It can often feel that the odds are forever against us when it comes to budgeting. I mean there are bills to pay, taxes, interest rates and then savings. It’s all just so much! Today we’re going to talk about why saving money is so hard. There just seem to be so many elements involved making it difficult. From reasons that are beyond our control such as biological factors, to ways that we unknowingly self-sabotage our own finances. I talk a lot about all of these different components, not to be a Debbie downer and deter you from trying, but to equip you with the knowledge so that you can make better decisions.
I can’t tell you how many women have confided in me that they are at a loss as to why they are “bad” at budgeting. Feeling despondent about your financial situation just means that you have yet to identify the root of the problem. It’s easy to just want to throw up your hands in defeat like, “why is saving money so hard!!!” I get it. I really do. Saving has not always been something that I have found easy but I have found a way to be successful at it.
So, here I am again dishing out the facts on why saving money is so hard. Not only will we look at the reason but also the actionable and achievable solutions that anyone can try.
Reason #1 The Harder We Try, the More We Fail.
Work smarter, not harder. We’ve all heard this expression before in many different contexts. I think traditional societal ideals have led us to believe that the harder you work, the better results you will see. I’m not knocking hard work. However, working yourself to the bone in whatever the endeavor shouldn’t be viewed anymore as admirable or respectable.
Burnout, stress, and anxiety don’t look cute on anyone. Not even Michelle Obama, who let’s face it, looks good in everything. The harder we try, the more we can often set ourselves up for failure because our minds become fixated and are more likely to trip us up. Also, by putting the focus on how hard the task is, the harder it will inevitably become. Our mindset plays a vital role in overcoming this. This is one of the key reasons why saving money is so hard. We focus all this negative energy on it and it makes it that much more difficult.
We can make similarities in the way that people often approach dieting. It is an aggressive approach that often includes deprivation and becoming a little bit obsessed with an “all or nothing” attitude. Let’s check out these comparisons:
- Track your calories/foods | Track all your expenses
- Get rid of all the junk food at your house | Cut up your credit cards
- Eat all this pre-made food | Follow this system to find success
- Eliminate <insert evil food group of the month> | Just stop getting Starbucks
I think you get the idea. But really, if any of these things worked, we’d all be thin and rich by now. The honest truth is that both losing weight and saving money are hard. You need better strategies to make either thing really work for you than simply cutting back, depriving yourself, and inevitably being miserable and burnt out.
Solution #1 Plan & Automate
You can achieve amazing results and truly transform your life without the “grind”. Thoughtfully and intentionally planning in advance and then automating that plan wherever possible is going to do two main things. One, it will allow you to live your life without fixating and being stressed out and two, it will help you to stay consistent with your plan as you don’t have to think about it 24/7. Have your financial budgeting plan running in the background of your life so that you see the results without feeling the constant strain.
Reason #2 why saving money is so hard: You’re Saving for the Wrong Goals
When thinking about financial goals, what is your first thought? A number, right? We so often focus on an amount of money when creating a budgeting plan, which is understandable. Figures don’t evoke emotions in people (well maybe if you’re Jeff Bezos they do). A number isn’t going to motivate us. Another reason why saving money is so hard – lack of motivating reasons to save.
We can also find ourselves focusing on things that we think we should be saving for. Where did these “shoulds” come from? Probably from external sources in society and generally just the way we were raised. What you think you should want and what you actually do want, are more than likely different. How can you be motivated or consistent with something that is so unaligned with who you are and what you want in life?
Finally, there are the things that just sound good… You know, the goals that when you say them out loud sound like the responsible and logical things to do.
These things won’t help your limbic system brain (the part of our brain that fires first when a decision has to be made). It only supports our prefrontal cortex brain (the part that only arrives on the scene later after our emotions (limbic brain) has already decided.
Solution #2 Save for Things That Trigger Emotions
I have seen many women shy away from asking themselves the apparently innocent question of “what do you want?”. It astounds me how many people have never asked themselves this question and answer it honestly. I have a challenge for you, write down the below questions and answer them. I find it helps to say them out loud. Hearing your own voice speaking such truth can solidify your feelings so that your limbic system can tap into that region of the brain first. When you are stuck wondering why saving money is so hard these reasons can really help bring you back to why you want to save in the first place.
- What do you truly want?
- What brings you joy?
- How does your perfect life look in 5 years?
Reason #3 You Don’t Focus on Pleasure
Things that are worth having are for sure worth fighting for. However, it doesn’t always have to be a battle to get there. I don’t think budgeting and the word fun are seen that much together. We often just save for things like insurance, car repairs, and other mundane, yet necessary things.
Yes, this is a key part of why saving money is so hard, but doing things that we love never is! Again, an important mindset shift is required here. We need to first stop focusing on what we “should” or “need” to be saving for and instead focus on saving for something we love or something that will enrich our lives.
Solution #3 Focusing on Saving for Fun
Look, you need a win. You need to show yourself that you CAN save. It is a lot easier to do something for the second time, than the first. So, save for something that is freaking fun! Show yourself that not only can you save, but also that the fruit of your hard work is so worth it.
I started with saving for vacations. I love taking trips but rarely had the funds until I made saving for them a priority. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, just pick one thing that you would love to do and set a plan to save for it. Then savor the moment when you achieve it.
Whatever you choose to focus on first be sure it’s something you truly love. It could be gardening, tea, coffee or new clothes. Just make sure it’s something that you would really want and could see yourself being motivated enough to save for.
Reason #4 why saving money is so hard: Thinking You Should Already be Good at Budgeting
I have spoken previously about how the modern world demands so much more from us than we are programmed to take. The world around us has evolved quicker than we have. So, why do we all think we should be innate good with money? Especially in the 21 century. A reason you find saving so hard is that you are incredibly hard on yourself about how hard it is. A job is very difficult to achieve when we have a preconceived notion that we suck at it. However, just like literally everything else, practice is what develops skills.
So, basically, give yourself a break.
Solution #4 Start Small to Build Confidence
Biting off more than you can chew is going to leave you feeling defeated and even worse about your capabilities. Start small in order to change your perception of your skillset. You don’t need to move mountains. You need to make consistent and small changes that stack on top of each other. Even saving 1% towards retirement means- TADA! You’re actively saving for retirement. A little is better than nothing at all. It will change how you see yourself and give you a reassuring sense that you are moving the needle forward to set yourself up for success.
Again, I will say it, thinking about why saving money is so hard can really bring you down but it doesn’t have to be your permanent reality. Knowing your habits and how you process and make decisions can make such a big difference. I have heaps more blogs and free resources on my website to give you that extra helping hand. If you are looking for “real deal’ support, contact me and we can set up a call!