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Everyone has the ability to save something. Having a goal is the first step. “Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” This Arthur Ashe quote is relevant to many things in life – even savings. You don’t need bucketloads of money to save – you just need to set some goals and start.

When setting your savings goals, make sure that your plan allows you to celebrate the small victories along the way and not only the main aim. This builds confidence in your savings plan.

Behavioural economists agree that the best way to achieve success with something, is to identify a specific long-term goal with built-in intermediate success measures which makes your own goal seem more possible and even more rewarding.

When setting a savings goal, Behavioural Economist, Erik Vermeulen, suggests you focus your efforts and avoid getting sidetracked by impulsive spending. He suggests the following:

Your goal must create SECURITY

We fear loss. This ultimately impacts our behaviour and our ability to set out on a course of action. So, having a goal that offers you a sense of security can be a very powerful motivator.

Your goal must be MEASURABLE

Being able to measure your progress is key. Decide how much money you want to save, and by when, then include short- and medium-term milestones into your plan of action, to plot out your savings journey. Seeing this picture clearly can be a powerful motivator.

Your goal must have AUTONOMY

This means you have to feel in control of your own goal. After all, no one likes abdicating control of something near and dear to your heart. The more control we feel we have over the outcome of our savings plan, the more likely we are to continue contributing towards it.

The more control we feel we have over the outcome of our savings plan, the more likely we are to continue contributing towards it,” says Erik Vermeulen, Behavioural Economist.

Your goal must be RELEVANT

If you’re feeling lukewarm about something, it can’t be that important to you. So make your savings plan relevant and make it personal to ensure that you maintain interest in it.

Your goal must be EXCITING

If you’re not excited about the process of saving and the outcome, it’s unlikely you’ll be motivated to keep at it. Excitement triggers the release of dopamine in your brain – a key hormone that regulates joyful behaviour.

The best way to learn savings habits is to make realistic, sustainable changes to your behaviour and lifestyle. Big changes may take a lot of effort and constant tough choices, which makes them easier to default on, says Vermeulen. So rather start small and manageable.

Partnering with a professional can also help you to set realistic goals and make it easier to stick to them. Now’s the time to speak to your financial adviser if you have one, or find one if you don’t.



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