To get into the routine of saving regularly, you can try the 52 week savings plan. I’ve heard people say good things about it! Basically you start with putting away $1 the first week, and then $2 the next week, and $3 the next, on and on until you put $52 away the final week of the year and you have $1,378 in the bank! It gives you a jump start on savings and eases you into the habit of saving.
I definitely agree with treating your savings as bills that must be paid. I have my checking account, savings account, and investments/retirement funds. I deopsit paychecks into my checking, and have automatic transfers to everything else. There’s no decision making process where I might be weak and decide to splurge instead of save. It may be just a little that you can afford to put away now, but it’s good to get in the habit of treating your savings as a responsibility, just like bills.
The goal with my method is to always have a consistent amount in my checking. I check on my account a few times a month, and I have a range in mind that it should be at. If I’m above that range, I know I can increase my savings contributions a little. If I’m below that range, my first approach would be to look at my budget and cut costs. The next option is to dial back the savings, but I have always found ways to reduce my spending, so I have never had to cut back on the savings.
For any big, planned purchases, make a separate savings account and put a little bit toward it at a time. I did this for our wedding, but you could do the same thing for a new TV, a car downpayment, vacation, or a home project. That way you’re not taking cash from your living expenses or long-term savings account, and it’s more goal oriented than impulsive.
Any “surprise” extra money like cash gifts, checks, bonuses, etc go straight into your savings. I have also heard that when you get a raise, figure out your increase per paycheck, and have an automatic deposit to savings of that amount. If you’re earning $50 more per week, set up a weekly transfer of $50. If you were able to live comfortably on your previous salary, just spend as if you make the same amount, and save the extra! I haven’t gotten a raise recently, so I have not gotten the chance to try this out 🙂
Little treats are not a bad thing, but know your budget and don’t make them a habit. Once and a while I’ll get a fun Starbucks drink during a busy day, but that could easily turn into a daily routine (costing me over $1,000/year!) if I’m not careful.
Good luck! It sounds like you and your husband are careful spenders, so with some good habits you’ll develop a solid savings routine in no time!