7  tricks for how to stay motivated to save money, and how to encourage someone to save money.

young woman in black dress, smiling, text overlay "how to stay motivated to save money: 7 tricks and tips"Being frugal — one of the easiest paths to saving money — sometimes gets a bad rap.

Some make fun of it (here is a link to Ramit’s hilarious video on extreme frugality — watch at your own risk), while others express an overall disdain towards the lifestyle.

Personally, I’ve had people ask me why on earth I would make my own laundry detergent rather than just buy a bottle the next time I go grocery shopping, or why we would furnish our home with Craigslist finds and leftovers from family and friends instead of just buying new.

I’ve even questioned myself after driving across town for $0.20 cans of tomato sauce, which later led me to better prioritize my time and my frugal aspirations.

Sure, frugality made a comeback for awhile because of the recession, but it kind of faded away from the spotlight again, left as a tool for us enthusiastic niche after the economy strengthened.

Now that my husband, Paul, and I are no longer in debt (outside of a mortgage), have built an emergency fund, and are on target in retirement savings, some might think that frugality has lost a purpose in our lives.

But it hasn’t.

We still refuse to pay full price on purchases, would rather shop our own cupboards, and we have found ourselves taking further steps in the direction of what some would deem extreme-frugality territory.

We are still joyfully frugal and will remain so in both times of need and when our sacrifices have made an abundance for us.

This has led me to the conclusion that frugal people have motivations for their choices besides financial ones, like saving money.

Understanding the motivations and the “why” behind our actions is critical as it can provide clarity, a defined purpose, and clear goals — it can propel you forward to continue saving money when you no longer feel motivated to do so.

I've clumsily grouped these motivations to save money in accordance with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs — based upon human motivations — which starts at the base with survival and ends up with self-actualization.

#1: Motivation to Save Money — Achieve Financial Stability

The obvious motivation of being frugal is to stretch dollars far beyond what each would typically buy in order to save more money to achieve things financially, which forms a solid base to achieve the other motivations listed below.

I mean, you can't move onto the second level in Maslow's Hierarchy — having some control over your life — if you don't pay off your debts and save money.

In this stage of the game, your motivation to save money is quite strong. You're working towards a solid goal that is going to really improve your life.

You could be saving money for:

When you're getting out from under something (like debt), or saving towards getting out of an apartment into your own home, or to get married, or things like that, you're really motivated.

But if you really want to live in financial freedom and love your life, you've got to move onto the next rung of motivation to save money, which is to gain some control over your life.

#2: Motivation to Save Money — Gain Control Over Your Life

Lots of people like to have as much control over their lives as possible, and money can provide this (to an extent).

Having control through finances can include owing no one else money, owning a vehicle to come and go as you please, managing your own finances, and working for yourself.

The ultimate form of financial control is financial independence, which can be declared across a defined continuum.

You can declare yourself financially independent when you no longer rely on your parents or others for money and resources.

Perhaps financial independence comes for you during retirement.

We each define our own set of criteria for attaining what we deem to be “financial independence.”

#3: Motivation to Save Money — Get Self-Sufficient

Self sufficiency is being completely reliant on yourself. You can declare yourself self-sufficient when you no longer have to work a full-time job because you have a set amount of savings/investments/retirement that, together with your frugal lifestyle choices, you can live off of.

There are various reasons within this category for why people want to become self-sufficient: dignity or a sense of pride, not having to ask others for help, being able to shut out some of the world, believing that a catastrophic event is looming in which the skills of self-sufficiency will ensure survival (some of these floating around are the peak oil crisis or December 21, 2012 when the Mayan calendar ends), etc.

#4: Motivation to Save Money — Design Your Lifestyle

One of the perks of not needing much to live on — a combination of your frugal lifestyle choices AND motivation to save a lot of money — is that you have a greater ability to live an unconventional life designed by you.

