The solution for when you can’t save money

In recognition of America Saves Week, I wanted to focus on saving money for this month’s blog. The question in particular I’d like to discuss is: Why is it so hard to save money? Let’s unpack some thoughts on that question and how you might be able to break the cycle.

If you’re like me and everyone else, you’ve probably tried saving money in the past and just when you feel like you are making progress — BAM! — some emergency comes up to ruin your plans! Despite your best intentions, It’s like the forces of nature are against you.

It doesn’t have to be that way! When you are struggling to save, take a moment to reflect on what happened to have caused your setbacks in the past. Are you overextended and your cash flow is too tight each month? Did another spending opportunity come up that you prioritized higher? Was it just lack of willpower or was it really just an emergency completely out of your control?

Making sure you have some cash reserves is one way to minimize those setbacks. For instance, if you’re saving for a trip this summer but your car blows a tire, having a cash cushion to tap can get you back on the road without sidetracking your vacation plans. Don’t have an emergency fund in place yet? Setting that as a priority first should be on your to-do list.

Another approach you’ve probably heard mentioned before is to automate some of your savings. This could be accomplished by setting up a direct deposit of your paycheck to a savings account or by setting up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account after each payday. The main ideas are that it’s set on auto pilot automatically for you (without you having to remember to do it) and the money is set aside before it ever reaches your hands so you don’t even have a chance to rely on it.

So why are some goals so hard to save for? In my experience, it has a lot to do with choosing goals that actually matter most to you. If you are saving just to save, it will be tough to stay motivated. When you find yourself repeatedly struggling with saving for something, focus on the outcomes you are working towards. For example, if you’re saving for a down payment on a home, picture yourself in your new more spacious kitchen where you’ll be able to entertain friends. How badly do you want it? If it’s something you truly want, you’ll make being able to afford it a priority.

Finally, with all of your saving objectives, keep your future self in mind. When you’re saving long-term for retirement, keep in mind your future you and the lifestyle you plan to enjoy when you’re older. If saving for a trip, keep in mind the fun you’ll have with family or friends and the activities you’ll be enjoying. If you are saving for gift, think about the feeling you’ll have when you get to see the anticipation and excitement of the gift recipient. When saving for an emergency fund, picture the confidence you’ll have and the relief you’ll give yourself when something comes up and you can handle it with ease. Whatever you are saving for, most often you will eventually be the one to benefit from all your hard work so try not to lose sight of that to keep you motivated.

Still having trouble reaching your goals? Check out my other tips for how to successfully reaching your goals like creating a vision board or using a savings tracker to keep those things top of mind.