Saving can be easy. Seriously, with just a little bit of work, figuring out how to pay less -- or not at all -- for specific goods and services is not really that difficult. Just Google "save money," and you will be inundated with page after page of solid suggestions.
Incorporating some of those ideas into your life could be a game changer. I say "could" because I think the more challenging task is to turn those savings into financial goodness. In other words, using the "found" money to boost your balance sheet. Reflect on those times when you've made good decisions, spent frugally or flat out abstained without seeing tangible positive results; the struggle is real.
In my mind, the magic happens when you turn your hard work, discipline and restraint into meaningful change. So, that's where I'll focus. Below, I've mapped out a four-step approach to take your savings game to the next level:
1. Identify the savings. Note that it happened. Skipping soda and opting for water? Saving gas by carpooling? Choosing generic instead of name brand? Refinancing your car loan? Canceling cable? Packing your lunch? Dragging the dogs into the shower with you? Borrowing from your local library's digital collection instead of buying? Hand-crafting your Christmas presents? These are but a few of the potential ways to find money, but the first step of your new process is to identify what you did and how much you saved. New tech or old school, identify and log your savings.
2. Establish a separate holding account/location. My immediate thought here is to set up a new savings account and nickname it "financial good." However, upon reflection, there might be a need for some hard currency locations. Along with a trusty old savings account, envelopes, desk drawers and change bottles or buckets could all be fine places to stash the fruit of your savings labor.
3. Transfer funds to the holding account. Whether you are stuffing an envelope with cash, dropping change into a jar or tapping "transfer" on your phone to slide money into your new savings account, this is the key step in the process. It's here that you pull the money you have saved out of circulation. It has been temporarily transferred to your holding account.
4. Create a redeployment strategy and routine. Now it's time to do some damage … in a good way. How often you gather up your savings and use it to pay down debt, save or invest is up to you. It's mostly about personal preference, but I think a monthly cadence works well. A month is long enough that you should have accumulated a good bit. Putting that not-insubstantial sum of money to work monthly should offer you the positive feedback that motivates you to continue the good work.
As you can see, this is not so much about doing something new, but rather about being more purposeful in what you do. End your catch-and-release program, and start working both elements of the savings game: saving ... and saving.