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Stop Making Excuses, Start Saving Money

closeup of woman's hand putting coin in piggy bank

There are plenty of reasons to save money (emergency, retirement, vacations, big purchases), but there are also plenty of excuses to put off saving. Here’s how to deal with them.

How much money do you have in savings?  Is it less than $1,000? If so, you’re not alone. Nearly 1/3 of American households have less than $1,000 in savings, according to Magnify Money. That’s not nearly enough to cover most people in an emergency, and certainly not enough to get you through retirement.

Excuse: “I don’t make enough money to save anything.”

This excuse is a tough one. The cost of living is going up, and wages aren’t rising as fast. It’s entirely possible; you don’t have enough money. However, there are a few things you can do to overcome this hurdle.

  • Find more work: Taking on a second job isn’t glamorous, but if you need to save money fast, it’s a solid option. If you’re not interested in employment with a second company, you could ask for more hours at work or pick up odd jobs on the side. Babysitting, dog walking, freelance design or writing, yard work, house cleaning, and auto repair are just a few things you can do when you have a little extra time.
  • Check your taxes: Lots of people enjoy getting a tax refund, but if you are withholding too much on taxes with each paycheck, that’s money you could be investing elsewhere with a higher return.
  • Increase your retirement contributions: Check with your company to see if they offer matching contributions to your retirement account and max out your contribution. So, if your boss offers to match your retirement contribution up to 6%, make sure you’re having 6% of your pay deferred to your retirement account. With the company match, you’re doubling your savings, pain-free.

Excuse: “I don’t have any expenses to cut.”

One of the easiest ways to save money is to plug the holes in your budget. If you’re someone who thinks there is no wiggle room for savings in your budget, check again. You don’t have to save a lot of money on all your bills—even a few dollars per month on several bills can add up. A few of the most common categories to look at include:

  • Entertainment: Trim your entertainment budget by finding free events and activities in the community, hitting a matinee instead of a night-time movie, checking out movies or books from the library (free!), or going to the park for a walk or bike ride instead of going to expensive concerts or paying for cable.
  • Insurance: You can get free price quotes from auto and life insurance online. You may have to deal with some inbound calls from insurance companies, but it may be possible to save $50 or more per month by switching insurance companies or plans.
  • Food: You don’t have to turn into a professional coupon shopper, but being more conscientious about your shopping trips can save you a lot of money. Buy meat in bulk when it’s on sale and freeze it, plan your meals around the sale ads, use a co-op for fruits and vegetables, or even grow your garden.

Perhaps the best way to save money on food is to cook it at home. If you cooked one extra meal at home per week (for a family of four), you could easily save about $250 per month over eating out.

Excuse: “I don’t know where to start.”

Man stressed while working on laptop

One reason people don’t save is that they have no idea where their money goes every month. The very first thing you should do is account for every dollar you spend. Financial Expert Suze Orman says: “It’s impossible to map out a route to your destination  if you don’t know where you’re starting from.”

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Figure out your expenses: Grab a sturdy notebook and a pen. Then, write down all your expenses. You could also grab a copy of a budget sheet like this one from the Federal Trade Commission. It helps to have a copy of your bills, bank statements, and credit card statements on hand.
  • Identify your income: Do you know how much money you bring home every month? Use your most recent paystubs to average your take-home pay; this will give you a number to start from. If your income varies every month, you’ll have to do some math to figure an average amount you can use as the base of your budget.
  • Budget to zero: Financial expert Dave Ramsey teaches the zero-based budget. Essentially, you want to know where every single dollar you bring in goes every month. You’ll need to be very specific about how you divvy up your income. If you have extra money after you’ve divided your income towards all your bills, add the extra towards savings or paying off debt. Knowing that every dollar has a home for makes it easier to save money and less likely that you’ll overdraw your bank account.

Excuse: “I’ll start later.”

Think of starting a savings account as a college essay. The first day your teacher assigns it, you think, “I’ve got a month before the paper is due. I’ll start it later.” The next week, you still have three weeks. That seems like plenty of time. However, eventually that time whittles away, and now you must write a fifteen-page paper in two days. Chances are your grade—or your sanity—is going to suffer (likely both). The same applies to your money.

Starting your savings earlier means one of two things: You can save less over the long run to earn enough money for retirement or you can save more longer and have more money for your golden years. Either way, due to the power of compound interest, saving even a little bit of money now is better than waiting until crunch time.

If you’re still on the fence about saving money, now is the time to hop off and get to work. Saving money now can make facing unexpected health issues, job loss, or accidents a little less stressful.

Angela Brown Angela Brown
Angela has 14 years of writing and editing experience, including as a reporter and copy editor for two newspapers. Angela has a Bachelor's in communication with minors in creative and technical writing from BYU-Idaho. She works closely with real-estate and financial industry clients. Read Full Bio »
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