Have you ever worked a side hustle or tried budgeting in order to save money? How did it go? Unfortunately, these tactics might help in the short term but they do not make a lifelong difference for most people. If you are looking to make a long-lasting change that makes saving money easy then this article was written for you. I used to be terrible at saving money until I started using the system explained in this article. Before we get into the details of this saving system, I want to look at the mistakes that I was making that kept me from being able to save because I think you might be making them as well.
The biggest mistake that most people make when it comes to saving money is thinking they can't begin saving right now. The two excuses that stopped me from saving money were, "I don't make enough money to save" and "I spend too much because I'm bad at sticking to a budget" Here's the thing with excuses, we either have our excuses, or we have the results we want to produce. You can't have both. let's look more closely at these excuses and see if they actually hold up or if their logic is flawed.
The first excuse we will look at is, "if I made more money, then I could start saving money." It is possible that this is true, but when I looked honestly for myself, I knew I was selling myself some grade-A bullshit. let's use a thought experiment to dissect this further. Remember, it really helps to be totally honest with yourself here.
If you made $10 less every week, would you still be able to pay all your bills and put food on the table? If you made an extra $10 every week, would you save it or spend it? If your income changed by $20 a week up or down, would that drastically change your situation? What about $30?. If the answer is yes, your bills will get paid, and no, you wouldn't save it, then making more money would not result in you saving more money. You could be putting that money toward savings right now. You just need some help doing it, that’s all.
The second excuse is something like, "I spend too much, and I'm bad at budgeting, so I can't save money." Let me end this excuse once and for all. Budgeting is not for everyone, and often it's not for beginners who are just starting out. Sure it can be beneficial, but don't let your fear of spreadsheets stop you from saving money. I didn't start using spreadsheets until after I saved my first $10,000. So don't tell me that sticking to a budget is necessary for saving money. If budgeting every penny helps you, that's awesome! If you've tried sticking to a budget and it didn't work for you, it doesn't mean your bad with money. it just means you need to explore other methods for saving.
As for spending too much, I'll be honest, I enjoy spending money. I'm not ashamed to admit this. Without a system in place to keep me from spending I would probably be in the same place I was ten years ago. This system works and I have refined and evolved this system over the years to be as effective as possible for anyone willing to try it.
So once you give up these excuses, all that should be left is, "I'm ready to start saving. What do I do now?" The secret to building up your savings is to make your money easy to save and hard to spend. Let's look at why this method works so well before we put these 5 simple steps into action
What is the hardest part about working out? For most people, it's putting on your workout clothes and getting to the gym. Once you're there, you're pretty much guaranteed to do a workout. What if you had a machine that automatically picked you up off the couch, put on your workout clothes for you, and teleported you to the gym? You would almost certainly get a lot more workouts done. And what if the switch to turn off the machine was located in multiple, hard-to-reach places. To stop this device, you would have to go and manually turn each and every switch off in order to turn off the whole thing. All of a sudden, the chances of you getting in a workout have greatly improved. This system makes it easy to work out and hard not to work out. Unfortunately, this technology doesn't exist (yet) for working out, but it does exist for saving money.
The system I am going to describe is often referred to as "the bucket system," where multiple bank accounts or "buckets" are used to hold your money. This makes it easier to see how much money you actually have to spend by removing the money you don’t want to spend from your main checking account. We will make a few adjustments to the traditional system to make the buckets easy to put money into and difficult to get money out of. I will provide a visual explanation of this whole process, so don't worry if it starts to feel a bit confusing. Once you set this up, you never have to deal with it again, just set it and forget it!
Step one) Let's start with your current bank account. we will call this "Bank one." I want to be sure that whatever bank account you currently use is a no-fee/ no minimum account (I will provide a list of these banks toward the end). Some of the accounts will only hold money for short periods, and I don't want you to get charged for only having $1 in the account. You should have one checking account or "primary bucket" and one savings account, which we will call a "transfer bucket." This savings account will not hold money for very long; its purpose is to provide a quick place to hold your savings before it gets transferred to "Bank two." We will soon talk about this second bank. For now, just make sure you have a bank with no fees, no minimum balance requirement, and one checking and one savings account.
Step two) You will set up your first automatic transfer from your checking to your savings to occur as frequently as you get paid. I will talk about weekly transfers because a lot of people reading this earn freelance/irregular income. If you get paid every two weeks, then adjust for every two weeks rather than weekly.
How much should you transfer? To start, I suggest you transfer enough to cover your fixed monthly expenses (rent + utilities + cell phone + any other fixed monthly expenses) and 10% of your Income. If your income fluctuates, then just estimate how much you make in a week on average and use 10% of that.
What I hear from many freelancers is that they are worried that they might overdraft their account if they have a slow week, so they cant set up a system like this. My response to this concern is that you won't know until you try it. You might find yourself paying a bit more attention to your account balance because you know you have this transfer set up. checking your account more frequently will only support you in building better spending habits. And altho I don’t recommend it, you can always cancel the transfer for one week and allow it to resume the following week. You can also start out with 5% instead of 10% of your income.
