7 Budget Tips for People Who Can’t Seem to Save

We all love to shop for a good bargain, but for many people, the word “budgeting” strikes even more dread than dieting. Many people start with the best of intentions (can anyone say “New Year’s Resolution”?), but once they’ve created a budget, it can be tough to actually stick to it. Why? Because, like a diet, a budget that’s only built to deny yourself is no fun!

7 Budgeting Tips

It’s much easier to stick to a budget if you find the right balance of discipline and incentives. There is no one-size trick to finding a savings plan that you’ll stick to, but there are a few psychological tips to make budgeting a little easier (and more rewarding).

Here are some budget tips you’ll actually want to follow (and none involve cutting back on ice cream):

1. Gamify Your Budget

Psychology shows us that we really do respond better to rewards, recognition and incentives than we do punishment. That’s why the 52 Week Money Challenge (and its variants) is so popular. The objective of the game is to start with a tiny amount of savings each week and increase the amount each subsequent week; it starts easy to give you a sense of accomplishment, and you “level up” every week.

2.  Subject Yourself to Peer Pressure (the Good Kind)

If you have trouble sticking to the game, try setting up competitions with friends to see who can reach goals the most consistently. A little accountability (read: peer pressure) can help keep you on track too.

3. Pay Yourself First

You know how you always intend to save whatever’s left over at the end of the month, yet there’s never anything left over? Try this powerful budget tip: “pay yourself first” (instead of paying yourself last with whatever’s left over). Figure out a reasonable amount you think you should be able to save and then transfer that money out of your checking account and into savings. Treat this the same as you would any other bill that needs to get paid. As the month draws to a close, you’ll naturally need to tighten your belt a bit more, but you’ll have a lot less temptation since you don’t see “extra” money sitting around.

4. Embrace the Envelope Method

The envelope method is a way to assign every dollar in your budget to a spending category. In a literal envelope system, you put cash into physical envelopes that you pull out when you pay for things. If that’s too cumbersome, you can create a virtual set of envelopes and do all your allocations using an online budget system (or a file you keep on your computer or phone).

Create separate “envelopes” for groceries, eating out, that new unlocked smartphone you’ve been eyeing, gifts for the family, as well as other expenses.

When the envelope is empty, you can’t spend in that category anymore; in an emergency, you’ll have to transfer cash out of a different envelope. This makes budgeting a tangible zero-sum activity, and you become hyper-aware of how much money is left.

5. Split Your Savings

Use the envelope budgeting tip to save up for long-term goals like a fun (yet frugal) trip or a car, too. Rather than mashing your emergency fund, down-payment money, vacation savings and unanticipated expenses all together into a single savings account, where you’re never quite sure how much you can really safely spend on what, you can create multiple accounts with separate goals for each.

There are a few online banks that understand how to tap into this psychological trick, and they make it super easy to create multiple savings buckets at a click of a button. They even prompt you to set up automatic savings every month and track your progress for you.

6. Round Up Your Change

The little things add up! The old fashioned way to save your change was to use a piggy bank, but now that plastic is the currency of choice with many consumers, several banks have an option to transfer the “loose change” from every debit purchase into a savings account. Every purchase gets rounded up to the next dollar amount and the difference is deposited into savings. If you don’t have a bank with such a program, or you don’t think that’s aggressive enough, you can do this yourself by rounding to the nearest dollar (or more) for every purchase and earmarking that amount for savings on a weekly basis. Add this tip to your list of new year’s resolutions that save you money and watch your piggy bank grow.

7. Watch it Weekly

Whether you could paid monthly, twice a month or every other week, we often tend to feel the biggest crunch in the days leading up to the next paycheck. If you feel a huge sense of relief on payday, and you go out and splurge to celebrate, you may be living a paycheck-to-paycheck life. (Let’s not be about that life).

Luckily, stopping this nasty cycle is manageable. Begin by creating little mini-budgets with shorter timeframes because we’re much better at sticking to easier and shorter term goals than huge lofty ones that are far off. So, to ensure you don’t run out of money before you get paid next, try budgeting your discretionary spending in weekly chunks instead of monthly chunks. Just don’t forget to keep an eye out for those annual or irregular bills too!

Don’t Forget to Reward Yourself

You can pick and choose any of these budget tips to try out as a means to increase your savings habit in 2016, the important thing is just to stick with it. But no set of budgeting tricks is complete without a way to reward yourself. Keep a Mini “Fun” Fund to reward yourself when you hit your goals — or just because you’ve saved enough to do so. So go ahead and splurge on that new (insert guilty pleasure here); just do it with money you’ve already put away for that purpose.

I hope these ideas for how to budget will help you supercharge your goals! So what are you saving for? Tell us in the comments.

Author: Melanie

Melanie joined the BLINQ team in early 2014, inspired by the brand’s passion for helping consumers find great deals. Issues she feels strongly about include literacy, budgeting, and the difference between hyphens, en-dashes and em-dashes. P.s. Melanie doesn’t trust people who don’t appreciate that there’s a difference between nerds, geeks and dorks.

15 thoughts on “7 Budget Tips for People Who Can’t Seem to Save

  1. AvatarBabette Thurston

    Thanks for this great article! I never thought about paying myself first!! Excellent tip! The Turquoise Home sent me by the way!!

  2. AvatarKatie Adams

    Great tips! I love #6. It’s so true. You’d be amazed at how much money you have jus tin change laying around the house.
    Here from The Happie Housie!

    1. AvatarMelanie Post author

      It can really add up! Take that piggy bank and treat yourself to something fun at the end of the year. 🙂

    1. AvatarMelanie Post author

      It can take a little while to get used to, but it really makes you think about every purchase. If you don’t like carrying actual envelopes with cash around, there are a number of good phone and web apps that allow you to apply this concept to credit/debit/online spending too!

  3. AvatarElisabeth

    The Turquoise Home introduced me to your site!
    I love #5! We have separate ‘accounts’ for different things we are saving for, my favorite is our travel savings! 🙂

  4. AvatarAmy Orvin

    I plan to use the tips. Thank you for sharing them with us! Place of my Taste sent me.

  5. AvatarPamela Smith

    Wow! I need to show this to my daughter! She is terrible at saving money! Thanks for sharing the tips. I am visiting from The Turquoise Home.

  6. AvatarVicki Hornsby

    I love #6. It makes so much sense. Place of my Taste sent me! Thanks for the ideas

  7. AvatarRust

    Excellent tips, and a great article that my son needs to read. 🙂

  8. AvatarLaura J

    Oh such great tips! I have thought about going to the Envelope Method, and I think I am going to give it a try! It really sounds like it would help stay on budget!

  9. AvatarMarti Tabora

    I absolutely need to share this with my son, he can’t save for anything. It drives me crazy.

    1. AvatarMelanie Post author

      I find that people can be motivated to save for things they really care about. It’s just a matter of him deciding he care about a medium- or long-term goal more than he cares about a short-term pleasure. 🙂

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