There are several effective ways to save. Saving automatically is considered one of the easiest ways to successfully save money; it is sometimes called “paying yourself first.” When money comes out of your income and goes directly into an account that is not your primary spending (checking) account, you don’t have to make a savings decision every pay period, but your savings account balance will increase.
A popular way of automatic savings is having money go directly from your paycheck to a 401(k) or other retirement plan offered by your employer. This is the most well-known way to save for retirement (or semi-retirement!) Some employers will “match” all or part of the amount you are putting into the account.
Another way to automatically save is to establish a recurring transfer. Generally, you set up a transfer from an account where your income is deposited to a savings or investment account. The savings account is usually an account that is not as easy to access; it may pay some interest on your balance. Some banks and credit unions offer a “Christmas” account option, a savings account with very low minimum balances.
Some employers and many payroll services allow employees to split their direct deposit into more than one account. A split deposit is a way to have part of your pay deposited to your spending account and part to your savings account. This is an excellent way to pay yourself first.
In addition to these automatic savings methods, you may want to consider scheduled transfers to increase your savings rate. Employees with variable pay often find this works better than an automatic savings method. Evaluate your checking account balance each pay period or monthly, being sure to account for all expected spending. Then determine how much excess you would feel comfortable transferring to your savings. For example, if your monthly expenses are usually $3,000, and you want to keep a $4,000 minimum balance, seeing a $4,200 balance means you can transfer $200 to savings or pay down a debt by $200. When you see that extra $200, are you tempted to spend it instead of transferring to savings? Review your goals before you start this process. Thinking about the high interest rate you’re paying on past purchases or the vacation you want to take before checking your financial situation can help you stay on track.
A less common method of savings today should still be considered—save your loose change or extra cash. This method is particularly effective for people who have some cash income or use a cash method for budgeting and spending, like the envelope method. Essentially, you save the loose cash you have at the end of each day, or if you have extra money in your envelopes at the end of the week or month, you save it. Every little bit adds up!
How are you saving for your whealthiness goals?
Many Americans do not have any money set aside to cover a sudden expense and many people struggle with debt and bad credit. We aren’t taught how or why to save. In fact, our society encourages consumerism at any cost. It’s much easier to spend than to save! Savings is a habit, one that we can practice, getting better and adjusting, creating a lifestyle of financial confidence.
Learning to save is crucial to pursuing our goals, finding financial peace of mind, and aligning our spending with our values. It can seem overwhelming if you have never made a savings plan. But it’s never too late to start saving; start where you are.
This week is America Saves Week. ASW is a call to action to commit to savings by making a pledge, setting a goal, and creating a plan. The top savings goals in prior years included funding or increasing an emergency fund, paying down debt, and saving for a vacation or special event. Achieving these goals reduces financial fragility.
The benefits of savings include financial stability, feeling prepared for unexpected expenses, and having more money. Yes, I said having more money! If you have debt or use debt to pay for vacations or emergencies, you are paying interest and/or fees for all those purchases. When you stop paying extra for your purchases and improve your credit, you will have more money to spend as you want! Intentional spending and saving also allows us to feel less financial stress and support our values through our spending.
What are you saving for this year?
When we examine our motivations for the financial goals we set, it often comes down to a desire for peace of mind. Peace of mind that we can take care of ourselves. Peace of mind that we can take care of our families. Peace of mind that we won’t be a burden. Peace of mind that we can take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Peace of mind that we can change our circumstances when desired.
In my yoga practice, an instructor quoted Brian Tracy, author of Eat That Frog. He says, “Set peace of mind as your highest goal and organize your life around it.” Much of his writing and speaking is about productivity, so it is natural to think about setting a goal for achievement, but how do you achieve peace?
In practicing with this thought during yoga, we have ongoing moments of resistance, distraction, perhaps annoyance, and so on. (Yes, annoyance is a thing during yoga practice, either at the instructor for how long she wants us to hold a balancing pose, or ourselves as we wobble out of the pose before we smile and try again!) As we bring our thoughts back to being peaceful, we practice experiencing peace by accepting things as they are in the moment. A disruption gives us the opportunity to practice becoming aware of the moments of peace.
That doesn’t mean we should accept everything in our life exactly as it is and never try to change anything. We can change circumstances in our life through setting and achieving goals. Unlike many goals we set, attaining peace of mind requires a different approach. We can’t determine what SMART goals will help us achieve peace of mind, but they can give us some control of our situation, reducing the obstacles to having peace of mind.
I think if you set “peace” as your focus, you could then create intentional thoughts and questions to nudge your actions and decisions so that you become more aware of those peaceful moments. For example, you might sit quietly for a minute as you transition between tasks, taking the chance to examine how you are. Take some deep belly breaths to see if that helps you focus on your state of being.
Sometimes, peaceful moments are brief, so we might miss them until we build our awareness. The Buddha said, “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” By cultivating opportunities to encounter and become conscious of peace, we can experience more peace.
What does peace of mind mean to you? How do you work towards finding peace in your whealthy life?
Every year, millions of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, most commonly changes to eating, exercising, and finances. Articles are published every January explaining how to achieve those resolutions. Then, more articles follow with dire statistics of how many people give up on their resolutions by the end of January. However, one of the scholars studying resolutions estimates that about 40% of resolution makers are successful halfway through the year.
I found that resolutions don’t work for me. Instead, I set an area of focus each year. The first year I committed to this, I printed this Focus sketch by Carl Richards, which shows that you should only focus on things that matter AND that you can control.
After having had some struggles with my health and wellness, I decided my focus was “health.” Below the sketch, I wrote, in part: “My health is my number one priority. I make all decisions to improve and support my health, nourish my body, and keep moving.” Throughout that year, as I made decisions, I asked myself, “does this improve or support my health?” I made several big changes that year, as well as many smaller ones. Every year’s focus is not so lifechanging as that year was, but it keeps me focused on how or who I want to be.
When we make resolutions, they tend to be focused on a change we want to make, such as losing weight or working out more. When we switch that idea to a focus on who or how we want to be, it can change our view of ourselves. For example, if you want to lose weight, determine what is appealing about that lower weight that would be part of your identity, and focus on becoming that type of person. I wanted to be the type of person who made my health a priority, and my focus shifted to making decisions that type of person would make.
I like having a one-word reminder of my focus, but it is also important to write down how you are going to achieve that focus. While many would say that you should make it very specific, like going to the gym 3 times a week, I would suggest that it could be a statement or question that you can ask yourself throughout the year. This gives you flexibility to achieve your goal, experimenting with what works best for you; your actions might change based on your situation, unforeseen obstacles, and your accomplishments. If you go to the gym 3 times a week and hate it, a more flexible focus on moving more would allow you to try many other things like swimming, hiking, biking, or skating.
It’s never too late to create your focus for the year. How do you want to live your whealthiest life this year?
Virginia Asher, MSAFP, CFP®
My whealthiness journey has taught me that there is not one single way for us to live a prosperous life. I'll share what I've learned to help you find your way.