Why Can’t I Save Money?

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Do you feel like you can never get ahead in life financially? Does the idea of saving money sound like an impossible task? Perhaps you feel like you’re barely treading the financial waters. Whatever the case, maybe you’re constantly wondering…

“Why can’t I save money?”

Many people struggle to save money. It’s not just you. And there can be many different reasons that contribute to the problem. For most, it’s a combination of things.

The following are some of the most common reasons why you may be struggling to save money. As you read through the list, see if any of them are things you may be doing. Then work on developing a plan to turn things around.

1. You Don’t Have a Budget

One of the most common reasons why people can’t save money is because they don’t live by a budget. They don’t have a financial plan. When they go grocery shopping, for example, they go through the store and buy whatever catches their eyes instead of using a shopping list.

There are many advantages to using a budget. It may help you to decrease your spending on non-essential things, for example, which may free up some money for you to save.

Creating a budget isn’t difficult. You don’t need a degree in accounting or finance to make one. You don’t even need to know how to use a spreadsheet.

You can create a simple budget with a piece of paper and a pen. The idea is simple – just take your monthly income and allocate a certain percentage to each monthly expense. It’s important to point out that how much money you allocate to each expense is up to you. It’s your call.

Here is a simple sample budget:

Monthly Income – $3,000

Monthly Expenses
Rent – $800
Car Payment – $400
Groceries – $400
Utilities – $300
Cable TV/Internet – $200
Phone – $100
Entertainment – $200
Miscellaneous – $200
Savings – $400

After you have completed your budget, make sure you stick to it. A written budget won’t do you any good, after all, if you don’t use it.

2. You Don’t Have an Emergency Fund

Sometimes things happen.

Perhaps you experience a sudden job loss and need some extra money to keep you going until you land a new job. Maybe a pipe bursts in your basement and your home floods. Or perhaps the transmission in your car suddenly goes out.

Unexpected expenses can really wreak havoc on your finances if you don’t have an emergency fund set aside to take care of these things when they happen. If you are suddenly hit with a large bill for something and you don’t have an emergency fund, you may have to charge it to your credit card and pay it off over time.

An emergency fund may prevent you from going deep in debt when an unexpected expense occurs. If you have a sufficient emergency fund, you can pay off the expense and then work on rebuilding your fund.

3. You Don’t Earn Enough Money

It’s kind of hard to save money when you barely earn enough to cover your expenses. According to an article on CNBC, nearly half of all Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck.

Nearly half.

Just take a moment and let that sink in. That’s a lot of people who are living on the financial edge – and it wouldn’t take much for them to go right over the edge.

If you don’t earn enough money to cover your expenses, you are left with two choices. Either you have to figure out a way to earn more money, or you have to cut your expenses.

Taking on an extra job is one way to earn more money. It may not always be possible to do this, of course, if there are scheduling conflicts with your current job.

Doing odd jobs in your community is another way you may be able to earn extra money. Many people need help with things in and around their homes. Just a few services you may be able to offer include:

  • Lawn care
  • Running errands
  • Painting
  • Repairing things
  • Cleaning and organizing garages
  • Cleaning houses
  • Tutoring

4. You Don’t Track Small Expenses

Many people don’t keep track of all of the little purchases they make. “It’s just a few bucks,” they think as they buy the fifteenth mocha latte for the month.

But all of those little expenses can add up to a lot of money. And if you’re not careful, they can make a major dent in your finances.

Keeping track of all of your purchases for a month can be a real eye-opener. Many are shocked by how much they spend on non-essential things. What they thought was just a few bucks here and there turned out to be much more.

If you keep track of your expenses for a month, go through the list of things you bought and look for purchases that weren’t absolutely necessary. Perhaps you could replace the snacks and drinks you buy, for example, with something from home.

5. You Spend Too Much on Entertainment

Enjoying a night on the town is fun – but if you do it too often it can really drain your finances. Eating out at nice restaurants, going to the movies, attending plays, seeing bands perform live – all of these things can be expensive.

