Many surveys show that Canadians and Americans don’t even have a thousand bucks to cover unexpected expenses. It’s hard to say how many percent exactly, but it’s a significant number.
We all know saving is important, but when it comes to it, most of us don’t.
We don’t save or don’t save enough, not because we can’t, but because our brain is very sneaky.
So in this post, I will share 7 reasons why you can’t save and how to fix it.
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In a short year, I’ve gone from zero in savings and a mentality that saving is boring, to changing my perspective and saving enough for my wife and me to live for about a year without working.
Though we are just in the beginning, I find it pretty fascinating because I have never saved, I had always spent all the money I earned.
So, it turns out, saving and just being mindful of your finances gives much more than I imagined.
Why can’t we save?
Your brain thinks that saving is kind of like a punishment.
There is a choice to buy something and feel good or to put this money aside and not get anything.
It’s like offering candy to a kid and then say “I’m kidding”.
So if you have a healthy brain, it shouldn’t let you save, unless saving feels more rewarding than spending.
Here are 2 of my favourite ways to make saving feel rewarding.
From saving a month worth of expenses to buying a 4 million dollar house in Toronto.
Though we are far away from buying a house, we feel accomplished every time we achieve a goal and, as a result, stick with saving.
We only have one life, so it’s good to live in the moment, give in to our emotions and follow our impulses. Because when we are young we have energy and time, but we don’t have money.
And when we get old, we have money, but no time and energy.
With that said, saving and living in the moment isn’t black and white.
You can still have an exciting life, follow your passions, and at the same time be financially responsible.
In my teens and early 20s, I worked my ass off, but I still partied, travelled, and even completed all but 4 things from my bucket list.
Though I didn’t save then, I did everything not to collect the debt, and I spent most of my money and time on equipment, self-development, education and other investments that are paying off big time now.
So finding a balance isn’t that hard. Just ask yourself what is more important – going out and spending money on drinks or skipping one party and saving that cash.
Somehow we all think, that go big or go home is a great strategy. Maybe it’s because of movies, or things we are taught. I have no idea, but most of us think this way.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. We like to put a lot of energy and expect results right away. But you can’t work out for 10 hours straight and get in shape.
When I started working out, I gave myself 1 year to see any results. It eventually paid off, so I stuck to it.
When I started doing marketing and entrepreneurship, everyone I knew was much better and more successful than me. Years later, I have surpassed most of them because I stayed on the path and put work day in and day out.
So saving is no different. It isn’t about going all-in for a short period, it’s about saving small for a long time.
Our brain compares ourselves to other people. It is a safety mechanism that helped humans survive and build communities for thousands of years.
Though we are not surviving anymore, we all want to fit in and make people admire us. Expensive clothes, newest gadgets, supercars, big houses with too many rooms.
But, what others think of us is all in our heads. No one cares, everyone has their problems except for those few who like to mind someone else’s business.
Plus, a lot of us have a misconception about wealth because of social media influencers and celebrities, which are a tiny part of the wealthy.
I have some friends who make around 60-90k a year, but they live like they are millionaires.
They buy Louis Vuitton, Gucci, post photos from expensive restaurants and vacations.
But they don’t even have a thousand bucks for emergencies. And in most cases, they have a lot of school and credit card debt.
And the funny thing is: they detest the people and friends they are trying to impress so hard.
On the other hand, my wealthiest friend with a net worth that I can’t even imagine, wears a basic long-sleeve polo, a pair of jeans and simple black shoes.
Though they are brands like Lora Piana and Brunello Cuccinelli, you would never think he is rich at the first glance.
He doesn’t even have social media or the latest iPhone. He can afford a golden Rolls Roys, but he drives an S-class.
There are lots of different types of rich people, and luxury items aren’t an indicator of it.
And, I think it’s okay to buy expensive clothes, cars and houses, but not if you are trying to create an image that you are better than you are by going into negative debt or spending your last money.
There are better things you can be doing with your money that are way more exciting.
Though it might sound like an exaggeration, purchasing is very similar to drugs. When you buy things, you get a rush of dopamine, the hormone responsible for pleasure.
