What Would You Give Up For A Bigger Savings Account?

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
Your financial health might be as important as your physical health, but according to survey results just released from Capital One, millennials aren’t as happy with the state of their money as they are with the state of their bodies. The research, which polled 2,000 Americans, found that only 54% were happy with the state of their finances and young millennials are the least satisfied at just 50%.

While that number isn't so surprising — this generation carries a lot of debt (both student loan and credit card) — the Capital One survey also shows we do care about our finances and we want to improve them. While most people are saving to get out of debt (17%), another 16% are saving for retirement and 14% are saving for an emergency fund. Unfortunately, one in 10 people surveyed said they won't save anything for the rest of the year and 36% said their income isn't high enough to allow for much savings.

Indeed, tucking away hundreds of dollars each month — especially when you have student loan debt or you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck — can seem daunting. But Nicole Lapin, financial author (Rich Bitch), expert, and journalist, thinks Capital One’s survey results prove that millennials want to save, it’s just a matter of getting started. The survey asked what they'd be willing to give up for a bigger savings account — cell phones, cable, Internet, showering (!) — and in most cases, more than one-third of respondents were willing to cut something out of their budget in order to get a bigger bank account.

Talking with Lapin by phone on Monday, she was eager to share simpler ways to save than getting rid of your smart phone for the rest of the year. She compares budgeting to dieting: You want to find the right one for you — one that’s long term and sustainable, and, she advises avoiding any crazy fads that will leave you unsatisfied. Her advice is pretty straightforward: name what you're saving for and then start automating a monthly (or weekly) transfer from checking to savings.

“When you put a label on your savings, you actually feel more motivated to do it," Lapin says. "If you had a wedding you were saving up for — whether it’s yours or whether you’re going do the crazy destination wedding for a friend of yours in Aruba or something — you put that on the [account], so it's clear you’re saving toward a particular goal and it’s not just going into the dark abyss of general savings."

She recommends you try not to tackle a big number all at once. Don't set out to save $100,000 to buy a house — that's a quick way to get discouraged. Take baby steps — $50 per month at first. Then, grow that amount each month. As your savings accumulate, you'll be encouraged to rework your budget and move more money into savings. Don't set an arbitrary start date, either. There's no reason why you can't set up an automated transfer on a random Tuesday.

Lapin also thinks it's time to start looking at savings in a more positive light. It's not about deprivation.

"It’s about changing the idea of the deep-rooted spending habits, because I think a lot of millennial women say, ‘This is the way it’s always been,’ or, ‘I can’t get out of this rut,'" she says. "Well, yes you can! This is your life and it’s your destiny. It’s about taking control. It’s about you changing your perceptions from saying, ‘Ugh, savings is so annoying,’ to thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m saving for this awesome thing!’ That’s what’s motivating: It’s thinking about your friend’s wedding. Start thinking about that. Those are all the awesome things you’re going to do with these savings."

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