With lower bills and savings in the bank, you or a spouse could choose to work part-time, have one spouse not work to take care of children/start their own business/etc., take a job that pays less but brings greater satisfaction, take mini-retirements, etc.

For example, I cut out of the traditional workforce (9-5 job) in February 2013. Since then, I've been my own boss. Before I took this leap of faith? I made sure we had one year's worth of expenses saved up in a bank account. I also  made sure all of our debts (besides our mortgage) were paid off (we accomplished that in 2010). And I cut our monthly bills as much as I could.

By decreasing our bills, and paying off our debt, we decreased the amount of money we needed to live on. That meant we could take the income hit, and design our lives so that in 2015, I could be a work-at-home Mom instead of having to go into an office and leave my baby with others (a personal decision, for sure, but one I wanted to make).

#5: Motivation to Save Money — Help the Environment

One of the great benefits of frugality and wanting to save money by not spending on more stuff is that it tends to cut down on waste.

Bulk purchases, re-purposing items, and using sites such as freecycle and Craigslist instead of automatically purchasing new items not only saves us money, but it also reduces waste in landfills, reduces the amount of resources used to produce products, reduces water, and ultimately reduces pollution.

Sustainability can help everyone, not just ourselves, and when we're motivated to save money and be frugal with this in mind, we're elevating ourselves from individuals into a community.

#6: Motivation to Save Money — Give Freely to Others

When you are in a financially stable situation from saving lots of money, you feel secure and safe.

And when you feel that all of your needs and emotions have been met, then you are more able and willing to financially give to others (note: you can at least always give of your time and energy no matter what financial situation you are in, and in some cases you can donate things that will still reap money for others).

Dave Ramsey teaches others how to financially prosper so that they in turn can give generously to others. To me, this is the ultimate goal to a frugal lifestyle, and one that I am aspiring to achieve.

I hope that this sheds some light to those that do not understand all of the various motivations behind being frugal and saving money, and provides clearer conviction to those who are are on the frugal and saving money path but are struggling to continue, or to find a purpose to it.

Next up? More Tips to keep you motivated to save money.

How Do You Trick Yourself into Saving?

Do you need a few tricks to help you save money? I've got them for you.

Use this Mental Trick to Push Past Your Mental Limits

I'm not that great at running.

I can do it, and actually run perhaps a mile or so twice a week now thanks to our gym membership, but it's something I find challenging.

Since I'm a person who likes a good challenge, for most of my life − at least as long as I can remember − I've played a trick on myself to nudge past my physical limitation with running.

Whether it was on a treadmill, lapping around the tennis courts before tennis practice in high school, or running along the bayou near our home, I would choose a stop point that I was happy with.

The mental note sounded something like this, “I'll make it to that telephone pole at the curve, and then I'm done”, or “I'll get to 0.75 miles and then I'm good to go.”

Once I reached that stop point − panting, sweating, but still in one piece − I'd tell myself to go one notch more.

Yes, I could have celebrated that I had made it to where I wanted to be. But instead, I challenged myself to push just a little bit more, whether that was one telephone pole more, 1.25 miles instead of 1.00 miles on the treadmill, or an extra quarter lap.

And then I would do it.

Here's the crazy thing: I've never actually failed to make good on these extra challenges.

Seriously − not. one. time.

This leads me to believe that my brain is waaaayyy more in the way of me pushing through my “physical limitations” than my body is.

And if that's the case, then think of what else my brain and yours have been getting in the way of!

You can use this trick for just about anything.

But we're here to talk about money.