If you are trying to save money, consider allocating a certain amount of money each month in your budget for entertainment. And when you use up all of your entertainment budget for the month, wait until the beginning of the next month before you go out again.

Another thing to consider with entertainment is seeing if there are any free things in your community that you can do. Many communities sponsor free events you can attend. Of course, the larger the community you live in, the more options for free entertainment you will have.

6. You Have Too Much Credit Card Debt

Many people treat their credit cards as free sources of money, and they use their credit cards to buy things they wouldn’t ordinarily buy if they were paying with cash. It doesn’t always feel like you’re actually spending money when you swipe a piece of plastic across a reader.

But you definitely are – and the bill for all of those purchases has to be paid.

Carrying a lot of credit card debt can really drag you down financially. And it can really be hard to get ahead on your credit card debt if you only make the minimum monthly payments each month.

7. Your Car Is Too Expensive

Why Can't I Save Money?

Vehicles continue to get more and more expensive. They keep getting fancier, and auto manufacturers keep adding more electronics and other features to them – features that not everyone wants or needs.

If you buy more vehicle than you need, you can end up with a high monthly payment that can last for several years. Saving money can be difficult when a large portion of your monthly income goes to paying the loan on your vehicle.

Many people save on vehicles by buying gently used vehicles in excellent condition with relatively low miles. These vehicles usually still have a lot of life left in them, but they are much more affordable than new vehicles.

8. You Bought Too Much House

It may be hard to believe, but the average home size in 1950 was about 1,000 square feet. That’s it. Over the years, homes have ballooned in size. In comparison, the average home size in the year 2000 was 2,000 square feet – twice the size of homes just a few decades earlier.

How much home do you really need?

The more home you have, the higher your monthly mortgage payment is going to be, which makes it hard to save money. Bigger homes are also more expensive to own and maintain. It takes more money to heat and cool a larger home than it does a smaller one. You may also have more repairs to deal with.

Related: How to Save Money With a Part-Time Job

9. You Confuse Wants With Needs

A major reason why many can’t save money is because they think they need to buy many things that they don’t really need. They may want a new car, for example, but the one they have is paid for and runs just fine.

Wants and needs are not the same thing.

If you see something that catches your eye and you are thinking about buying it, it’s important to consider the “why” behind the purchase. Do you merely desire to own it – to have something new – or is it something that you genuinely need?

10. You’re an Impulsive Shopper

Are you someone who goes shopping without a plan, without knowing what you need to buy at the store? Do you go through the isles and grab random things that catch your eyes? Do you occasionally have to hide things you bought from your significant other?

If any of these sound familiar, you may be an impulsive shopper.

Impulse shopping is an easy way to spend too much money – or waste money, depending on the necessity of your purchases. If you know you need to make a trip to a store to buy something, be sure to write down the things you need – make a list – and stick to it.

11. You Have Too Much Student Loan Debt

Earning a college degree these days is very expensive. The cost of higher education is increasing at an absurd rate. It’s even increasing faster than the cost of healthcare.

The monthly payment on a student loan can be substantial – and many entry-level jobs for recent graduates don’t pay very much. The combination of rent, car payment, student loan payment, and other expenses can cause many to struggle until they move up in their careers.

What’s a person to do?

There are some things you can do to dramatically lower the cost of earning a college degree. Attending a community college for your first two years and then transferring to a four-year college or university to graduate is one example. Community colleges are usually much more affordable than other schools, and if you qualify for the PELL Grant, you may receive enough grant money to cover all of your community college tuition and expenses.

Joining the reserves or national guard is another option for substantially lowering the cost of earning a degree. By becoming a weekend warrior, you may qualify for the GI Bill, military tuition assistance, and other benefits. Be sure to check with a recruiter to learn more about this option.

