Military Saves Week is here and it is the perfect opportunity for men and women who serve or have served in uniform to get ahead financially. In this spirit, Navy Federal’s Member Service Representatives (MSRs), the seasoned savings professionals who advise its 8 million members every day, have a few tips for real life on how to save.
1. Reduce impulse spending
Take this tip from Nicole C.: “You can control your spending with a 30-day rule. If there's something you really want, but it's not an absolute necessity, this a great rule. Don't buy it. Write down the name of the item, the store, the price and day…Think about it over the next 30 days, and if at the end of the month you still want it, then purchase it.”
The 30-day period alleviates that short-term desire for unnecessary items and can save you a lot in both money and regret.
When we are looking to buy, the first response is usually an emotional one, which often leads to poor choices. But given time, we can step back and make a logical decision.
2. Have as many accounts as you do big goals
Amanda Lea J. says, “I recommend having multiple savings accounts for different goals and then adding the savings accounts to your direct deposit so the money goes directly into the account.”
This tip is a great way to save not only for emergencies, but for any other goals you may have – whether it’s for buying a home or going on vacation. This tip also keeps you from potentially spending the money meant for your goals, and allows you to save it accordingly.
People already engage in “mental accounting,” in which we mentally sort money into stacks for different purposes. By creating different accounts, we’re leveraging that natural behavior.
3. Remember: Out of sight, out of mind
We only have so much willpower, and the less we’re tempted, the less willpower we use up. For example, especially if you’re hungry, you can pass a plate of hot cookies for only so long before your willpower weakens and you break your diet and grab a few.
Champa N.C. has tips on how to hide accounts to save: “I encourage members to save by utilizing the new feature on the mobile app of hiding the accounts. Most members tend to see their savings grow and are tempted to use the funds for impulse purchases.
4. Expect the unexpected
Melissa B. advises people to prepare for emergencies that inevitably pop up given the ups and downs of the economy, and of life. “I try to advise people to try to keep three months-worth of funds saved for all their bills expenses. So if something happens like the loss of a job or an illness, they can concentrate on finding work or healing and not losing all the things they have worked so hard to acquire.”
A savings cushion is crucial, because handling it avoids having to pay bills on credit or pay late fees.
5. Slow and steady adds up: Bolster your savings cents at a time
Lauren E. advises, “At the end of every week, I like to go through and ‘round up’ all my transactions from my debit and credit cards, and transfer the total into a special savings account.”
This tip allows savers to keep a “change jar” even if they hardly ever use cash. It's a great way to build your savings if you aren't ready to commit to stashing away larger sums of money, and by reviewing your transactions periodically, it gives you a better overall grasp of your spending habits.
Whether you’re just starting your savings journey or not, these seemingly small efforts have the potential to snowball into significant savings. These tips can also serve as a way to assess your spending habits and give you a better overall understanding of your day-to-day cash flow. Navy Federal’s Member Service Representatives have dozens of tips, and in the weeks and months ahead, we will be sharing them to help you build your savings portfolio and more. So, as Military Saves Week wraps up, consider the different tips and tricks you’ve learned, and remember, continue to save.
Robert Frick is corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union.