You Can Afford To Save (and Here's How to Do It)

by Adrianna Domingos-Lupher, AFC®
Editor-in-Chief, NextGen MilSpouse
Creator, Military Money Chica

"I don't have/earn/make enough money to save."  I can't tell you how many times I've heard this line as a financial counselor.  It always stops me in my tracks, no matter who it’s coming from.  I've heard it from clients when I worked in personal financial management in Airman and Family Readiness. I've heard it working with clients facing the decision whether or not to file bankruptcy. And any time I hear it, my first thought is, "Yes, you do. You can save. It's all a matter of choice and perspective."

Don't Give Your Money Power Over You

When you tell yourself you don't make enough money to save, what you're really saying to yourself is that your money is in control of you.

It's easy to throw your hands in the air and say "I can't save and there's nothing I can do about it." There is always something YOU can do about ANYTHING. The moment you choose to be powerless, is the exact moment you resign yourself to staying exactly where you are.  And nothing will change because you've said it can't be done. Sometimes you have to rewrite the story you're telling yourself about your finances.

Old story: "I can't save and there's nothing I can do about it."

New story: "Okay, money is tight. I don't have a lot of room in my budget. What do I need to do to change that?"

See how that little shift in perspective created the possibility for choice and puts you back in control of the situation? It's that simple.

8 Ways to Save When Money is Tight

1. Be honest with yourself
If you own a smartphone, get your hair/nails done, have the latest technology, go on vacation, or are constantly adding to your wardrobe (and your credit card debt), you're choosing not to save. No ifs and/or buts about it.

2. Start small
Who said you have to sock away tons of money in order to "save"? Save what you can, when you can.  Save coins. Save a raise. Stop eating out at restaurants.  Drop the java habit (my personal vice).

3. Increase your income with a second job
If your expenses outweigh your income, you only have two choices: cut your expenses or increase your income. It's your choice.

4. Consider the unconventional
Carpool, give up cable and internet, get out of a costly cell phone contract, take on a roommate, create a childcare swap, sell unused clothing, electronics, furniture…you get the idea.

5. Downsize
Two car family? Become a one car family. Bigger houses have bigger utility bills. You get the idea.

6. Get Your Family On Board
When money is tight, we often want to hide it from our children, but it can get tough when you've got pre-teens and teenagers. Let them in just a little bit, and they may just get it when you say "we're not buying you a car." Even better? You're helping them learn the importance of personal finances for themselves.

7. Know when to ask for help
If you're barely scraping by, make sure that you are aware and are using any and all resources available to you to help you make ends meet.  WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) are programs that can help your budget breathe a little easier. 

8. Know Who to Go for in An Emergency
Even when we save, we can get hit with an unexpected expense that throws us of our feet.  Never turn to a payday loan, title loan, or pawnshop to help you secure funds during an emergency.

Think you can’t find the money to save?  We can help.  Find tips on saving and paying down debt. Pledge to save today.

Adrianna is the creator of Military Money Chica. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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