Recently, we came across a simple piece of money advice from billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban on his Maverick blog that we felt resonated in today’s money-stressed world. Cuban answers the question “so what should you do to get rich?” with this point first and foremost: “Save your money. Save as much money as you possibly can. Every penny you can. Instead of coffee, drink water. Instead of going to McDonald’s, eat mac and cheese. Cut up your credit cards. If you use a credit card, you don’t want to be rich. The first step to getting rich requires discipline. If you really want to be rich, you need to find the discipline.”
Indeed plenty of pros agree with him that saving money can make you, if not rich, then at least richer (and the good news is this: savings accounts are now paying far more than they did a year ago, and you can find the best rates you can get here). But, just like Cuban says, saving money does require discipline. So what does it take to create the discipline to save money early and often?
Ask yourself this question – then do a deep follow-up on it
“The first step is you have to want to make changes,” says certified financial planner Spencer Betts of Bickling Financial Services. So ask yourself: Do I really want to achieve this goal? If the answer is yes — truly, really, yes — then you’re on your way.
Then look at why you answered yes — what will it mean for your life to have money saved? How will it improve your life in a meaningful way? Financial therapist Rick Kahler says he’s seen people go from saving nothing to saving $5,000 per month after exploring their emotions and beliefs around money. “There are lots of things a person can do to strong-arm themselves into a short-term behavior change, but they often just don’t last. This is a case where a person needs to slow down to go fast. The results are that people who spend thousands of dollars and many years trying to obtain [wealth] via short [cuts], could have reached [that goal] much faster if they slowed down and looked under their psychological hood,” says Kahler.
Create a specific, and reasonable, goal
Then, having a specific goal in mind for making the change can be helpful. “Anytime you change how you spend money, it’s going to feel weird. You’re going to have to change your lifestyle in some way, so having a good reason for making that type of change is good to focus on,” says Betts.
Starting with small changes, rather than big ones, can help keep you on track without feeling like you’ve lost control. Maybe it’s something as little as saving $100 extra every paycheck. Another tip: “Look at your monthly recurring spending to see if there are services you’re paying for that you no longer need. This is good to do periodically, like every six months. Are there any charges that can be avoided in the future like late payments, ATM fees or overdrafts,” says Betts.
Much like Cuban proffers, Betts says making coffee at home instead of picking it up, or cooking more at home instead of eating out can increase your monthly budget. “Even though these expenses may seem small, if you can reduce spending $25 per week, that means an extra $1,300 in savings after 1 year,” says Betts.
Look at your past behavior to avoid future mistakes
Mistakes can derail us — and while you will make some, avoiding as many as you can will help you stay on track. So look at what’s derailed your saving money in the past. Betts says one of the most popular questions he gets from clients ages 16 to 60 is how they can develop the discipline to save more money. One of the first things he tells these clients? “Try to understand the why behind any past financial mistakes, why did you feel the need to make the purchase, sign up for the service or overextend yourself financially? We need to understand our motivation for spending money so we can make changes going forward,” says Betts.
Reward yourself along the way
“To build up the habit of saving, every time a person saves they should reward one of the senses,” says Julia Kramer, financial behavior and leadership consultant at Signature Financial Planning.
Use these simple hacks
Kramer says research has shown that simple techniques such as naming a savings account, visualizing a savings goal or having a picture of a savings goal and looking at it for several minutes a day increases savings rates around 5% to 7%. “I joke with my clients that it’s free and has no calories, so why not try,” says Kramer.
Automate your savings
To do this, set up an automatic transfer from a checking account to a savings account. See the best savings account rates you can get here.
Be smart with windfalls
Should you come into money from a bonus or tax refund — it’s important to pay attention to your psyche. “When clients receive a windfall, we think about having some fun today and having some fun in the future. This way clients have the opportunity to enjoy the present while planning for the future.
Certified financial planner Marguerita Cheng says you can do to redue the temptation to overspend by not storing your credit card information online. “You can also minimize the number of apps you have which makes it harder to splurge,” says Cheng.
Know that mistakes will happen — and have a plan to get back on track
Ultimately, Kramer says be kind to yourself and understand that most of us are hardwired to discount the future. “We are still wired for prehistoric life so worrying about today at the expense of today is an evolutionary adaptation. Our brains haven’t fully adapted to the current world,” says Kramer.
As for the things you should be sure to steer clear of, Cuban penned this in a 2015 blog: “There are no shortcuts. None. With all of this craziness in the stock and financial markets, there will be scams popping up left and right. The less money you have, the more likely someone will come at you with some scheme. The schemes will guarantee returns, use multi-level marketing or be something crazy that is now ‘backed by the US government.’ Please ignore them. Always remember this. If a deal is a great deal, they aren’t going to share it with you.”
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