Everyone knows that it’s important to save, for a rainy day, key goals or retirement, or … well, saving money is just a good idea, right?
Sometimes, though, it can feel like saving is a mean magic trick — a way to make a significant percentage of your hard-earned wages vanish, never to be seen again. That makes it hard to keep saving, so some people don’t.
How do you avoid that trap? By saving with conscious intent. Focusing on a goal helps you save money.
Money is abstract. In and of itself, whether you’re looking at numbers in your account or slips of paper in your wallet, it’s not meaningful. What gives money meaning is what you can connect it to.
You can associate it with the work you did to earn it, or with the products, services or experiences you can trade it for. Both these connections make money tangible.
Using this same technique, you can set savings goals you are significantly more likely to maintain. Here’s how it works.inte
Buy retirement days with work done now
Let’s say you work 20 days in a month. On two of those 20 days, allow yourself to dream of retirement, of what you’ll do when you’ve saved enough to move to a Greek island or a cozy New England town.
This day of work? You’re trading it for one day of retirement.
At the end of the month, when you have to put aside 10 percent of what you earned — the equivalent of two days’ work — call up those visions of sunlit seas or crisp fall days.
Those days are coming because you’ve already “bought” them with your labor.
Transform work directly into your goal
If work equals money, and money equals a plane ticket to, say, India, then it’s not a stretch to say work equals a plane ticket to India.
A little time with a calculator will help you figure out how many hours of work you need to trade for that plane ticket. By making the connection between work and the flight to India concrete, it’s far easier to put aside money for that trip.
The money is no longer abstract. By setting clear savings goals, the money can’t be spent on anything else because it’s just the bridge between your labor and your reward.
Name your savings
If you had promised to give your child $10 to go the movies with her friends, you wouldn’t spend it on a large cappuccino and a scone.
In your mind, that $10, even if it’s still in your pocket, has her name on it. You no longer own the money, and therefore, it’s not yours to spend.
You can use that mindset to help you meet your savings goals, too. Name your savings account for your child, or for the trip to Aspen you’re dying to take, or the car you’re saving for, or the city you want to move to.
By giving your savings goal a name, you make it more real, and you’re more likely to pay “San Francisco” or “John Jr.” what you said you would.
The bottom line
Using conscious intent to focus on savings goals. Making your finances and future planning more concrete is a wonderful way to stay aware of the true power of money, which is to take all the energy you invest in your work and life and turn it into what will make your life even better.