Use your friends and family as a way to discipline yourself. Tell them what your goal is, and ask them to remind you if you’re about to spend money on something you won’t need. (Tell them you won’t get cranky and will appreciate the help.) You can even do this on the Internet. Dean Karlan and Ian Ayres of Yale just launched a website called stickK.com, which lets you post your goal, notify your friends, and set up penalties if you fail. It worked for both founders, who lost a significant amount of weight by pledging a significant amount of money if they didn’t drop pounds. But you could also use it to build an emergency stash, increase your contribution to your 401(k), or amass college savings for your kids.
Break it down. Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America, says that one reason many middle-income families don’t save is that they don’t believe they can come up with big enough sums of money to do it effectively. The fact is, he says, small amounts can be quite effective. Start with your change. “It sounds trivial, but we have story after story of people who accumulated hundreds of dollars that way, realized they could do it, and worked harder to get more,” he says. Then add an automatic transfer from checking to savings every month. Some banks, like ING Direct, are even willing to transfer money weekly if moving smaller amounts more frequently sounds easier on your wallet.
Finally, recognize that the saving process is actually healing. It makes you feel better — a better person, a better spouse, a better parent — to know that you have something put away for your future. Says Brobeck, “You may have to make sacrifices in the short term, but you’ll feel so much better in the medium to long.”