As we’re flooded with new products and services every day, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stay disciplined with knowing how much to save. The temptation to buy and consume can often outweigh long-term goals, such as retiring early, having financial stability, and providing for your family.
So, how does one overcome that temptation in order to save for the future? Where is the line between how much you actually need to set aside and how much you can enjoy now?
How Much Money Should I Save Each Month?
Each of us has our own unique financial situation. How much you save depends, at least in part, on your personal income and cost of living.
When asked to quantify the percentage of income that any individual should save in order to be considered “financially responsible,” Walter Updegrave, a senior editor of Money Magazine, gave what might be a frustrating answer for some:
“As much as I’d like to be able to tell you to save 10%, 15%… the percentage of income that’s appropriate for you will depend on your income, age, the amount of money you’ve already saved, your employment prospects and, most important, how much you’re willing to forgo immediate gratification for current and future financial security.”
So, as with many other aspects of personal finance, the answer is: It depends.
A general target, and good starting place, is to tuck away 10% of your income. Some might be able to put away more, whereas others might be hard pressed to save 5%. Your exact number will depend on your particular situation, but saving something is always better than saving nothing.
Related: Do You Need a Bare Bones Budget?
Take a look at how much you can comfortably save right now. Could you squeeze a few more dollars out of another area in your budget? Perhaps you could eat out less or cut your cable bill down? Then, funnel that cash into savings instead.
No matter where you’re starting, your goal should always be to save as much as you can.
What Strategies Are Most Effective for Saving Money?
Now that you have a general idea of how much you should ideally be saving, next comes the difficult question: “How do I save?”
Well, it’s easier said than done. We often don’t realize just how often we pull out our wallets to spend on items that aren’t really necessary. These little expenses add up quickly, until you’re spending hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars on things that you don’t even deem important.
If you’re wondering how to save money every month, here are some tips that may help you begin:
Create a Monthly Budget
Budget, Budget, Budget! It’s nearly impossible to realize savings goals if you don’t know where your money is going in the first place.
Sit down and write out a list of monthly income and expenditures. You can even use your computer to do this. Spelling it all out is the only way to see how to tighten your budget, though, so it’s truly necessary (at least in the beginning).
There are great resources on the Internet that can help you with the budgeting task. One website in particular, Learnvest.com, helps break out finances and does all the work for you. We also have a great guide covering four budget types and the best tools for each one.
Resource: A 10-Minute Budget That Actually Works
Before improving your savings, you must get a handle on your budget. It’s the only way you’ll be able to determine where you can cut back.
Look Carefully at Your Bills
Take some time to carefully inspect your cell phone, electricity, cable, internet, and home phone bills.
When it comes to your phone, cable, and internet, ensure that you have the right plan for your circumstances. Perhaps switching cell phone carriers or plans will save you money. Maybe your local cable company is running a package promotion?
Competition exists for a reason! Make sure you are using the least expensive provider for your needs. It only takes a few minutes to call or go online to check out other options.
As for energy bills, optimize your use of energy: keep the lights off when you aren’t using them, and do not blast the air conditioning or heat if it is not necessary. Lowering your utility bills is an excellent way to save.
Cut out Unnecessary Purchases
This is probably the most difficult aspect of budgeting because at first blush nothing really seems unnecessary. This is where a good budgeting tool, as mentioned above, can come in real handy.
For instance, if you buy coffee every morning or lunch while at work, try making your own at home. It’s amazing how fast $10 a day on coffee and a meal adds up. That’s approximately $50 a week, $200 a month, or $2,400 a year that you could have been saving or using to pay off debt instead!
Think carefully before you pull out your wallet. Do you really need that new pair of shoes or extra pair of earrings?
Learn More: 15 Ways to Supercharge Your Finances
Save Whatever You Can
Even if you start off small, it’s essential to have a foundation.
Commit to putting all your change at the end of the day into a piggy bank or to saving $10 a week in a jar. This will put you on the road to acquiring better savings habits.
At the end of the year, that change can really add up. Simply put it all in a high-yield online savings account or, if you already have a solid emergency fund, contribute a bit more to your investments.
Every little bit helps when you’re on the path to financial freedom.
Be A Frugal Shopper (Within Limits)
How many times have you bought a brand name item when the generic is half the price and approximately the same quality?
One place you are likely to realize savings is at the grocery store. Take some extra time to clip coupons and compare prices between different manufacturers and brands. There are some items for which you should not sacrifice quality. For others, though, there really is minimal difference.
Also, check out sales, factory outlets, and stores like Marshall’s, TJMaxx, or HomeGoods. There, you can find high-end products at a fraction of the price.
Resource: Saving Money on Your Retail Spending
Hopefully, you now realize it’s not impossible to save money. Even if you feel like your budget is stretched thin already, you might now see that you can save more than you’re currently putting away.
Once you begin to practice the above steps, it will become an ingrained part of your lifestyle. You will find little ways to cut even more corners or trim the fat left in your budget.
Before you know it, you’ll see yourself saving away for a happy, worry-free future.