We all know in theory that saving money is the key to securing your future, but, in practice, the saving habits of Americans paint a different picture. Studies show that 30% of households don't have a long-term financial plan and 50% save less than $4,830. These numbers may not sound surprising, considering that Americans accumulate over $132,000 worth of debt, but even so, there are ways to gradually build savings and reduce the stress of debt.
Make saving second nature
According to a Bankrate survey, a fifth of Americans say that they have zero savings and are unable to cover a $500 emergency. That may sound like they aren't making any efforts to save at all, but, in reality, people are trying to save, using ineffective practices. For example, one of the most common reasons why people can't manage to set money aside is because they spend all their paycheck and then expect to have enough for savings at the end of the month. But this method rarely works, because it's easy to be tempted and spend all disposable income on minor, non-essential purchases. Instead, pay off all loan installments, bills, and vital purchases, then add some money to your savings account, then spend the rest as you wish. No amount is too small. Even if you save $30 every month, by being disciplined and making a habit out of saving, your income will gradually build up and emergency expenses won't feel as crippling.
Track your expenses
People often buy things out of habit, without knowing how much they all add up and make holes in their budgets. Tracking your expenses, either by pen and paper or by using a budgeting app, can help you get a clear overview of where your money goes and where you could be spending less, explains Kane Georgiou BSc (Hons), owner and founder at The Money Pig. For example, if you're struggling with debt and paying electricity bills, something as simple as brewing your coffee at home instead of buying it from a coffee shop can make a difference.
Know the difference between good and bad debt
Debt is often stigmatized for slowly eating away at our finances, but not all debt is bad. For example, applying for a mortgage loan while young is a responsible decision, as is getting a loan to buy a reliable family car. The problem comes from credit card debt, which affects almost 40% of Americans and costs about $5,700 per person for products and services that you don't necessarily need, such as clothes, eating out, or electronics.
I can pay for this vs. I can afford this
This may not sound pleasant, but just because you have the money to pay for the latest MacBook as soon as it comes out doesn't always mean you can also afford it. If buying something causes you financial stress for months to come and means staying behind on your bills, it's wiser to wait and buy it later. For your financial comfort, it's important not to overextend yourself and learn to male purchases when it's wise, not when you want to.