Motivating Yourself to Save for a Rainy Day – Even When the Sun is Shining

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Even though many of us may have grown up with the wisdom of “saving for a rainy day”, we don’t always carry the advice to adulthood. We live in a consumer-driven, instant gratification society, surrounded by cultural cues that encourage living for today at the expense of planning for tomorrow. Accordingly it’s difficult for many people to motivate themselves to save unless they are in a serious financial crisis such as overwhelming debt. For many who aren’t in crisis, saving is an abstract concept: something for other people with more money, or something to worry about tomorrow. But today, there’s that sale at Selfridges…

The problem doesn’t lie simply with attitudes and conscious consumer choices, of course. The recent recession caused a long-term squeeze on real incomes, leaving record numbers of people with less ability to save and to pay off debt. Things are looking up somewhat; personal savings rates in the UK increased from to 5.80 percent in the third quarter of 2014 to 5.90 percent in the fourth quarter, according to a report on the Trading Economics site. Still, it’s a pretty safe bet that many people who actually could be saving more aren’t doing so. If you’re one of these, here are some tips for increasing your motivation.

1. Develop a balanced attitude. This is just as important as a balanced chequebook. To get and stay motivated to save, it helps to find a workable balance between savouring the present and keeping an eye out for the future (come to think of it, that’s a pretty good formula for achieving happiness as well as financial stability). It’s also important to balance positive and negative emotions about your finances; in other words, practice both positive and negative reinforcement on yourself, as needed. On the “positive” side, nurture gratitude for what you have now, even if there are things lacking in your life, and be optimistic about your future. Focus on the ways that having a nest egg will improve your life. On the “negative” side, if you’ve been through a financial crisis, don’t ever let yourself forget how bad it was. While you don’t want to dwell on your past failures, sometimes a clear memory of awful times can be a powerful motivation to keep you on the right track. Just remembering when you had to subsist on ramen noodles and stale crackers can spur you to put a few pounds into your savings rather than spend them on a latte and pastry that will only add calories but won’t be an investment in your future.

2. Set a realistic goal with a deadline, write it down, and make a budget. Other than a financial crisis, a powerful motivation for saving is to have a specific and tangible goal. Whether you’re saving for a down payment on a house or a new car, or something smaller, having a specific goal can motivate you to sock away money you might otherwise spend on frivolities and throwaway experiences. But make sure your goal is realistic; otherwise you’ll feel like a failure when you don’t achieve it. Write down your goal and set a sensible deadline. If it’s a big goal, break it down into smaller more manageable parts if possible so it won’t seem so overwhelming. Also make a realistic budget, being sure to allow a buffer to help you handle the unexpected. Working towards a goal will keep you motivated in a positive way to increase your savings.

3. Err on the side of frugality (with the occasional reward to yourself). Even if you have a little slack in your budget, try pretending that you don’t. For the most part act as if you are still in debt and have to watch every pound. This doesn’t mean you have to deny yourself or your loved ones every pleasure or adopt an austere lifestyle, but do avoid more expensive luxuries until you reach your goal. That said, you’ll stay more motivated if you reward yourself periodically – perhaps an inexpensive holiday, a new pair of shoes, or a reasonably priced meal at a nice restaurant for every £500 you put into your savings. Just don’t overdo the rewards. Again it’s all about balance.

4. Chart your progress. You don’t have to be obsessive, but a visual reminder of how well you’re doing can keep you motivated. You can make a simple chart and pick an increment of savings to track – say, every £100 or £500, for instance. Place sticker on a square (or colour it in) every time you save another increment, until you reach your goal.

Don’t let setbacks discourage you. You’re not perfect and may occasionally break your budget or overindulge, but don’t give up. Remember that motivation is half the battle, and if you can keep motivation levels high, you’ll face those inevitable rainy days with a smile.

About Mohit Tater

Mohit is the co-founder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life, a place where entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners can find wide ranging information, advice, resources, and tools for starting, running, and growing their businesses.

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