When you score a stable income, it can feel like you’ve hit the disposable spending lottery. But just because you’re bringing in more money than you need to pay the bills doesn’t mean you can spend it all freely. Saving money can feel like a responsibility that belongs to a future version of us — you know, the new and improved us that have a higher salary and more willpower. But here’s an idea: What if we are already the people we need to be to start setting money aside? Why wait to find out?
Using our own psychology and a little creativity can turn saving money from a dreadful obligation to a point of pride that we enjoy, even on a starting or freelance salary. We enlisted some experts to share their best hacks for saving money without sucking the fun out of getting paid.
Elyssa Kirkham, a money-management guru who writes for the website Student Loan Hero, shares a straightforward way to stop hemorrhaging money every time a paycheck hits our bank accounts. “A trick I learned is to pair tasks that are potentially unpleasant or boring with something else that’s rewarding — also called ‘temptation bundling.'” A saving hack that involves giving in to temptation? We’re already in.
Kirkham explains it this way: “Every time you stop an impulse buy, maybe you reward yourself with a barista-prepared latte instead of the office drip coffee. You get to buy your latte guilt-free, knowing you avoided unnecessary spending. And it will probably cost much less than the pair of boots you were eyeing.” By pairing an indulgence with working toward your savings goal, we train our brains to associate saving with a reward. Kirkham goes a step further, suggesting that setting up rules that follow this principle can super-charge our savings’ potential. “Make a rule that you can go out for your usual weekend brunch or night out, but only if you first transfer enough into your savings account to meet your weekly goal.”
Meditation alone isn’t enough to make our savings swell, but it can be an important first step. Meditation and mindfulness aren’t necessarily about money, and we can engage in those practices for their other benefits while we practice some wellness for our wallets. Holly Kindel, a financial advisor at Mosiac Financial Partners, emphasizes the difference a meditation practice can make in how we manage money. “Yeah, meditation isn’t saving, [but] there is plenty of science which suggests that regular meditation enhances emotional regulation through improvements in executive control.” Awareness and acceptance are the primary tools we have to improve our spending habits, both of which are improved significantly when we meditate regularly.
Kindel also has some interesting thoughts on ways to maximize our willpower, schooling us in the latest research on how it works. “In 2007, Duke University completed a landmark study that suggests that environment, and not willpower, was the primary determinant of successful habit change,” she says. “Subsequent studies reinforce, observing that willpower is a finite resource that you need to preserve.” So, when we journey through the outlet mall “just to browse,” we’re already using up some of our willpower, even if we feel like we scored a #win by not buying anything. This makes us more likely to make an impulse purchase in the near future.
So to reduce wasteful spending, your best bet is to limit your time in venues where you could “potentially” be spending money and focus in on experiences where there’s less opportunity to binge on stuff you don’t need. And engaging in experiences that are less consumer-oriented will probably improve your mindset overall.
We’ve all heard this advice a thousand times before, but the benefits of automating our savings through an app or online banking cannot be overstated. By “paying ourselves” (that is, our future selves, the ones sipping a marg on the deck of our Bermuda vacation homes) first, we take the thought of “saving” out of sight and out of mind. The goal is to make saving feel like just another bill we have to pay, instead of a conflicted choice we need to make between having fun and being an adult.
If you’ve always been bad at saving money, don’t despair. Kindel concludes, “We’ve all heard the phrase ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,’ and it’s time dispose of that belief system. Modern neuroscience has turned that belief on its head: Humans are change machines. What often stands between folks and change are personal beliefs and tools. Surround yourself with people who agree that you can change, have tools you can use, and are interested in helping you.” With technological savvy, an empowered attitude, and a sense of modern agency at our disposal, millennial women have an opportunity to be better prepared for retirement than any previous generation.
Have you found the key to make saving money less painful and more automatic? Share them with us on Twitter @BritandCo!
(Photo via Getty)