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Shutterstock/urfin The savings rate in America is dismal, and it’s heading in the wrong direction. According to the latest data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the personal savings rate in America is 4.5 percent, down from 5.6 percent the previous year.
But do you know what’s the greatest hindrance to you increasing your savings? You. Your brain is the biggest thing holding you back from saving more, and one of the best ways to combat this is to trick yourself. You have to make savings a game. Here are five sneaky ways to do so.
1. Take the 52-Week Challenge and Increase Savings Weekly
The 52-week savings challenge helps you save more money without even realizing it. Starting with the first week of January, save $1 in a piggy bank or savings account of your choosing.
For every week, you increase your savings based on the corresponding number of that week. For example, during the second week of January you’ll save $2 for that week. The third week you will save $3 in your piggy bank. And now you have $1, $2 and $3 for total of $6 saved over the first three weeks.
By December, you’ll be saving $49, $50, $51 and $52. And at the end of one year, you will have saved $1,378.
Even though the year has already started, it’s not too late to start the 52-week challenge. You won’t have to add much money to your piggy bank for the initial few weeks.
There is a great 52-week challenge worksheet from Jeff Rose, a certified financial planner, on his website, Good Financial Cents.
2. Set Aside Your Savings from the Grocery Store
Every time I buy something at the grocery store, the cashier hands me my receipt and tells me how much I saved during my trip. The savings, of course, come from using my loyalty card.
My mother-in-law and father-in-law have a great system for their grocery loyalty cards. They take the amount listed on the bottom of their receipt that they saved with their loyalty card, and they put that in the savings account or piggy bank.
It’s money that you would’ve spent anyway if you had been shopping without your loyalty card. And it is a fast way to build up your savings without even realizing that you’re doing so.
3. Only Use Folding Money, and Drop the Change in a Coin Jar
Not only do my wife and I balance our family’s monthly budget with a credit card, but we also do not spend coins. Instead we make as many cash purchases as we can by using only bills. At the end of each day, we take all of the change that we’ve accumulated and put it in a coin jar. My coin jar sits on top of my dresser, where it reminds me to put my change in it.
You’d be surprised how much money you can save that way. My wife routinely saves more than $500 a year in change.
4. Find Debit Cards that Round Up Your Purchases
There are a host of credit cards and debit cards on the market today. You can find cards that provide you reward points, frequent flyer miles, double miles, membership in elite clubs, and the list goes on and on.
One interesting type of debit card rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar. Your bank then deposits the amount rounded up into a savings account. At Bank of America, the programs called Keep the Change. Using such programs, your painless savings can quickly add up to a couple hundred dollars or more over the course of a year.
5. Keep Making ‘Payments’ After You Pay Off a Loan
What do you do after you have paid off your car loan? What should you do with cash you’ve dedicated to your mortgage payment after you own the deed to your house? Keep making the payment to yourself, of course, and put the same amount of money into a savings account.
What you want to avoid is lifestyle creep. You’ll never know that it is missing from your budget. You already have it factored into your monthly spending. Simply keep making those payments to yourself.
Saving money doesn’t have to be a long, laborious endeavor. It doesn’t have to be a pain. In fact, you will have better success if you can make it a game.
Americans are not saving enough money. We are underfunding our retirement accounts and have inadequate emergency funds. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We do not have to be victims. We can trick ourselves into saving more.
What are the best ways you use to trick yourself into saving money? Tell us in the comments below.
Hank Coleman is a financial planner and the publisher of the popular personal finance blog Money Q&A, where he answers readers’ tough money questions. Follow him on Twitter @MoneyQandA.
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