Q: I want to buy a car eventually, so I’m trying to save money. But somehow all of it ends up going to small purchases. How can I stop spending and start saving?
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A: Saving even a little money per paycheck is harder than it looks. What has worked for me is essentially tricking myself into doing it!
First of all, make sure you have a savings account set up, not just checking. Next, ask your employer if you can re-do your direct deposit paperwork so that a portion of your paycheck goes straight there. (If you don’t have direct deposit, decide how much you want to put into savings per pay period and stick to it!) You can also look into a debit card that will transfer a small amount of money — usually $1 — into your savings for every purchase you make. You won’t notice those missing dollars until they start to add up and collect interest in your savings. Basically, you’re automating your savings practices. You won’t even have to think about it.
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Another thing you shouldn’t think about: spending that savings on anything but what you’re saving for. Do not yield to temptation to dip into it for more immediate wants. When that seems hard, envision what you’re trying to save for, whether that’s a car, a trip to Europe, or just a little financial independence. Visualization works in this case the same way it works at the gym when you visualize yourself upping your deadlift or running a half marathon. Picture yourself cruising down the highway with the radio pumped and you’ll be much less likely to spring for a top that won’t even be trendy six months from now.
If you need advice, ask your question in the comments, and it may be featured in an upcoming column.
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