But, this pleasure fades away very quickly, so you go back and buy something new. The funny thing, studies show that we don’t even get pleasure from actual buying, we get dopamine from the anticipation.
We get more joy from looking around, choosing, and thinking about owning it. That’s why window shopping and just browsing around will get you the same amount of excitement, but without spending any money.
Saving for something big that doesn’t seem realistic is a dead-end unless you are obsessed with it.
But if you break a big goal into small ones, it might help. My wife and I want to buy a nice house in midtown or downtown Toronto. The prices here are very steep, so we are looking at $3+ million bucks.
Though we won’t need such a house and it’s probably not realistic, we decided to start small by saving for one month of expenses, then three months, then a year.
Now our goal is to start investing in the stock market, then in real estate abroad.
So by setting smaller milestones from small to large, it feels more realistic. Each achievement builds self-efficacy, discipline and gives us the confidence we can get to the next level.
If you are saving for the purpose of saving, you won’t get anywhere, unless you earn more than you can spend or if you are extremely disciplined. Which, unfortunately, most of us aren’t.
So here are five reasons why I started to enjoy saving:
By saving wherever we can, we get more for our buck. There is nothing else to say here, it’s just great to get more from less.
Knowing that you got money in your bank account doesn’t only feel great, it gives you financial independence, freedom of choice, lots of comfort and security.
It’s great to know you can go on a vacation any time, buy a new iPhone or a bag when you want to, not just because there is a discount or a good deal, but because you can.
And because of that, most of the time, we choose not to spend it on things we don’t need.
Again, the excitement from a purchase fades away very quickly, but excitement from savings doesn’t, as it’s always there.
It feels much better than actually buying something.
It might sound wrong because we all know about inflation.
If you save $500 a month for the next 40 years, you will have 240k.
With inflation, your future money is going to be worth about half of that.
But if you save and invest, your money and the value will grow.
With an average historic return of the stock market, adjusted for inflation with interest and dividends reinvested.
The same 500 bucks a month, will grow into a million in 40 years.
And the earlier you start saving and investing, the more your money is going to grow.
Though 40 years sound crazy, it’s not that crazy. It seems like it’s way too far when it’s closer than we think. Because, the older we get, the faster time goes.
I am only 25 now, but I am terrified thinking about how fast the last 8 years went by.
Considering that an average pension in Canada and the US is typically less than 1000 bucks a month, you can’t expect to have a good retirement unless you prepare for it.
If you start saving and investing $250-$500 a month, you will have half a million to a million bucks by the time you retire.
My cousin Aidar, asked me – what are you going to do with this money when you are that old?
These savings + pension will provide me 3 to 6 thousand bucks a month for about 17 years, which doesn’t seem that much when you look at it from this perspective.
Though I am planning to work till my last breath. If I completely retire at 65, I will spend all my savings by 82.
But if I die earlier than that, my wife will be able to live comfortably, or my kids will get a nice bonus for keeping up with me all their lives.
Though we know that life is unpredictable, we don’t like to think about what can and can’t happen.
And unfortunately, as I said at the beginning, most people don’t even have a thousand bucks to cover unexpected costs.
And I was one of them. I used to spend everything regardless of how much I earned. Until I had a rough patch, and couldn’t get enough work to cover my bills for a few months.
And since I didn’t have any savings, I got in trouble. Besides the discomfort, borrowing money and using credit cards was more expensive. Also, as a result, I messed up my credit score.
I lived through it and paid all my debt, but I wouldn’t want that to happen again.
So if you haven’t had a similar experience, just learn from mine. You don’t want to be in the same shoes.
There are a million small and big things, like losing a job, a large medical bill, an illness or a loss of a family member. So being as ready as you can, can save a lot of stress and money.
Saving is like eating healthy, fitness or waking up early, you know it is good for you, but you don’t want to do it. There is lots of resistance.
But remember, once you get a hang of it, it gets easy. Also, you need to understand that you can’t save money if you don’t make any. There is only so much you can save from your income.
So learn a marketable skill or two, find a better job or switch careers. Whatever it is, focus on making more.
Anyways, I hope after reading this article, your perspective on saving will change. If you don’t know where or how to start, read my next blog post, where I share my best strategies.