Another way to lower the cost of earning a college degree is to compare costs before enrolling in a school. There is no consistency in what different schools charge to attend. One school may be very expensive, for example, while another is very affordable. It pays to shop around.

12. You Eat Out Too Much

It’s nice to eat out on occasion. Having someone do all of the cooking for you – and cleaning up afterward – can be a really nice break from your routine. But eating out can also be expensive if you do it too often.

It’s really easy to get carried away with eating out. In addition to eating out during evening excursions, many also like to go through the drive-through to grab a quick lunch during the day. Some justify the cost because of the time they save.

Many are often surprised by how much they spend on meals at restaurants in a month – sit-down meals and fast food meals combined. The expense can quickly and easily get out of hand if you aren’t using a monthly budget and keeping track of the total.

13. You Spend Too Much on Subscriptions and Memberships

Many people subscribe to magazines and other things that they don’t read or need. They then continue with those subscriptions even when they know that they aren’t being used.

There are many things that people can subscribe to, magazines are just one example. You can subscribe to monthly home meat deliveries, beauty product deliveries, coffee, books, crafts, and many other things. Whatever it is, if you aren’t using the products or you don’t need them, consider canceling the subscriptions to save some money.

Unused gym memberships are another expense that many people don’t cancel. Many people sign up for gym memberships with the best of intentions. Maybe it was part of a New Year’s resolution. But for whatever reason, life got in the way and they weren’t able to continue going to the gym.

Some gym memberships may require a one or two-year contract before you can cancel. This can be a significant expense if you join a gym and then quit going after a few months. Before joining a gym, be sure to check and see if you are required to sign a lengthy contract.

In some cases, it may actually be cheaper to pay an early termination fee than to continue with a gym membership that you aren’t using. If the early termination fee is high, it may be cheaper to ride the contract out than to cancel early. Be sure you know the terms of your gym contract before joining.

14. You Make Excuses

“I don’t make enough money to start saving.”

“It’ll take me forever to save anything.”

“My bills are too high.”

“Interest rates are too low. Why bother?”

“I’ll start saving later when my salary is higher.”

Excuses, excuses, excuses. It’s easy to come up with reasons why you can’t save – but that’s exactly what many people do. And because of their excuses and procrastination, they either never get around to saving anything or they start saving too late in life.

The sooner you start saving, the better. Even if you can save just a small amount until your financial situation improves, you are still developing a valuable habit that could serve you well for the rest of your life.

15. You Spend Too Much on Your Cell Phone

Monthly cell phone plans can be expensive. It depends on a variety of factors like which service provider you use, your plan, your monthly usage, and other things.

How much do you really use your mobile device?

If you’ve been with the same cell phone carrier for a few years, it might be worth your time to do a little shopping around to see what plans other companies offer. The cell phone industry is very competitive, and companies frequently come out with new plans to entice new customers to sign up.

When shopping for cell phone service, don’t forget to check with the discount and prepaid service providers. Many of these companies use the exact same cell phone towers as the big companies, but their prices are much lower.

Another thing to consider with cell phones is your mobile device. How much capability do you really need? Most mobile devices cost hundreds of dollars – some are over $1k. You may be able to get a deal on a slightly older model instead of going with the latest and greatest gadget.

Another option to consider with mobile devices is to purchase a refurbished device to save money. If you are considering a refurbished device, it’s important to point out that not all companies define “refurbished” the same way. Some companies restore devices to their original condition, while other companies have different standards.

16. You Spend Too Much on Cable TV

A major monthly expense for many is their cable TV package. Unfortunately, cable TV providers don’t let us choose the channels we watch and ditch the rest. They force us to pay for a package, which usually comes with a bunch of channels that we never watch.

I probably watch fewer than a dozen channels regularly. How about you?

If you are like me and you don’t watch too many channels, it may be possible to ditch cable TV and subscribe to an affordable internet TV package instead. Internet TV is quite good these days, and many new TVs let you stream channels through the internet without having to buy additional hardware.