You are now creating clarity and peace of mind by automatically tucking away your fixed expenses while simultaneously building your emergency fund. once you have 3-6 months of living expenses saved for emergencies, you can put that money toward saving for a home, building a business, or investing for the future.
Step three) Even tho you have money automatically going from checking to savings, it is still too easy to get to this money, so we need to change that. You need to open up a bank account with a second no fee/no minimum bank. In "Bank two," you will set up two savings accounts.
Step 4) Now, you must link your savings account from bank one with bank two. I recommend setting this up on the website of bank two (pro tip, don't download the app for the second bank, this adds another layer of difficulty when trying to access this money). Just look for an option to "add bank account" in the options menu. If you are experiencing any confusion about how to do this, give the bank a call, don't be afraid to wait on hold to set your system up properly! Often banks use a system to confirm that they can trust that the other bank is your bank. They will send you two small amounts of money, and in about 2-3 business days, you will receive it and then enter in the amounts to confirm that the bank account belongs to you.
Step 5) Now that your bank one savings account is linked to bank two, you will set up two automatic transfers. The first transfer is 10% of income from bank one savings to one of the accounts in bank two. This account will become your emergency savings account. You should only dip into this account if you lose your job, are injured, or some other unforeseen event disrupts your life, such as a global pandemic. The second transfer will be your fixed monthly expenses from bank one savings to the other account in bank two. You will then set your rent and utility payments to pay directly from this account. Never again will you have to scramble at the end of the month to come up with rent money because it will be automatically saved and paid for you.
What you now have is the most basic version of an automatic saving system. It accomplishes getting your fixed monthly expenses handled, so you don't have to think about them, and it builds up your emergency fund. Once you have 3-6 months of living expenses saved, you can customize the system to save for other things like traveling, clothing, special date nights, or saving up for larger expenses like a car. You can also create investment accounts and retirement accounts and have those automatically funded as well. But don't rush; just starting with the basic system will be a big adjustment for some people and take time to get used to.
The blunt truth is that if you don't set up an automated saving system, you will likely struggle to save money for the rest of your life. Every day that goes by that you don't have a system set up for saving also puts you further away from achieving your financial goals. If you want to buy a house, start a business, retire comfortably, then you need an automated system for saving. Sure some people get lucky and strike it rich quickly. But those who do and do not have a system for saving will soon find themselves back where they started. For most of us, every large financial goal we ever hope to accomplish will be the result of saving money for many years, probably decades. There is no better time to start than right now.
If you take immediate action on these five steps, you will be building a foundation that will support everything you want to be up to in life. I don't believe that happiness comes from money by any means. But in my experience, having a system for saving money buys me peace of mind and freedom to live life by my own design. I have more time and creative energy to make the art I want to make. My wife and I have taken incredible trips across the country and across the globe that I would not have been able to afford if I didn't save regularly. I've accomplished things I never thought I'd be able to do, like buying a house and becoming the owner of a successful tattoo shop. I am so passionate about financial education because it has helped me create a fun and rewarding life full of possibility, and I want to help others do the same for themselves.
The bonus that you might not realize you will get from saving is that it will increase your earning potential over time. I first heard of this concept when I read "The Richest Man in Babylon" by George S. Clason. That book changed a lot about how I view money, and one of the new perspectives it gave me was from the first of the five laws of gold stated in the book-
This book was written about 100 years ago, and it bears acknowledging that this law applies to any person regardless of where they land on the gender spectrum. Based on my experience, this law has held true in my life. Saving money regularly has helped me expand how much I am capable of earning in the same way that planting a plant in a bigger pot helps it grow bigger. not only did I earn more money but I used the money I earned and saved to invest in myself and other profitable opportunities. I have developed confidence around the worth of my talents and my time, and I charge an amount that is fair for my clients and me. When it is time to raise my rates, I am confident because I have a safety net and passive income to help me during the transition. My emotional relationship with money changed after a few years of saving. I felt calmer and at ease when it came to talking about and dealing with money. Improving my relationship with money led to earning more and saving more. This cycle has continued for many years, and it all started when I built a foundational system for saving automatically.
If you are someone who has struggled with saving money, don’t let your past stop you from taking new actions. If you follow these steps exactly as I have laid them out, you will find that saving money can be easy and effortless. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know down below. If you would like extra support in building your saving system or want to speak with me about improving other areas of your financial life, please schedule a free Clarity Session with me. My specialty is working with artists and freelancers to improve their relationships with money and start saving and investing for the future. Together we will shed light on what has been holding you back and how to start moving In the right direction with your money.
Banks with no fee and no minimum balance
This is a list of banks in no particular order. I do not receive any compensation from these banks and I don’t have experience with all of them. For my two banks, I personally use Chase as bank one and Capital One as bank two. I am not recommending Chase simply because they do charge a fee if you go below the minimum account balance but I would recommend Capital One. I like that I can open up to 20 separate savings accounts and give each account a name so I know what it's for. I use this feature to save for multiple areas of my life. I believe other banks also offer this feature as well. my setup with capital one looks something like this.