,000. Divide this amount by 26 pay periods, and that means you can save an extra $230 per pay period. Plan ahead and give your savings an extra boost.
Audit your subscription services
We’re all guilty of signing up for subscription services that automatically deduct from our checking accounts or charge our credit cards. You may also sign up for subscriptions by signing up for a free trial that you forget to cancel. This 2019 survey found that Americans spend an average of $237.33 a month on subscription services across a variety of categories, and 84% underestimated what they spent each month.
Setting up automatic payments is a great way to simplify your life, but these subscription services can add up if you’re not paying attention. A regular audit of your subscription services and annual fees can help you have thousands of dollars each year.
Start by looking at monthly subscriptions, such as memberships, streaming services, and cloud storage. Look at an entire year of transactions so those pesky annual fees don’t sneak past you. If you haven’t used a service in several months, cancel the subscription. If you’re still using the service, do a little research and see if you can find the same service for less or free. It’s a good practice to audit your subscription services at least once a year.
Set savings goals
Sometimes it’s hard to save when you’re not sure why you’re saving. Setting goals each year for the amount you’d like to save gives you motivation to stay on track. This goal can either be a dollar amount or a percentage of your income.
Let’s say you want to save $6,000 more next year. It’s easy to break down this goal into smaller increments, like monthly or per pay period. A portion of the $500 per month that you need to save can come from your spending audit. If you can find savings of $200 per month from unused subscriptions, you only need to cut spending by $300 per month. You can do this!
Save a percentage of bonuses or unexpected money
It’s easy to spend extra money as it comes in. If you’re like most people, you tend to treat unexpected money differently. You may make an impulsive decision to buy something you wouldn’t normally buy. This concept is called mental accounting.
Instead of using a bonus or unexpected money to splurge, set rules for how you will treat this money before you receive it. For example, decide that you will save 50% of any additional income that comes in. This way, you can use the money to accelerate your savings goals while also satisfying your natural desire to splurge.
After applauding my clients for starting their savings journey, we focus on the next milestone: surpassing that 20% goal. The road to financial freedom lies ahead when we commit to it and take actionable steps. It doesn’t have to be a windy road. When we prepare ourselves mentally for a continued path of savings, we can truly grow financially.
Chloe A. Moore, CFP, is the founder of Financial Staples, a virtual, fee-only financial planning firm based in Atlanta, Georgia and serving clients nationwide.
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