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How to quickly save money to reach your big goals

young woman looking at receipts and doing finances on laptop

What can you achieve in 6 months? Change your career? Learn a new language? How about kickstarting your savings?

Most people want to save more money, but it's easy for life to push our savings goals aside. In fact, a survey from Bankrate found that 39% of respondents won't save more because of expenses, while 16% claim they simply "haven't gotten to it."

Could it be that saving for the sake of accumulation simply isn't a strong enough motivator? Clint Jasperson, a Thrivent wealth advisor serving in Colorado and Wyoming, explains "Money is ultimately a tool. And if we're stewards of that tool for the time on this Earth, then [we have a value system] to make very purposeful decisions with."

Our thoughts are powerful, and when we align our thinking with our higher purpose and values, we can accomplish meaningful goals. Whether you need to save money to pay for an unforeseen expense or you're eager to pay off debt by the end of the year, adopting a positive, purpose-driven mindset can keep you focused on what you're really saving for.

Not sure where to start? You can save more money in less time by creating a savings plan that aligns with your bigger goals, is specific and measurable, and challenges you to change old money behaviors. But first, you'll want to get clarity on how you plan to use your savings to pursue your bigger priorities that align with your values. Let's get started.

Set specific, measurable goals to save money intentionally

How clear is your goal? With a clear, purpose-driven plan driven by specific goals, you have a much stronger north star to guide you along the way. In fact, according to the Goal Setting Theory of Motivation, a theory developed by Edwin Locke in the 1960s, a successful goal will meet five requirements:

  1. Clear and specific goals help us envision the outcome vividly.
  2. Challenging but realistic goals ensure we stay motivated.
  3. Commitment from the start is essential for toughing out the challenge.
  4. Regular feedback and reflection help to keep you on track and focused on the outcome.
  5. A clear process with a realistic timeline and milestones simplifies the task.
Money is ultimately a tool. And if we're stewards of that tool for the time on this Earth, then [we have a value system] to make very purposeful decisions with.
Clint Jasperson, Thrivent wealth advisor

The 5 requirements in practice: A quick example

Let's say your goal is to save enough to start a side business. As it stands, this goal leaves a lot of room for interpretation. To create a more specific goal, start asking questions: What are the total start-up costs? Are you saving for living expenses or start-up business expenses? Is this goal too ambitious or too easy? Will you be partially funding your business with a business loan? When do you plan to launch your business?

Once you begin looking closer at your goal, you can create a more realistic and measurable milestone that's challenging enough to keep you motivated. Saving $5,000 in 6 months, for example, is more tangible than striving to save "enough to start a side business."

As you set your goal, analyze it with some initial questions:

  • Is it meaningful? Can you easily connect your goal to a larger purpose? What else will you gain from achieving this goal? Can you describe the outcome in vivid detail?
  • Is it measurable? How much money are you saving, and why? What milestones can you put in place along the way to ensure consistent progress? What does success look like?
  • Is it realistic? Is your goal possible given your current circumstances? Are you in a position to commit fully to this goal? What can you add or remove in order to make your goal more realistic?
  • How will you stay on track?  Reflect on other goals you've committed to—what were your roadblocks? What helped you to stay focused? What do you need to stay motivated this time?
  • What's your timeline? How much time do you need to reach your savings goal? Are you challenging yourself while also choosing a realistic timeline? Be honest with yourself. With a little examination, you may find you can meet your goal in 3 months rather than 6.

Once you think through your goal, write it down. Develop one clear, specific statement that will inspire you to challenge yourself and achieve this big goal. You can look at the statement each day to remind yourself what you're working toward and why.
For example: "I need money to start my side business: I am saving $5,000 (or $193 every week) by Nov. 30 to create my first online store—bringing me one step closer to my dream of becoming a small business owner."

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Creating a plan to help you save money fast

Now that you're armed with a purpose-driven mindset and a specific goal, you can address the more tangible aspects of your savings plan. The first step? Take a look at your cash flow.

With a little examination, you can discover how your money is spent each month and redirect it to your savings. Set aside some time to review recurring subscriptions and bills, credit cards and non-essential items in your monthly expenses.

  • What percentage of your income is currently spent on non-essential expenses (fitness classes, media subscriptions, dining out, shopping, entertainment)?
  • What percentage of your income goes to essential expenses (groceries, gas, insurance, rent or mortgage, utilities, planned giving)?
  • Which subscriptions can you pause or remove entirely?
  • Which non-essential items can you eliminate during this saving sprint?
  • What spending habits do you need to look out for (dining out on the weekends, picking up coffee for the whole office)?

Once you understand your current cash flow and spending habits, you can create a savings plan that's aligned with your main motivation while acknowledging your needs, spending habits and circumstances.

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A few more helpful tips for saving money fast

Want to move the needle a little faster? Step up your savings with a few extra steps:

Lower your monthly bill payments.

Have you been meaning to refinance your auto loan or switch to a more affordable cell phone plan? Consider where you could save a bit more responsibly by reviewing monthly bills.

Plan big, necessary purchases around sales.

Need a new refrigerator? Map out your big-ticket appliance and other household purchases around major annual sales.

Save automatically.

Set up automatic deposits to your savings accounts on payday. Using a "set it and forget it" method can help you consistently work toward your goals without additional effort.

Switch to a high-yield savings account.

Already have a chunk of change saved for a rainy day? A high-yield savings account is a lower-risk investment strategy to potentially earn more interest on your hard-earned savings over time.

Tell someone about your savings plan.

Accountability can be a powerful motivator. Tell someone you trust that you're working toward a savings goal and check in with them at each milestone. This could be your spouse, a close friend or your children. Who knows, maybe they'll want to join you!

Whether you have your heart set on a short-term savings goal or you're ready to change your savings habits for life, saving money takes time and commitment—and it can be incredibly rewarding. As the weeks pass and your savings build, you'll thank yourself for creating a clear goal and sticking to it.

The tips above are intended to serve as suggestions—they are not proven strategies for saving money in a short period of time. If you would like to develop a clear savings plan to reach your personal goals, connect with a financial advisor near you to receive guidance.