Savings advice is rife with trite admonishments that just don't get to the root of the problem of spending too much and saving too little. What if the latest diet book advised readers to "just eat less," or a book about how to become a millionaire said only "just earn more"? The problem is how to actually get there, and in many cases this means using a psychological approach to tackle your financial problems. Here we take a look at some unusual tactics to help you save more.

TUTORIAL: The Basics Of Balancing Your Personal Budget

1. Think Gray
According to a study at Stanford University, when young people are shown an image of how they will look in 40-plus years, most reported that they would save twice as much as those who didn't see the image. The increasing length of the average lifespan (not to mention the questions surrounding the future of Social Security) make saving for a retirement a key part of financial planning. But, in order to set and meet long-term financial goals, young savers need to be able to envision the future - and themselves in it. Take a look at your senior family members and try to envision what you will look like when you are in your 60s, 70s and 80s. It might just help give you the push you need to get that retirement savings plan off the ground. After all, if you have to imagine yourself with gray hair, wrinkles and a crooked back, wouldn't it be nice to picture yourself on a beach somewhere, rather than struggling to get by in some drafty apartment? (For more insight, see Delay In Retirement Savings Costs More In The Long Run.)

2. Take Your Time to Pay Down Debt
If you've racked up your credit card to the point that things have gotten out of hand, loan consolidation can be a great way to pay it down at a better interest rate. However, it might not be the best way to prevent it from happening again. After all, if you remove your debt from your credit card, you open up the possibility that you will just fill it back up again. Plus, if you racked up your credit card debt knowing the high interest rate it carries, maybe paying that rate is just the slap on the wrist you need to keep you from pulling it out quite so often. (For more insight on this topic, see Is it wise to consolidate credit card debt?)

3. Beat Yourself Up a Bit
One financial trap people often fall into is confirmation bias. When you want to believe in the strategy you are using to save or invest, it can be hard to accept that it isn't working. Accepting failure is painful, but if you want to really be successful with your money, you need to be able to look your worst mistakes right in the eye and decide not to make them again ... and again, and again.

4. Reward Yourself
Many people will shy away from making a big purchase but will have no trouble spending $5 here and $10 there. You might be able to rationalize this because these things are "cheap," but this also means that they are often chosen carelessly - and perhaps too often. At this point, everyone has been well versed on the deleterious effects of the "latte factor," so we'll spare you the lecture here. The point is, if you choose where you spend your disposable income carefully, chances are it will end up going to a few larger purchases, rather than many small ones. And, because you will be choosing your expenditures carefully, chances are you will either be spending less or deriving more satisfaction from what your money can buy. (Learn more tips for cutting your expenses in Save Without Sacrifice.)

5. Avoid Following Financial Advice
If you think you should be reading this article, taking notes and applying it to your life, then you're on the right track. Getting informed about ways to improve your finances is essential to actually doing it - but so is using common sense. If you're going to make a change, spend some time thinking about whether it'll actually work for you. If you've come up with your own strategies that make sense and are working for you, run with them. The point isn't to have a model set of finances, but to develop a system that will help you save more, avoid debt and work toward a comfortable financial future. How you get there is up to you.

The Bottom Line
Sometimes, changing financial habits takes a little creativity. If you're looking to improve your financial life, be open to experimentation and finding the tactics that work for you. After all, saving money is simple, but that doesn't make it easy.

Related Articles
  1. Budgeting

    6 Cost-Effective Tips for Raising Your First Child

    The excitement of welcoming your first child to your family shouldn't prevent you from making good cost-effective decisions.
  2. Budgeting

    5 Ways to Date on a Budget

    Dating on a budget doesn't have to be boring. Try these 5 tips to find the best dates on a budget.
  3. Budgeting

    7 Kids Items You Should Never Buy Used

    Buying secondhand items is a great way to save money, but these seven kids items should not be bought used.
  4. Investing

    10 New Apps That Help Budget For Expensive Cities

    From platforms for saving money to those that account for side jobs, mobile apps are changing spending habits and income generation in urban areas.
  5. Budgeting

    How to Save Money on Your Disney Vacation

    Understand why Disney Parks are attractive vacation destinations and why they are expensive. Learn five money-saving tips for Disney vacations.
  6. Budgeting

    How Cooking At Home Can Save You Real Dough

    Cooking at home saves time and money but most importantly, it could even help lower future health costs.
  7. Personal Finance

    Money Matters on Campus: Attitudes & Aptitudes

    Financial trends among college students are a cause for concern, prompting a renewed emphasis on financial instruction.
  8. Home & Auto

    Why Housing Costs Shouldn't Exceed 30% of Your Budget

    Financial experts will argue that there’s no problem with allocating 50% of your net income to housing, but that barely leaves enough money for living comfortably. Reducing housing expenses to ...
  9. Investing Basics

    Tiny House Movement: Making Market Opportunities

    The tiny house movement throws all assumptions about household budgeting and mortgage management out the window, and creates new market segments too.
  10. Budgeting

    Top 7 Money Saving Tips for Eating Out

    Discover seven money-saving options available to consumers who are looking to partake in the luxury of dining out while cutting down on cost.
  1. How does a bank determine what my discretionary income is when making a loan decision?

    Discretionary income is the money left over from your gross income each month after taking out taxes and paying for necessities. ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How does the trust maker transfer funds into a revocable trust?

    Once a revocable trust is created, a trust maker transfers funds or property into the trust by including them in a list with ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What is the range of deductibles offered with various health insurance plans?

    A wide range of possible deductibles are available with health insurance plans, starting as low as a few hundred dollars ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How do I know how much of my income should be discretionary?

    While there is no hard rule for how much of a person's income should be discretionary, Inc. magazine points out that it would ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What proportion of my income should I put into my demand deposit account?

    Generally speaking, aim to keep between two months and six months worth of your fixed expenses in your demand deposit accounts. ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How do I use the rule of 72 to estimate compounding periods?

    The rule of 72 is best used to estimate compounding periods that are factors of two (2, 4, 12, 200 and so on). This is because ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!