Saving is key to reaching your goals and making it through tough financial times unscathed. But that doesn't mean it's always easy to stick with. Like so many important parts of adulting—going to the dentist, picking insurance or doing your laundry—setting money aside for the future may sometimes just feel like a drag.
But it doesn't have to be. When sticking to saving feels like an uphill battle, find ways to stay determined and get excited about your good money moves. Here are six ways to stay motivated to save—so you can stick with it for the long haul.
1. Start With Your Goals
Sometimes, sticking with your desire to save more money can come down to keeping your eye on the prize. What do you want to achieve by saving? Start by setting clear intentions and visualizing the financial life you want to create through saving.
For example, some common goals that people save toward include:
- Building an emergency fund with enough cash to cover three to six months' worth of basic expenses
- Saving for a down payment on a house or a new car
- Creating sinking funds for irregular expenses such as home and auto repair, new appliances, insurance payments or a holiday spending fund
- Saving up for something just because—a dream vacation, luxury retail buy or the like
Whatever inspires you to save, getting clear on what you want can help you set priorities and avoid tapping into funds you promised yourself you'd save. You could even write down your goal and place it somewhere you'll see it often, or try setting a calendar notification on your phone to remind yourself of your goal every morning or week. That can help you kick temptation to dip into your funds to the curb.
2. Save Smarter, Not Harder
When it comes to building a consistent saving habit, the key is to make it easy by removing barriers. Automating your savings can help you get there.
To use automation to make saving easier, set up automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings account each payday. You may also be able to split up your direct deposit so that a set amount goes directly into savings. If that money never lands in your checking account at all, you won't have to battle the temptation to spend it.
3. Try a Money-Saving Challenge
Starting a savings challenge can help you get excited about saving. It's a fun way to push yourself to stash away more money by setting specific rules and striving to achieve them. Here are a couple of the most popular savings challenges to try:
- 52-week money challenge: For this challenge, you start by saving $1 in week one, $2 in week two, $3 in week three and so on, increasing by a dollar each week until the end of the challenge. When you're finished, you'll have set aside a total of $1,378.
- No-spend challenge: To complete this challenge, come up with a set period of time, such as a weekend, week or month, and vow to only spend on essentials for that period. You can pair this challenge with other frugal moves, such as meal prepping and eating through your pantry, to give your savings a boost.
You can also switch it up and personalize your challenge. For example, you could try challenging yourself to avoid buying lunch out for a month and track how much you save.
4. Save With a Friend
If you know someone who's also trying to set and reach new savings goals, ask if you can partner up as accountability buddies. Finding someone with similar goals to you can help you create a support system and find someone to celebrate your wins (and commiserate your challenges) with.
5. Get Inspired by Others
You can find inspiration to stick with your savings goals by checking out media from other people who are excited about building good financial habits. There's a wealth of knowledge and strategies on the web from experts and everyday finance enthusiasts alike—from online communities and blogs to structured personal finance courses.
For those who prefer analog, there's a world of books on finance to pick from. For an inspiring pick, check out recent New York Times bestseller "Get Good With Money" by Tiffany Aliche (AKA "the Budgetnista"). Aliche breaks down the journey to building financial security and wealth into 10 achievable steps, including building up savings.
Wherever you find inspiration, plugging into content from creators in the finance space can help you stay motivated to stick with your own saving goals.
6. Celebrate Your Progress
Saving isn't easy, especially when competing financial priorities and unexpected expenses are stretching you thin. Set small milestones for yourself and find a way to celebrate each time you meet one.
Why? For one, you deserve it. Two, it can give you a boost to keep going and help your mind associate the work of saving with the gratification of completing your goal.
For example, if you're trying to save $5,000 by the end of the year, you could break it up into 10 milestones of $500 each. Every time you hit one of your milestones, find a low-cost way to treat yourself.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
When it comes to improving your full financial picture, being consistent is key. It takes grit to keep saving and embrace good habits like budgeting, saving and investing when temptations lurk all around us. But perseverance can help you build a strong financial foundation.
Rather than trying to get there overnight, focus on "paying yourself first" by setting a portion of each paycheck aside. Over time, that small, consistent habit can help you feel prepared for emergencies and hit your goals, big and small.