(TNS)—Saving is not a goal in itself. To sock away money successfully, you must clearly know what you want to do with the nest egg.
During a recent financial planning workshop, advisor Anthea Perkinson discussed the value of saving toward goals.
She opened with a quote from baseball legend Yogi Berra: “If you don’t know where you are going, you might end up somewhere else.”
Much like the 5 pounds she finally lost when she learned she’d attend a beach business conference in Puerto Rico, Perkinson says if that you lack goals to motivate you, resisting the temptation to spend becomes harder.
Such temptation pulls us mightily in American culture, she noted. “We really sort of worship money,” says Perkinson. She cited technology giant Bill Gates and investing guru Warren Buffett as examples of how we almost automatically equate money with real success.
Your key differentiators: wants and needs. “A want is everything that’s not a need,” she says, “and wants can be endless.”
Despite money’s many layers of meaning for many people, she says, setting saving goals often comes down to three simple steps:
—Write down the things you want to have, do or be. For example, getting a driver’s license, moving to a new apartment, going to a graduate school or starting a business.
—Sort your goals into short-term (in one year), intermediate (two to five years) and long-term goals (longer than five years).
—Apply a dollar amount to each goal. This helps you create a list of specific and measurable aims to which you funnel whatever money you sock away.
If you record and review each item of your daily spending, you find opportunities to save.
“Make sure you write every expense on a sheet of paper,” Perkinson says. “Don’t count on mental accounting.”
“Re-engineer how you think about money,” she says.
After tracking her spending for a month, for instance, Perkinson realized that she paid an unnecessary amount on parking tickets to simply avoid the inconvenience of plugging coins into meters.
However you save, the new-found money in your budget needs to go straight toward the financial goals you set for yourself. For example, if you save $60 a week from cutting back on your daily expenses, you can save $1,500 in six months for your driver’s license class, road practice, exam and fees.
After 33 weeks, you can have $2,000 for the security deposit on a new apartment. And after five years, you can amass $15,700 to pursue higher education.
For expenses such as vacations, “reverse the order to pay for things you want,” she noted. Saving frequent, small amounts before the purchase — rather than face a huge credit card afterward — tends to make the experience richer and less stressful, Perkinson says.
Without the list of goals, there’s little incentive to rein in spending. “Having goals,” Perkinson says, “is the first step in creating a plan to build the life you want.”
Cherice Chen writes for AdviceIQ, which delivers quality personal finance articles by both financial advisors and AdviceIQ editors.
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