So here's some examples of how you can apply this to your finances:

  • Savings Account Rally: When you're setting up your automatic withdrawals to your savings account, first figure out what you are comfortable with. Then, take it up a notch by challenging yourself to do just $25 more. What's another $25 to you? The worst that can happen is you can't sustain the new amount, in which case you can change your automatic withdrawal amount down the road (to an extra $12.50…come on, you can do half the original challenge amount!). And the best that can happen? You give your savings account a $300 raise by the end of the year.
  • Retirement Account Contribution Stretch: Does 4% feel like a stretch to your for retirement contributions at work, and you're more comfortable at 3%? Then stretch yourself to 3.5%. You're already most of the way there.
  • No-Spending Challenge's Last Lap: You've likely thought about taking on a no-spending challenge, whether that's for a weekend to boost savings or a whole week when you're suffering from an end-of-the-month drought. So the next one you take on, when you're on that last date about to celebrate the ability to go get the proverbial latte, tack on an extra day instead.

You might be thinking, “yeah but, when do you stop with this?” In fact, it's an issue I've had myself. I would talk myself into going just one more telephone pole, and then I'd say, “why not just one more?” What I can tell you is that I was able to figure out a suitable ending time without my afternoon run turning into a Forrest Gump cross-country trek.

How do you stay motivated to save money?

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Amanda L. Grossman is a Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 10 years, her money work helping people with how to save money and how to manage money has been featured in Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here.
9 replies
  1. Bill in Houston
    Bill in Houston says:

    Hi Amanda,

    Happy New Year.

    We have upped our savings this year and joined the Y.

    My four year old is learning to swim, and since I’m a walker I can use the treadmill there. This summer will be time to teach our now-19-month-old to swim. My wife also does zumba. All on a Saturday morning.

    As for savings, my office matches the 401k up to 6%. Since we got raises, I upped my saving rate from 8 to 9% (making 15% total). I’m still taking more home than last year, and figuring where to put that saving.

    Reply
  2. Centsai
    Centsai says:

    I am definitely a competitive person and am always up for a challenge! Just like you, I am not a fan of running and I use that trick you mentioned to keep me motivated.I have never thought how I could use that trick and apply it to finances. Thank you for sharing this with me, it was definitely enlightening!

    Wishing you a happy and successful 2017 from the Centsai team!

    Reply
  3. Amanda L Grossman
    Amanda L Grossman says:

    Thanks Chris!

    I agree–it is easier for some to see the merits of frugality when they see it as a means to an end.

    I wonder how many of them become frugal converts for life? I would imagien people can make the connection from “not only does frugality help me pay off debt, but now it can help me to accumulate wealth”.

    Thank you for your thoughts!

    Reply
  4. Chris @ Awesome Financial Future
    Chris @ Awesome Financial Future says:

    Amanda, linking frugality motivations with Maslow is an awesome angle. Very creative thinking, bravo! The question I always get is: do I really have to sign up for a lifetime of frugality in order to get to financial independence?

    Here’s the way I answer. Think of your financial life as three phases – red, yellow, green, traffic light style. You start in the red phase, where your job is to pay off all debts, build an ample emergency fund, and (if owning makes sense for you) save up for a down payment on your first house. When that’s done, you graduate to yellow, which is simply earn, save and invest. Green, of course, is when your investments reach a point where work becomes optional.

    In the red phase, frugality is NOT optional. (Sorry Ramit!) If you hate dryer lint blankets, then GOOD – that will motivate you to get out of the red phase as soon as possible! But in the yellow phase, frugality IS optional. It all depends on how fast you want to get to the green phase, weighed against your desire for a less frugal lifestyle. I’ve found that (some) people are more comfortable with a frugal lifestyle if they see a light at the end of the tunnel, specifically defined.

    Reply
  5. Shannon-ReadyForZero
    Shannon-ReadyForZero says:

    Great points! I identify with all of them but the strongest for me are control over my life and ability to give freely to others. I’m an only child and want to have the ability to help my parents out as they get older since they worked so incredibly hard to get me where I am now.

    Reply
  6. Dana Twight, CFP
    Dana Twight, CFP says:

    Your post contains enough motivation choices for anyone to use one as a scaffold to build their new choices. Nice job of illustrating that frugality can go way beyond helping yourself to making a positive contribution to your community, your valued institutions and the country!

    Reply

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