Making money is hard. Keeping it is harder. No matter how much it's drilled into our brains to save, save, save, the income we earn seems to flow into our bank accounts just as quickly as it flows out. The fact is, about 40% percent of Americans who earn over $100,000 a year can't seem to save, according to a GoBankingRates survey. Sure it's important to save for emergencies, but the goal is to have enough to invest, so that we earn much more and work much less—maybe even not at all. It sounds great, in theory. So why is the struggle to save so real?
Our brains could be to blame
Really. A team of neuroscientists at Cornell University found that 90 percent of participants in their study chose to earn more than they save. Because the emphasis on making money seems like an effort all its own, when it comes time to put the money into a savings plan, we're spent, if you excuse the pun. "It's rational from the brain's perspective: You must earn before you can save," Adam K. Anderson, associate professor at Cornell University's College of Human Ecology and co-author of the report, tells CNBC. "It could partly be cultural," he says. "We brag about work ethic and earnings, but we don't talk about coming up with a cool savings plan."
Our goals are too abstract or long-term
The other issue is that earning money provides an immediate reward, while saving that money is only rewarding in the abstract and hinges on future plans—buying a house, retiring—which may feel like pipe dreams when you're scraping to save.
One thing you can do is set up mini-milestones that feel actually feasible in the short-term—think buying a new appliance, taking a vacation or redoing your closet. Saving enough to reach smaller, more accessible goals gets you in the habit of saving period. And that's a whole lot better than not saving at all.
We have instant access to shiny things
It's not just you. 79 percent of Americans shop on their phones or laptops, with 15% buying stuff online on a weekly basis, according to a recent Pew Research study. When you can purchase anything with the click of a button, you're less likely to feel the immediate impact of your purchase on your bank account.
Social media makes our shopping impulses even harder to turn off. Between Facebook ads and Instagram influencers, we're bombarded with dangling carrots we think we need in the moment.
"We are socially comparative creatures by nature," psychologist and author Nancy Irwin tells MarketWatch. "[People] feel inferior if someone they know has a shinier or bigger toy than they do."
One thing to do is delete your auto-saved credit card from e-commerce sites you frequent so that it's harder to shop instantly. You might consider taking a break from Paypal, ApplePay and other insta-payment sites so that you're forced to manually enter your information before you shop. That lag time could make all the difference.
All those subscription services are killing us
Technology doesn't just suck you into one-time purchases, but monthly subscriptions as well. So all those creature comforts like Netflix and Spotify that we've come to rely on add up to more bills we often forget about. "Our issue is we're spending before we even save and then never look back," Brandon Hayes, a financial planner, tells MarketWatch. "With a cashless society, it's tough to appreciate a dollar when you never see one."
Creating a monthly budget and reading your credit card statements closely will both help you eyeball your spending habits and weigh your options about subscription services that may not be worth it to you in the long run.
We never know when the next paycheck is coming
In a gig economy with over 53 million freelancers, it's hard to feel entirely confident when and from where your next paycheck is coming. That makes signing up for an automatic savings plan seem riskier than it might be if you had a steady, unfluctuating income. One thing to consider is a no-fee online savings account you can dip into when needed.
You can set up micro-auto-payments just to get into the habit of socking money away and up the number as your workflow builds. There are also micro-saving tools that allow you to transfer as little as $1 from your account—as much as a cup of coffee. Setting up daily auto transfers of a buck may seem like petty cash at first but it adds up over time.
We just can't afford to
Between credit card debt, student loans, the rising costs of rent and bare necessities, 65% of us aren't saving a penny—and our biggest problem is our expenses. The best thing to do is to create a budget.
There are some easy-to-use online budgeting tools that make the task much less daunting. This will help you figure out how much is going in and out of your account, and ultimately where you can cut the fat so that you have a little bit leftover to sock away.
The whole thing gives us anxietyIn a world with too many options, even when it comes to choosing a savings plan, where do you start? The good news: technology is not totally the enemy. There are plenty of online resources that have done the work for you. Here's a breakdown different types of savings plan to decide which one is right for you. And here are some questions to ask yourself before you dive in head first. A little research will give you the confidence to hone in on your own research and set up an account that makes the most sense for your situation.
As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.
Extensive Plants and Greenery
A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.
As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.
There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.
Usable Outdoor Furniture
Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.
A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.
Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.
Acting Quickly Out of Emotion
Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.
Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.
Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation
Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.
If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.
Donating Unusable Materials
Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.
Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.
Strictly Giving at Year's End
As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.
With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.
Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.
The Age of Your House
Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.
The One-Percent Rule
An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.
The Square-Foot Rule
Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.
The Mix and Match Method
Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.
Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.