by Lucy Schrader, Human Environmental Sciences Associate State Specialist
Within the last month, I have had several conversations with family members and friends about saving money. And in all instances, each person (including me) felt he or she was not saving enough. That it did not matter what the person did, he or she was not doing enough. All of these families are working, living within their means, keeping a budget, and saving money. In essence, they are following recommended guidelines, yet they still believe they are not doing what they “should” be doing.
If you search on financial blogs and websites – the messages are pretty much the same – keep an emergency fund, save for retirement, save for college, start now and start young. Undeniably, this is sound advice. At times, however, it seems impossible to achieve. Here are some quotes from friends that sum up what I mean.
“I save $25 a month for each of my kids for college – and I look at college costs and it just feels like pittance! There’s no way we can save that kind of money by the time the kids go to college. And it makes me think ‘what’s the point?'”
“I’ve cut back in our budget and cut back. Really, I make my own laundry soap! I don’t think I can cut back anymore and still pay our bills.”
Instead of feeling good about saving money, they feel bad about not meeting the prescribed guidelines. One of the issues that is missing is celebrating (acknowledging) people who are saving and living within their means.
Are we focusing on the saving behavior or the amount saved? The focus for many people should be on the behavior of saving and cutting back and living within your means. They need to be proud that they are doing their best, taking care of their families and taking steps to be financially responsible.
Theory and reality are not always equal. You do the best you can within your situation. Sometimes you cannot save everything, or you have to pay to fix your car (or you have some expense come up). Sometimes the messages can make you feel bad when you don’t follow the savings “guidelines.” What is important is that you do the best you can and get back on track.
In psychology, you reward behaviors that you want more of (or find incentives to increase the behavior). I encourage you to celebrate with your family and friends one thing that you do to save or live within your means. It does make a difference!