Saving money is tough, even if it's going toward the beautiful items we eye on Pinterest. Saving for rainy days or funding the tax account is even tougher.
If you're an impulsive or emotional spender, then you need simple solutions to help you stay the course. Here are nine ideas to help you save, and each will take 10 minutes or less to get started.
1. Keep your eye on the prize Place visual representations of your savings goals on your desktop, your phone or the corkboard above your desk. Vision boards create happy reminders of what we're saving for and are powerful motivators.
2. Consider the trade-off "Just about every purchase has an opportunity cost – at least one alternative path that you have to abandon," Psych Yourself Rich author Farnoosh Torabi says. Before you buy, ask yourself what you are giving up tomorrow by buying today (refer to No. 1 for the quick answer).
3. Automate Putting your savings plan on autopilot is one of the most effective strategies. Visit your bank's site to easily set up automatic monthly transfers from chequing to savings. Even $25 a month is a great start.
4. Think subcategories If you have more than one immediate savings goal, then create more than one subcategory for your savings. My accounts include "home," "travel" and "taxes." It's addicting to see each account inch up toward your ultimate goal.
5. When tempted to spend, phone a friend I have a weird love of designer soaps. When I'm tempted to spend $25 on soap, I call my long-time friend Sandra. She has talked sense into me a number of times. Make at least one or two friends aware of your goals for accountability. We all need it at times.
6. Get social support Websites like Stickk.com offer public accountability by allowing you to set your goals and timelines – and put money on the line that you'll lose if you don't fulfill your goal. Founders of the site say public declaration of a commitment with something on the line can more than triple our chances of success.
7. Reward yourself "When the month ends and you've maintained your savings goal, go celebrate to provide positive feedback to your brain," says author and neuroeconomist Paul J. Zak, who suggests perhaps going out for some fancy gelato or to a favourite restaurant for dinner. This is a savings strategy I think we all can get behind.
8. Make it tangible When you buy new shoes, you can see them and show others, and you should create the same visibility for your savings, Mr. Zak says. You Need a Budget and Mint.com provide daily snapshots of your savings increases for you and for your partner or family to see. An online account will also showcase wasteful expenses that can be put toward savings.
After signing up with Mint.com, Robin Schade, a 25-year-old student and business owner from Calgary, estimates that by cancelling unnecessary insurance and switching to a no-fee bank account, she will save more than $1,400 in one year.
9. Give back It seems counterintuitive to give when you want to save, but bestselling personal finance author David Bach says he is certain that the secret to having more is in giving more. According to Mr. Bach, giving your time or money to help others is more than the golden rule: It's the golden magnet. Giving leads to a more abundant life and a healthier savings account.
Angela Self is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies money group. Read her weekly column on managing debt and saving money at globeinvestor.com.