In our era of instant gratification, it’s too easy to spend hard earned cash and much harder to save money. Our credit card information is saved directly to our phones or devices, we can shop virtually anytime from anywhere, and there are shopping carts on every website, happily holding onto every item we’ve ever been vaguely interested in buying.
But despite temptation, there are still tricks to keeping the “checkout” button at bay. Read on for five ideas on how to save your money and delay instant gratification.
1. Automate your savings
Before you ever even think about spending, put your money where you can’t touch it! Contact your employer or your financial institution to set up automatic transfers so that a portion of your paycheck always goes to a savings or investment account. If you (like so many of us) find it too easy to transfer savings back into your checking account, try opening a savings account at a completely different credit union or bank. You’ll still have access to your money, but it will be much harder to get to if you need to wait until the next business day for your transfer between financial institutions to go through.
2. Visualize yourself achieving your financial goals
Visualization is a powerful motivational tool, especially when it comes to money matters. Picturing why you want to save your money helps put money matters at the front of your mind and gives you a clear “finish line” to pursue.
Try visualization by creating a vision board. The images you choose may include vacation destinations, large ticket items you’d like to purchase, activities you want to do in retirement, or something else! If vision boards aren’t your thing, try writing a detailed description of what you want from your savings. Get very specific! If your goal is to save money for a house, include details on how big the house should be, where it will be located, what color walls you see, and more. It won’t matter if the house you buy doesn’t look exactly like your vision, only that you put yourself in the right state of mind to pursue what you want. You can always change your goals later!
3. Identify and avoid your spending triggers
We all have weak spots when it comes to spending. Maybe your spending trigger is shopping out of boredom. Or perhaps you use retail therapy to alleviate negative feelings. Whatever your spending triggers may be, it’s important that you identify and avoid them as much as possible.
For the impulsive online shoppers among us, it may help to spend some time away from the internet. Try putting your phone or device in a drawer in a completely different room, out of sight and (hopefully) out of mind. If shopping is an emotional reaction, it may help to find healthier coping mechanisms. That could mean spending 30 minutes playing with your furry pets, going for a walk through nature, or calling a friend or family member just to chat.
4. If you can’t avoid triggers, then distract yourself
Sometimes avoiding our spending triggers is just not possible. In cases like these, it may be helpful to actively distract yourself from spending money. For example, try watching a movie instead. Often, we become so engrossed in a good story we forget what we were doing before. Other distracting ideas may include cooking a meal, reading a book, listening to good music, downloading a podcast, or doing something else that grabs your attention. You’ll most likely be so focused on the task at hand that you forget about the impulsive shopping you were about to do.
5. Create a ritual of saving money
Strange as it sounds, studies show that rituals may help improve self-control. That doesn’t mean you have to wear a robe and light a bunch of candles for this concept to work. Something as simple as saying out loud, “This money is for my future,” before transferring it to your savings account could help you maintain a habit of saving your money.
Rituals work best when they’re significant to the individual. Spend some time thinking about what kind of ritual you’d like to incorporate. Maybe it involves writing down three financial goals before transferring money to your savings account. Or it could involve looking at your vision board of vacation destinations for 30 seconds before moving money into savings. Or it could mean giving your kid a kiss on the cheek as you transfer money to their college savings account. Just make sure the ritual is significant to you and that you perform it every time you save money!
Saving money isn’t always easy in the era of instant gratification. But by making a few lifestyle tweaks and following your budget, you can start to break old habits and build new positive behaviors around money.
Samantha Salazar is a University of Texas at Austin alum who has worked in the finance and marketing industry since 2011. She has a background as a CUNA Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor and is a Class II graduate of the Latina Leadership Institute (LLA). True to her millennial nature, Samantha loves coffee, covers her home in hanging plants, lives a frugal lifestyle, and works hard so that her dog, Olive, can have the backyard she deserves.