In a 2019 survey, nearly 70% of Americans said that they have less than $1,000 in a savings account. That number increased from 58% in 2018. What’s the deal? Why is it hard for some to save money? 

Living paycheck to paycheck can get in the way of saving money. The practice can stem from issues like high cost of living, low salaries, or troublesome debt. Plus, some people may be “better” at saving because they’re able to hire financial planners, or they have better access to personal finance education.

That’s one reason why I share advice in these blog posts: regardless of your income level or previous experiences with money, everyone deserves to feel secure and happy with their finances.

While external factors can impact how we save our money, anyone can develop better savings habits. Understanding how you engage with money, keeping your goals in mind, and making good financial decisions can help you become a better saver.

Money stories carry into your adulthood

A money story is your complete experience with money: how you think about it, how you spend it or save it, how you work to gain it, and how you feel about it. This complete experience is rooted in your upbringing. What you were “taught” about money as a kid, including how to save it, usually carries over into adulthood.

Here are some examples of how your early experiences with saving money can impact your savings habits as an adult:

  • Your parents or family members rarely discussed saving money in a positive light.
  • Money always seemed to be tight, or it was spent as soon as it came in.
  • You weren’t really taught about different types of accounts, or how to use them.
  • Living paycheck to paycheck was the norm.
  • Your family never started or contributed to an emergency fund as you grew up.

Sound familiar? Thinking about these things can be uncomfortable and heavy, but it’s worth it if you want to start forming healthy financial habits.

Tips for being a better saver

There will always be obstacles that get in the way of your saving, but you can take action to become the best saver possible. 

Automate your savings.

One way you can improve at saving? Set it and forget it: automate your savings. Set up a portion of your paycheck so that it deposits directly into your savings account. You can do this on your end from checking account to savings account, or you can even have your employer divvy up your check so it’s out of your hands. If you don’t see it happen, you won’t think about it.

Motivate yourself.

Why do you want to save money? Knowing that you should be saving is different than being motivated to do it. Figure out what motivates you.

Maybe your motivation to save is positive, like buying a new home or a new car. Maybe you want to feel confident about supporting yourself or your family. Or maybe you’re more motivated if you scare yourself into saving! If life threw you a curveball recently (unexpected medical costs, a global pandemic, for example), you want to prepare your savings for the next big unknown. 

Check in with your money regularly.

Budgeting is usually not the most fun activity for anyone — unless you’re using the BudgetingBlocks™ system — but it’s necessary for being a good saver. You need a budget to calculate how much you can set aside towards savings, for one thing.

Use a budget to examine your expenses, look at your cash flow, pay bills, and plan for any bonuses or extra income. You’ll know exactly where your money is going. And knowing that part of your hard-earned money is going to your savings will feel good. 

Have someone in your corner.

Changing a habit is sometimes easier when you have a buddy who has your back. Fitness enthusiasts call it having an “accountability buddy,” but in this case, you need someone who will go beyond cheering you on.

You want someone in your corner who has a good understanding of your money story and your financial challenges. They’ll understand why you want to change your saving habits, help you build confidence, and keep you on track toward your goals.

Your money-saving journey is your own

The goal here is not to make you become better at saving money in an instant. It takes practice and dedication if you’re not naturally good at saving. Some people are wired that way; many are not. And either one is okay!

Remember that your money-saving journey may look very different from someone else’s. What we’re taught about money as kids and our relationship with money as adults has a huge effect on our money choices. Once you understand that, you can start making small changes that will make you a better saver over time.