Saving money may not be as fun as spending it, but having money is definitely more satisfying than not having it. For some of us, “having it” requires curbing a few spending impulses and sticking to a savings plan. Check yourself against the hacks listed below, and your growing balance will make you forget all about whatever you may have given up to build it.

Pay yourself first

“Pay yourself first” is such time-honored advice that you’d be hard pressed to find a personal finance expert who doesn’t tout it. It simply means that you should treat savings account deposits like any other bill—the first one you pay—due date and all.

To make this easier, you can automate the deposit either through direct deposit or transfers from your checking account. If you use direct deposit to have your paycheck deposited into your checking account, see if your employer will allow you to split the deposit between checking and savings. In most instances, you can designate a fixed amount or percentage of your paycheck for your savings.

Or, set up an automatic transfer from your checking to your savings account. For example, if you open an Online Savings Account from Ally Bank and also get the Interest Checking Account, you can have your paycheck deposited into your checking account and then set up an automatic, ongoing transfer to your savings on any specified date.

Focus on growth

Withdrawing funds without making new deposits means you will deplete your savings as well as earn little or no interest. Try to leave your savings alone so your balance can grow. If you find yourself withdrawing funds on a regular basis to make ends meet, revise your budget so you can let your savings be. Seeing those regular deposits add up can motivate you to save even more.

Use paid off debt payments for savings

As you pay off debt, continue budgeting as if the debt were still in effect, but place the payment amount in savings. For example, if you pay off your car, put the amount of the car payment in savings each month. You could even consider this pre-payment for your next vehicle. When the time comes to replace your current auto, that savings account potentially would have enough for a substantial down payment, if not pay for the vehicle completely. And that saves you even more money in interest you don’t have to pay down the line.

Get to know your spending habits

You can’t really figure out where to save until you know where your money goes. That’s why it helps to track your spending. Experts suggest keeping a spending journal. In addition, look at your checking and credit card accounts to see where your money has gone over the last couple pay periods. Review these at least monthly.

Whether you put it down on paper, use a spreadsheet, rely on a mobile app, or have your partner track it for you, getting a clear picture of your own cash flow is a good jumping off point for formulating effective saving strategies.

Create a spending roadmap

Maybe you think of “budgeting” as a curse word. Shake that distasteful perception by realizing that a budget is just a roadmap—a tool to help you get where you’re going and stay on track. Just like your spend tracking, you can make your budget as simple or complex as you like.

First, list all of your fixed expenses, such as bills and loan payments. Then, list all of your variable expenses, such as groceries, clothing, and entertainment. Include an amount for long and short-term savings goals. Stick to your budget as if your financial life depends on it (it does). You’ll probably need to adjust your budget periodically to make sure your goals, expenses, and income are in balance.

Get creative with your resources

Saving money doesn’t have to mean giving up great food, going on shopping trips, or taking exciting vacations. By staying focused on saving, you might discover a new passion for cooking, or find a great new website for clothes, or discover an off-the-beaten path spot to take the family over the holidays. However you approach saving money, staying positive and creative helps make the experience enjoyable.

Open an online savings account

You need somewhere to put your savings, so opening an online savings account for that purpose is a no-brainer. With an online bank, you can open a new account, check your balance, transfer money, and more—from anywhere you have internet access, anytime you want.

In addition, according to rates published by Bankrate.com, online banks often are able to offer better rates than traditional banks. Look for an FDIC-insured online bank with no maintenance fees, competitive interest rates, great customer service, and a user-friendly website.

Once your balance starts looking respectable, you may want to explore other savings vehicles, like money market accounts and CDs, or open multiple savings accounts dedicated to specific purposes.

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Last Edited: January 10, 2018