I’ve tried numerous budgeting methods. Everything from detailed budget sheets that outlined where every dollar should go, to analyzing my bank statements each month to see where I can cut down on extra spending. As well-intentioned as these ideas are, I couldn’t stick with them. After a month or two, the task becomes tedious. Eventually, I’d give up and start over with another method, determined that this time, this one would stick.
Ultimately, saving money is not a complicated matter; you simply must spend less than you earn. A “good” budget is one you can maintain. Consistency is key. So how do you remain consistent? Automate your savings.
You need to make saving money as easy and automatic as possible. Otherwise, you’re not going to do it. The premise is straightforward: save a percentage of your income each month by diverting money directly into your savings account. That’s it!
But how much should you save? And how exactly do you do this? Read on to find out.
#1: Calculate Your Expenses
Total how much you spend on necessities — rent, food, utilities, gas/transportation, phone bill, etc. Next, determine how much you spend on optional, “nice-to-have” items or activities — clothing, entertainment, travel, etc.
#2 Find Your Net Monthly Income
This is the total amount of money you bring in after taxes. Subtract your total expenses from your net monthly income. How much is left? What percentage of your monthly income remains? Can you cut anything else to save a little more? Make sure to keep some wiggle room, however, because if you don’t, you will get fed up and won’t stick to the plan.
#3 Save 10–30% of Your Monthly Income
If you can save more, that’s great! If saving 10% feels likes a stretch, start small, even if it’s just $20 a month. However, I would challenge you to look at your expenses and really evaluate if all are necessary.
Once you have this information figured out, the next step is to automate it.
If you get a monthly paycheck, send the percentage you’re saving directly into your savings account. The rest can be directly deposited into your checking account.
Here’s an example:
Monthly Net Income: $4,500
Monthly Expenses: $3,600
Now, you can spend what is your checking account (although that doesn’t mean you have to spend the entire amount each month). Also, don’t touch what is in your savings. Do everything you can to leave your savings account alone. Once your savings gets to a specific amount, take a portion and invest that money instead of keeping it in your bank account. That’s it!
A few words of caution: you might be tempted to manually put a specific amount into savings and checking each month instead of automating this task. Don’t do this. Why? Because you’re giving yourself a monthly task to do. And let’s be real, you’re not going to do this consistently. You’ll get busy and forget, or be tempted to put in $400 this month because of XYZ reasons.
Hold yourself accountable and automate this task. If you have to transfer money from your savings back into your checking account for a particular reason one month, that’s fine. However, make that a task you have to do occasionally, not the other way around. Limit the temptations to save less!
I’ve found this method to be the easiest and most straightforward way to save money each month. Experiment if this method works for you. Do you have another plan that works for you? Let me know! Leave a comment below or feel free to reach out to me on Instagram @KellieCockrell. In the meantime, cheers to saving money!
By: Kellie Cockrell
This post was originally published on November 6, 2018, and has since been updated.