By Sarah Wall
This year, Wednesday, October 12, marks the fifth National Savings Day in the United States, giving us all the opportunity to recommit to strong money-saving principles. But with inflation persisting at 40-year highs, many Americans may feel that saving in 2022 seems hopelessly out of reach. Even worse, high inflation can paradoxically fuel a tendency to spend even more. One commentator in The Wall Street Journal noted how inflation could feed a kind of a scarcity principle, in which we feel the need to make unnecessary impulse buys to lock in the price before it hikes again.
Together, this psychological reaction, combined with a real need to spend more on everyday essentials—as prices on groceries and gas have skyrocketed—can certainly make the goals of National Savings Day feel more remote than ever. But taking a few discrete actions this month can go a long way to set you up for even greater financial success once inflation begins to ebb.
Create a Budget—and Stick to It
First, create a budget. These days, there are many easy, accessible ways to track your income and expenditures. Smartphone apps like Mint, Personal Capital, and YNAB (You Need a Budget) link directly to your accounts to automatically track the inflow and outflow of your money, and handy graphics show how much your net worth is changing. If you prefer, you can also manually create a budget in Microsoft Excel or in software like Quickbooks, which have the benefit of complete security since none of the information is stored over the internet.
Whichever method you choose, creating a budget is one of the top ways you can eliminate impulse buys and replace them with your saving goals. Set a goal each month for a portion of your budget to go into multiple savings accounts, including through your bank, through your retirement fund, and through the stock market.
Put a Portion of Your Income into Savings Automatically
The easiest way to ensure you save a portion of your income every month is to save it automatically. Speak with your colleague in HR or in accounting about adjusting your direct deposit information so that a set amount or percentage of your paycheck is deposited you’re your individual savings account. Even something as small as $50 or $100 per paycheck can add significant growth over time. Of course, you should also set up a portion of your paycheck to go into your retirement account, making sure to take full advantage of your company’s match policy as well.
Make Sure Your House Isn’t Leaking Money
Since it’s typically between the “air conditioning” season and the “heating” season, autumn is one of the best times of year to have an energy efficiency audit conducted in your home or business. This generally involves dispatching energy experts to inspect the building’s insulation, windows, doorframes, plugs, and other areas where improvements can be made to ensure the heat and electricity you pay for aren’t escaping and being wasted. State and local governments or utility companies often run programs that make these audits affordable, but even if a full audit isn’t an option for you right now, there are even easier things you can do to cut your electricity bills down. Switching your lightbulbs to LED, unplugging appliances that aren’t in use (even the ones powered off can still use phantom electricity), and turning down your heat a few degrees when you’re gone for the day can lead to significant utility bill savings.
Eat Out Less, Cook More
Committing to eating out less and cooking more has myriad benefits, not just for your bank account but for your mind and body, too. Grabbing lunch at the café near your office or swinging by Chik-Fil-A when you’re running errands on Saturday may seem like insignificant purchases, but when compounded over a few months, they can add up to hundreds of dollars.
No matter how much money you currently spend eating out, start by halving it—switch Subway for a packed lunch twice per week, or change date night at your favorite restaurant from weekly to twice monthly. You’ll not only save money, but you also might improve your mental health, since studies suggest that people who cook their own food are more confident and can concentrate better than people who don’t.
National Savings Day 2022
This October, incorporating the principles of National Savings Day is a little more challenging than usual as inflation continues to take a toll on all our finances. But by taking small, manageable steps towards financial stability—from using a budget to cutting down on restaurant meals—we can set ourselves up for even greater saving habits in the future.