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PFCollege: How To Make Saving A Habit

Why is the savings rate of most Americans negative? It’s because our culture of instant gratification and easy access to credit has changed the paradigm of buying from “save up money to buy” to a “borrow money to buy” mentality. You cannot leverage the future to pay for today and expect to come out ahead! So, the very first step in improving your finances is to make saving money a habit. Making saving money a habit is most important, and easiest, when you’re still in college because it establishes a new, arguably better, method of thinking about spending – saving up before you spend instead of charging it. It’s also easier during college because the things you’re saving for are likely lower in value (a car instead of a house) so you can reach your goals a little faster.

1. Write down your goals – Are you saving up $500 to make a down payment on a car? According to someone more distinguished than I (though I can’t remember his or her name), people who put their goals into words are more likely to achieve them. Seeing the goal is a reminder that you’re in a “save” mode and that you’re saving for something. Instead of “I’m not getting a soda with my lunch because I want to save a few bucks” it becomes “I’m not getting a soda with my lunch because I want to save a few bucks so I can put down a $500 down payment to buy a new Honda Civic that I can drive around!

2. Track your savings – Do what fundraisers do when they put up a poster with a thermometer or a bar on it showing progress, make your own “car down payment” bar and be sure to update it when you save the money up. Constantly remind yourself of your progress, how you’re a couple steps closer to getting that set of car keys for your car.

3. Tell other people – Tell your friends you’re trying to save money to buy a car and they can act as a support group (because you’ll be giving them rides!). Perhaps they’ve been looking to save a few dollars for something else and you could find inexpensive things to do besides go to the bar or clubs (consider going to the riviting game of Dungeons and Dragons going on right now somewhere in some dorm – guaranteed!).

Those are only three tips out of a gazillion, if anyone has any tips on how they try to get themselves to save please do share!

This article is part of a new series I’ve started called Personal Finance for College Students [3] (hence, PF College).