How to save when saving is hard

May 02, 2023
how to save when saving is hard

Putting money away in savings can take the sting out of unexpected expenses. It’s wise to plan ahead for those instances when a tire blows out, the lights on an appliance go dark, or a baseball shatters your picture window.

How do you save up when money is tight, though? How are savings built when there’s nothing extra to sock away after paying all the obligations? It’s certainly not easy, but we’ve put together a list of ways to begin saving — even when saving is difficult.

Set up a budget

Flying blind without a budget leaves too much room for error. If you’re not on a budget, it’s time to create one. Start your budget by analyzing all the money coming into your accounts and all the money going out. Once you have those numbers, you can start to allocate them. It will help to itemize those expenses by how often they occur and whether they’re fixed or variable.

Fixed expenses are items like rent or mortgage, car payments, Netflix, internet service, etc. You can count on them to remain the same every month, for the most part. Variable expenses like entertainment, fuel, groceries, and utilities fluctuate every month. (Here’s a handy guide to help you get started with your budget.)

Setting up a budget will help keep you in check on spending and help you pinpoint areas where you could potentially save too — which conveniently leads us to our next action item.

Cut out costs

If your finances are paycheck to paycheck, it’s time to see what can be cut out of the equation to free up funds. If you’re dining out frequently, you can cut back on that expense by meal planning and buying groceries to make delicious meals at home. Finding ways to save money on groceries helps too. Clipping coupons, finding deals, and eating leftovers can even cut back on the grocery bill and help you save even more.

Next, look at your subscription services. Can any of them be cut out completely or lowered to a different payment tier? Call your cell phone provider and cable company and see if you can negotiate a lower bill. Money going out for unnecessary subscription services can be moved to savings.

Keep your retirement contributions going

Stock market ups and downs can cause panic, especially when you’re struggling to put money away in the first place. Watching your account balance dip lower can seem counterproductive too. However, the opposite is true. If you’re contributing to your 401(k) when the stock market is low, your plan manager is likely buying stocks when their prices are low. When the market rebounds (and historically, it always has — with returns of 10% on average), you’ll have made more money from investing when the market is lower.  

Use RoundUp through UBTgo

A simple, hands-off approach to putting money into savings is using the RoundUp feature in UBTgo. Every time you swipe your card, we’ll round up your purchase to the next dollar and deposit the difference into your savings account. Think of RoundUp as a change jar that automatically deposits to your savings account.

Put away your tax refund

If you receive a state or federal refund, try to avoid the common urge to splurge. You’ll thank yourself later if you instead put as much as possible into savings and use it for emergencies that crop up throughout the year.

Know when to hold off

It’s OK to pause saving if you’re struggling to pay for necessities. If you need to take a break from socking money away to get caught up on bills, that’s okay. Keep it in the back of your mind to return to saving as soon as you’re able. Remember that saving is a marathon, not a sprint.

Pat yourself on the back

To keep yourself motivated to save, feel free to congratulate yourself regularly and celebrate little victories as they happen. For instance, when you meet a crucial savings milestone (like achieving six months of income saved up, for instance), treat yourself to a mini splurge. Let’s say your savings milestone was made possible because you switched to cooking at home instead of dining out. Perhaps you can celebrate with a high-tech kitchen gadget you’ve been eyeing.

Give yourself grace

Above all, keep your best interests in mind when saving, and be sure to give yourself grace when things don’t go as planned. Saving money should provide you with joy — not steal it! Reach out if you need any help planning your savings journey.

We hope you found some of our tips helpful! This article is part of the Be Prepared principle, part of UBT's Five Principles of Financial Wellness Series. 


  • Managing Your Money
  • Budgeting

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