by Gene Walden
Is your retirement savings plan keeping up with your long-term goals and objectives? If not, you might need to change your attitude on saving and investing. And you may be able to do it without making a significant change in your lifestyle.
Saving just a few more dollars each week could have a dramatic effect on the amount you’ll save over the long-term. Saving just an extra $200 a month ($2,400 a year) can add tens of thousands of dollars to your retirement nest egg over the long-term through the power of compounding.
The first step is to develop a savings mentality. That means putting your savings first and your material needs second. In other words, as the saying goes, “the secret of financial success is to spend what you have left after saving rather than saving what you have left after spending.”
Spending money on new clothes, home furnishings and electronics, a better car, concerts, ball games, or trips to far-off destinations is certainly more fun and exciting than sending a check to your bank or financial advisor. But you can have it both ways—a solid savings plan and the ability to buy the things you want—in moderation. But first you need to pay yourself. Give yourself the peace of mind and the control of your financial life that only a solid savings plan can offer.
The savings discipline is really just a mindset. It’s you taking control of your spending impulses, recognizing the long-term picture, and making a subtle change in your money mentality. What is that change? Instead of spending first and saving second, pay yourself first—with a deposit into your savings or investment account—and use the dollars you have left to buy the things you want.
There are several areas where many of us tend to overspend. By cutting back your spending in those areas, you should have more money available to save or invest. Here are some of the areas that tend to attract too much of our discretionary dollars:
Dining out. Dining at a nice restaurant—with wine or drinks—can make for a very expensive evening out. There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself or your family to an occasional dinner out, but make it a special occasion. Schedule it in advance and don’t do it on the spur of the moment. You can also cut back on costs by meal sharing—many restaurants serve meals that are too large for most of us to eat at one time. By splitting an appetizer and an entrée, you can still enjoy a great meal, but at half the cost. You might also look for two-for-one deals and other specials to keep your dining costs to a minimum.
Automobiles. By buying a new car, you lose thousands of dollars in value the minute you drive it off the lot. Slightly used cars can be a much better value.
Clothing. It may be essential in your business or social setting to keep your wardrobe up-to-date; just don’t overdo it. Buy classic styles rather than trendy fashions so you can use your clothes longer, and accessorize in order to give a fresh look to some of your older attire.
Vacations. There’s no question that traveling is an important part of life for many of us, but you can save money on your travels by shopping for bargains or timing your trips to coincide with off-season rates. You can still enjoy the pleasure of traveling to some great vacation spots, but look for ways to do it at a reduced cost.
It’s never a problem finding ways to spend your money, but if you need to bolster your retirement savings, you should develop a savings mentality that helps you save first and spend later.