In addition to streaming TV over the internet, depending on where you live, you may also be able to watch additional channels for free by installing a high-definition antenna. Many over-the-air channels are now broadcast in high-definition. Gone are the days of having to adjust rabbit years to get a decent picture.

Yet another option to consider is to rent movies and TV shows from your local public library. Most libraries have good selections of media to watch. You may be able to combine an affordable internet package with an antenna and rentals from your local library to realize big savings.

Also Read: Are CLEP Exams Hard?

17. You Procrastinate

“I’ll get around to it later.”

One of the reasons why many don’t save money is because they keep putting it off. They don’t see the urgency of saving money and think that there will always be time for it at some undetermined point in the future.

Unfortunately, many keep putting off saving money indefinitely. They never get around to it, despite their best intentions.

If you keep waiting to start saving money, you could run into a situation where you need to dip into your savings for something – a financial emergency of some kind. The sooner you start saving, the more you will have if something happens. Even if it’s not a lot, it could still make a difference.

18. You’re Trying to Keep Up With the Joneses

Do you feel envious when you see someone in a nice, new vehicle? Do you drive through neighborhoods that are nicer than yours and dream of living in a big, fancy home? Or do you always feel like you have to have the latest and greatest, regardless of what it is?

If any of these sound familiar, you might be struggling to keep up with the Joneses. It’s a common reason why many wonder, “why can’t I save money?”

The problem with trying to keep up with the Joneses is that there is always going to be someone somewhere who has something nicer or more expensive than you. If you buy a brand new Lexus, for example, someone else in your neighborhood may buy a Porsche. And if you build a brand new home, someone else could build a bigger one down the road from you a few years later.

Do you see the problem with keeping up with the Joneses? For many, it’s like being on an endless merry-go-round. You buy something to keep up with the latest trends, only to see someone buy something even nicer not long after you made your purchase.

Why do people try to keep up with the Joneses?

It’s mostly about impressing people. Many people have a strong desire to appear successful in life, regardless of how much they actually make or how much they have in their bank accounts. It’s all about appearances.

Do you know what the most common vehicles are that wealthy people drive? It’s probably not what you think. The most common vehicles for those who earn over $250k a year (the top 2% of earners in the United States) are Hondas, Toyotas, and Fords.

Appearances aren’t as important as what you may think. There are other things in life that are far more important.

19. You Don’t Have Financial Goals

Another reason why you can’t save money is because you don’t have any goals. Having goals is important because it gives you something to aim for – a target. Examples of financial goals could include:

  • A vacation
  • A new vehicle
  • A down payment on a home
  • A nest egg for retirement

Having a goal can be a powerful motivator. It can give you something to look forward to – a reward for all of the work you did to save money.

20. You’re Not Motivated

Yet another reason why you can’t save money is because you aren’t properly motivated. Perhaps you think everything will sort itself out and there’s no need to save for anything. Maybe you live for today and don’t worry about the future.

A lack of motivation can result in you being unprepared to deal with unexpected life events. If you aren’t concerned about your future, life may throw a curveball at you that may be difficult to recover from.

Why Can’t I Save Money? – Final Thoughts

There are many reasons why people can’t save money. In many cases, it’s not just one reason – it’s actually a combination of reasons.

Identifying the reasons why you can’t save money is the first step in turning things around. The next step is to take action to start saving. Create a savings plan, and then take action on it.

Saving money doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s an issue of self-discipline as much as anything else. Once you start saving and develop the saving habit, it may become routine, something you do automatically without thinking about it.

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Cyrus Vanover

Cyrus Vanover, MBA, is a financial copywriter who has written for companies of all sizes. He is also the author of the personal finance book, "Earn A Debt-Free College Degree." His goal is to help families save money, make more money, and achieve financial independence. Based in the mountains of Virginia, he enjoys hiking the local trails, listening to 80s music, and reading books on military history in his spare time. Read more.

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