Saving is one of the pillars of good financial management. In Thomas Stanley’s The millionaire next door which surveyed American millionaires to determine their habits to identify a common thread, he noted that millionaires are accumulators of wealth, saving and investing a greater portion of their income than most people do – before they become millionaires. If your goals are not quite as lofty as millionaire status saving could still help you just stay afloat. Saving is not however as easy as it is often made out to be. To master saving, there are certain things you really should possess which may not be so obvious.
This is really a starting point of saving and if you do not understand this one you are going to have a lot of trouble saving. Delayed gratification is in simple terms deferring or delaying partaking in an activity, in this case spending money. People are quick to tie delayed gratification to enjoying more later but we are talking about savings for now and we will keep the simple view that doesn’t involve the money – that will be another article altogether. Delayed gratification is only the start, with saving you are waiting for the unknown or unexpected.
One of the misunderstood things about money is that it affects your emotional state. Money acts like a drug, it alters your emotional state. In its presence or the expectation of its presence people become confident (more money will come), risk-seeking and excited. In its absence feelings of depression, pensiveness and pessimism prevail. So half the trouble is doing the things you know you ought to do when you have the money. It is something I had to learn and I believe anyone can. Observe your emotions in the presence and absence of money. Write down your thoughts, your real thoughts. You will start to understand that the spending you do in the presence of money is not quite your thoughts, you are under the influence.
While saving is a general activity that you should continuously do there is also such a thing as saving for goals. In fact, when talking to people who ask for saving advice I usually recommend that its best split up your savings so that a portion goes into the different funds and goals. Saving for the sake of saving is very difficult especially to someone new to saving. Saving toward specific goals or having goals and targets helps to keep the mind focused. So you must be comfortable with setting goals.
Goal setting is all good, goal achievement is a different set of skills. This is all about executing a vision, strategy or plan. Completely separate skills from those used to draft the plan in the first place. I’ve come across it all in my personal finance as well as the journeys of others. People make plans that seem simple enough to follow through on but never do. Saving in particular is hard because as mentioned before you are in one state of mind before you get the money and another one altogether afterwards. The ability to carry through with a plan long after the emotions or energy it was made with have dissipated is the key skill in execution.
Finally putting first things first is critical to your ability to save successfully. I’m not sure if I can say we have been taught to do things this way but people generally prioritise things based on urgency. While there are some circumstances where this is the best thing to do Quadrant II management teaches us a valuable lesson that is usually applied to time management but I think it applies to everything we do. Prioritising things based on importance is a better way of working. It prevents things from becoming both urgent and important by dealing with them while they are still non-urgent. It also removes focus from the unimportant. That’s my very long way of saying that prioritising should be based on what is important. Done right your life and your saving journey are smoother. You cannot (in most cases if not all) do everything at once, but you can choose to prioritise.
These five foundational principles learnt, practised and understood will help along your journey to becoming a better saver. Saving is the anchoring pillar of better personal financial management.