I Swear I’m Cutting Back — Where’s My Savings?

Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

If you’re not ready for some tough love, this is not the article for you. We are here to keep you realistic about your #goals and give you no bullsh*t financial advice. So let’s get ready to adult, hard. 


We have talked with thousands of clients and we know that guilt about spending money is a huge deal for millennials. That’s a huge issue for us here at Stash Wealth, because we believe you should blow your money and not think twice or feel guilty. People think of our generation as frivolous spenders, but it’s just not true. What is true is that it can feel like you’re cutting back, sacrificing, saying “no”, and then you get to the end of the month and there isn’t anything extra left over. HOW!? 

[Couples] blame each other when the end of the month comes around and one of them has done too many boozy brunches and the other took way too many ubers. 

Picture this: you’re only eating out once a week (a f*cking miracle if you live in a major city), you switched to a cheaper gym membership (IMU Equinox), and you get to the end of the month and there is still no extra money. WTF? Where did it all go? 


Human Nature

Human nature is probably counteracting your good intentions. This often plays out in different ways for singles and partnered people, so let’s talk to you first singles. 


If you are single in the 21st century it can feel nearly impossible to cut back. We are culturally bombarded with messages like “work hard play hard(er)” and “treat yourself!” We know we need to save, and we are freaking millennials, so we understand #goals, but we also live in the current culture. So even when we cut back, we then have a sneaky tendency to overspend. That discount gym membership and eating at home makes us feel like we are giving up a lot, so when our friends invite us out for cocktails, we tend to blow more than we normally would because we feel like we deserve the indulgence after all that self-discipline. It doesn’t feel like this one small indulgence could blow all that money we saved. Unfortunately, indulgence adds up quick.


The way to break free of this trap is to automate your savings, but we’ll get into that in the next section, first, let’s talk about couples. 


The biggest factor keeping couples from saving is not being intentional and aligned about your goals. Goal setting is hard enough as a single person, it gets even more complicated when you are mixing the goals of two grown-ass adults into a set of “unified” goals. Most couples we speak with understand they need to save, but if they don’t have a clear goal of what they are saving for, they just set arbitrary numbers. Then they blame each other when the end of the month comes around and one of them has done too many boozy brunches and the other took way too many ubers. 

Our solution is a simple one, and it’s endorsed by Warren Buffett himself.

Taking time to set concrete goals and put dollar values to those goals can help here. And so can automating your savings. Which brings us to our favorite piece of “controversial” financial advice: you don’t need a budget. 


Why We HATE Budgeting 

Seriously. We HATE budgets. We have a whole article about our alternative that we call the reverse budget


Budgeting doesn’t work. There are a lot of reasons for this, but a huge one is that for most millennials (and humans, in general) there is no such thing as a typical month. Expenses fluctuate. So if you’re trying to save a certain amount each month, that is going to get super frustrating when you have to order contacts in February, fix your car in July, and love to travel in September. And no one has time to set a unique budget for every month of the year. So our solution is a simple one, and it’s endorsed by Warren Buffett himself, save first, spend the rest. 



Figure out how much you need to save for certain goals, figure out how far away those goals are, and then calculate how much you need to save each pay period. The final key step is to automate that amount. Here’s an example:


In ten months you want to take a trip to Hawaii. You and your significant other are going to split the cost, so you need to save up $1,500. You get paid every two weeks, so there are about 20 pay periods between you and your trip. But let’s cut that down to 16 because you’re going to need to pay for most of this stuff ahead of time (hotel, flights, etc). You need to save about $94 per pay period. AUTOMATE IT. Set up an automatic deposit into a high yield savings account.


Do this for your top few goals, and then stop worrying about budgeting. Automated savings allows you to then take what is leftover and BLOW IT ALL, guilt free. Have other things you want to save for? You can set up a Reverse Budget™ for those goals, too!


We make it sound easy because it should be. But you also need to get realistic about your goals and if you’re falling prey to lifestyle creep. The reality is that you won’t always be able to #treatyourself, but you’ll also know you’re saving for the things you really want. And that’s kinda Adulting 101. 


The Basics of Adulting

You need savings, but we aren’t fans of saving just for the sake of saving. So here’s a tried and true benchmark: you need to have three months worth of fixed expenses saved and hanging out in a high yield online savings account. (What we mean when we say fixed expenses is anything you still have to pay for when the sh*t hits the fan: rent, insurance, phone bill, etc). That might mean $6K for some of you, that might mean $20K for others. This is your Emergency Fund, and you need one. However, this is your first line of defense, not your only line of defense. So if you don’t have quite that much saved yet, don’t panic, just work on it. And if you’re realizing you’ve actually saved too much, work on that too. Quick hack if you have more than three months of your fixed expenses saved up: consider splitting the extra off into separate savings accounts and assign them to various goals like “Down Payment” or “Cabo Vacation.” If you’re using any one of our favorite online banks, you can easily nickname your account so it’s clearly labeled with your intention for that money.


H.E.N.R.Y.s™ are hustlers. When the sh*t hits the fan you are pros at securing a new income stream or finding ways to replace your income quickly. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be ready for said sh*t to hit that proverbial fan. We are here for the real talk, and we aren’t ever going to give you advice that undermines your ability to be an adult. It’s all about getting realistic about your goals, and using strategies like automation to make them easier to reach. So if you feel like you’re cutting back and still aren’t seeing the kind of savings you want, don’t ignore it. Cut the BS. And automate it.


What other strategies have been helping you stick to your savings goals? And what are you saving for? We’d love for you to share your ideas with us in the comments below!

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