You Are Not Really Saving Money

Debt-slaying and money-saving posts are rife with suggestions for how to shave a little here, trim a little there. But you can’t say you’re saving money just because you’re packing your own lunch and drinking the coffee you brewed at home. If you don’t make a concerted effort to actually save that money — to tell it where to go and what to do — all your -dollar deprivations will get frittered away elsewhere and you’ll keep spinning your financial wheels.

Here are some ways to take the driver’s seat and watch your here-a-little, there-a-little, squirreled-away money accumulate into savings you can write home about.

The most fundamental part of truly saving money is adjusting how you look at money in the first place. You are The Boss of your money and you tell it what to do.

Instead, take every dollar and decide what it’s going to do. Will it be used to pay down your auto loan or go toward your electricity bill? Sometimes called a zero-based budget or, more stringently applied, the envelope system, this way of allocating the funds available to you will actually change your spending behavior.

What are your financial obligations budgeted for? Put those fivers to work in budget categories you’ve purposefully defined and watch them grow.

Budgeting in this way will also help force you to cut back in areas you are choosing to slim down. If you only fill your dining out category with fifty dollars, you’ll think twice before picking up a bagel twice a week in the morning.

In addition to budgeting, there are other creative ways to contribute to your savings. Acorns lets you invest your spare change by rounding up your purchases to the nearest dollar and putting that money into an investment account. Or check out Unsplurge, which brings savings goals into the social arena.

A combination of keeping track of what you’re not spending and adding this money to categories that you’ve purposely designated in a sound budgeting system will hoist that not spending into the realm of honest-to-goodness saving.