What to Do If You Struggle to Save Money

by Jillian Beirne Davi

One thing that I see many women struggle with as a personal finance coach is that they have trouble saving money on a consistent basis.

Sure, they may put some money aside when they receive a lump sum, but making it a regular habit is a bit trickier. It seems there’s always something that comes up at the end of the month that makes saving difficult.

One way to help you save on a more consistent basis is to get crystal clear on where the money will be spent once you’ve reached the goal.

See, money LOVES a purpose.   You are much more likely to save for something that truly matters to you than to save just because you think you “should.” Or because “it’s a good idea.”

Tell me if this sounds like you: You know you “should” get your finances in order and that you “should” be saving more.  You “should” spend less money. You “should” now where it goes…etc.

And because you don’t feel like you know where it goes, or that you’re saving enough you feel guilty, right?

Believe it or not, SHOULD is a horrible motivator.   It will not produce long-term results. “Shoulds” make you feel guilty, angry and resentful and ultimately will force you to quit.

Instead, I invite you to stop “shoulding” all over yourself and create a Big Savings Goal that really resonates with who you are!  One that connects with your core values. This is the key to financial success.

The #1 reason why women don’t save, or they don’t track what they spend, or budget properly is because they aren’t specific enough about WHY they are doing these things.

Before you start saving ask yourself: What is this money for? And WHY does it matter to me?  Before you start to create a budget ask yourself: What’s the budget going to help me to do?  WHY does it matter to me?  Before you start to dig yourself out of debt ask yourself:  What will being debt free help me to do? WHY does it matter to me?

So here is the process I share with my private clients when they’re looking to stick to a savings program long term, but are having trouble sticking to it.

How to Create a Savings Goal That Matters:

  1. Write down a Big Savings Goal that you’d like to achieve in the next 6 months. (Make this realistic but a bit of a stretch.  A million dollars in savings in the next six months is unlikely, for example. How about two times the amount of your net paycheck to start?)
  2. Now, write down the answers to three questions that will help you discover what truly matters to you:
  • What do I really want for myself in the future?  (List this out. Do you want to go back to school one day? Quit your job and start a business?  Get out of a soul-crushing job and try a new field entirely? Have a vacation? Get married, plan a wedding? Buy a new car? Help out family members?  Feel secure?)
  • How is this Big Savings Goal connected to what I truly value?  (The idea here is to connect this money goal with something that TRULY matters to you.  Many savings goal fail because we don’t know what’s meaningful for us.    What do you personally value?  Family? Travel? Exploration? Freedom?  More security? Will you feel proud of yourself, closer than you ever thought possible to quitting your job, taking that trip, owning a home?  When you connect your Big Savings Goal to a higher ideal, you will be more motivated to stay the course.)
  • What is the true cost of not reaching this Big Savings Goal?  Here’s a coaching tip:  We are all wired to keep things comfortable and stay the same.  So, in order to make changes in this area, we’ve got to raise the stakes!

Get REALLY honest with yourself about what will happen and how you feel if you take NO action on this today.   Fights with relatives, partners, spouses? The feeling of not getting ahead? Staying stuck in your job forever?  Not being able to travel or have new experiences?  Not being able to date or get married because of the shame around money? 

Get really clear on this. (Hint: This part feels bad.  And that’s good.)

Once you are crystal clear on what the money will be used for in the future, you’ll be better able to stick with it long term.  When faced with a tempting situation to “dip into the piggy bank” you can quickly ask yourself if the short term use is more important than the long-term goal that really matters to you.

When you are crystal clear and what the money will be used for, how the money connects to your core values and what the cost of not taking action on this goal is, you have a powerful recipe for change.

You’ll be able to stick to your savings plan for the long-haul. (And it might even feel GOOD too!)


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