Saving money is a lot like dieting -- easy to understand but difficult to execute and follow through. Intellectually, you know that having that extra piece of pie or second helping of French fries is a bad idea, but it is hard to push back from the table and say 'enough.'
Saving money is much the same. You already have the tools you need to put money aside, but actually doing it can be difficult. You might know that you should be saving for retirement or building an emergency fund, but you also want instant gratification, that shiny new smartphone or other new gadget.
Seek Out Opportunities to Save
Saving money is an active endeavor, and that means you need to seek out opportunities wherever you can find them. The next time you make your grocery list, take a few minutes to go through the online circulars for the local stores. Find the lowest prices on the items you need for the coming week, and add up the money you save.
Something as simple as saving a quarter apiece on canned goods can give you extra money to save. Shopping smart and hunting bargains is a great way to start or add to your savings, all without impacting your lifestyle or depriving yourself.
A little creativity can make saving money a lot easier and less painful. Something as simple as pocketing your change and putting it in a piggy bank can give you the inspiration you need to get started.
You probably loved putting coins in your piggy bank when you were a kid. Why not rediscover that feeling of accomplishment as an adult. Empty your pocket change into your piggy bank each day, then take all that change to the bank at the end of each week. You can beef up your savings and start your emergency fund, all with money you didn't think you could live without.
Set Realistic Savings Goals
If you start a new diet with the goal of losing 50 pounds in a month, you will surely fail. The same failure will probably result if you set too high a savings goal. You cannot go from zero to a fully funded emergency fund or maxed-out retirement plan overnight -- and you should not try to.
Instead of trying to do everything at once, start small. If you are not currently participating in your retirement plan at work, contact the human resources department and set aside 1 percent of your pay. Once you get used to having that money come out of your paycheck, try raising it to 2 percent. Pretty soon, you will be contributing more than you ever thought possible.
The fact that the savings rate is so low is proof of the difficulty of saving money and sticking to financial goals. Even so, there are things you can do to save money and start building an emergency fund. Even if you think you have no money to save, you can probably squeeze a few bucks from your budget and jump-start your savings goal.