15 Ways to Push Through Mental Barriers and Save Money

Struggling to save money? Consider these different ways to break down your mental barriers so you can start putting money away.

Woman saving money
Updated June 20, 2024
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If you want to start a savings habit, it’s important not to let yourself get in the way. Or in other words, don’t let your brain or subconscious mind prevent you from pursuing your financial goals and avoiding common money mistakes.

Sounds easy, right? Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. It can be difficult to break through mental blocks and focus on saving money. But we’ve compiled a list of ways to help you overcome your mental barriers around saving. Let’s get started.

Change your mindset

You might have negative ideas about money for one reason or another. This could be because of past experiences or thinking about how difficult it might be to start saving money.

In this case, it’s best to shift your mindset to be more positive. While you may still believe it will be difficult to start saving, you can also look at the positives. Think about the opportunities you could open up for yourself when you reach your savings goals. Yes, it will likely be hard, but the process and end results could help you be more financially aware and stable.

Review your finances

It can be challenging to grasp how to manage your money if you don’t know how your money is being spent or how much income you have. In this type of situation, you’re basically flying in the dark with your budget, making it hard to set and achieve goals.

But regularly reviewing your finances can give you the clarification and confidence you need to take the first steps toward saving money and reaching your financial goals.

Many of the best banks make it easy to track your income and spending by giving you access to detailed transactions, including both deposits and withdrawals. If you also use credit cards to make purchases, you might get more transactional history. This can give you a better understanding of where your money is going.

Take advantage of cashback tools

Certain cashback tools could help you save without having to put much effort in. Cashback credit cards like the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and Citi Double Cash® Card make it easy to earn cash back on your purchases. Any cash back you earn can typically be redeemed for direct deposits, which could go directly to your savings goals.

For additional savings, use apps like Ibotta and Fetch Rewards to earn cash back and rewards while shopping. Ibotta offers cash back for certain purchases at popular stores, while Fetch lets you scan receipts and earn rewards you can redeem for gift cards.

Find a budgeting app

If budgeting and saving money seem too overwhelming, consider using budgeting apps to help make the process easier on yourself. Not everyone can decide they want to start saving money and then immediately begin — it often takes time to learn and understand the process according to your unique situation.

But with a budgeting app, you have the opportunity to streamline your savings efforts, such as tracking your spending, cutting out unwanted bills, and creating a budget that works for you.

Learn about your spending habits

One of the goals of reviewing your finances should be to learn more about your spending habits and then decide if anything needs to change. The purpose of a budget is to put money away for certain goals. So if you find that you tend to spend more money than needed in certain areas, you could cut your spending and put that extra money toward your savings.

For example, you might not realize how much you spend on eating out or entertainment expenses until you track your spending for a month. But when you actually see individual transactions and add them up, you might be surprised how much money is going toward those purchases.

Wait to make a purchase

Much of what might be blocking you from starting a savings habit could be rooted in your typical spending habits and personality. If you want to buy something, how long do you wait until you decide to go through with the purchase? If your process involves wanting to buy an item and then immediately making the purchase, changing that process could help.

This could be difficult, but try to wait before making unnecessary purchases, including almost anything, such as takeout, clothing, additional streaming services, and more. And if you’re heading to the grocery store, bring a list of things to buy and stick to it. As you take small steps toward increasing your willpower, you’ll likely gain more control over your spending.

Set goals

Part of learning how to save money is setting goals for budgeting and saving. You should have a goal of how much money you want to save, but you should also have plans for achieving the savings you have in mind.

If you’re new to budgeting, set a goal to learn about different budgeting strategies and select one that fits your situation. Also, consider setting goals for saving money each week or each month. This can help you maintain a constant focus instead of setting a goal far into the future without any means to achieve it.

Start small

It may be tempting to set big, lofty savings goals from the start, but you likely need something more concrete to work toward. When first beginning a savings habit, start by saving for short-term goals. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself right away, and setting realistic and achievable goals could help you feel less stressed.

If you start hitting your smaller goals and feeling more comfortable, consider ramping up and setting bigger goals. Over time, you might find yourself at the point where goals that once seemed unachievable are now within your reach.

Think long-term

What is your purpose behind saving money in the first place? If you don’t have a long-term objective in mind, you might find yourself losing motivation to continue your savings habit. But if you know exactly what you’re working toward over the long term, you’ll likely have a stronger desire to stay on track.

For example, you might envision yourself on the vacation of your dreams or comfortably enjoying retirement without any money worries. Everyone’s goals are different, so think about what you want in the future and remember to keep that in mind.

Automate your savings

If one of the biggest struggles for you with saving money is thinking about it all the time, consider using a tool to help automate your savings. For many people, not having to think about putting money into savings could make it easier to achieve financial goals.

For instance, useful tools like Acorns can help you invest money automatically through different features, including recurring investments or Round-Ups that invest your spare change when you make purchases.

Learn more about this app in our Acorns review.

Create a support system

If you have money-smart family members or friends, use them as a support system for achieving your financial goals. This can be helpful if you have specific questions about things they might have more knowledge about, such as using a credit card to track spending or how to set up recurring deposits to a savings account.

Getting help from others can ease some of the mental pressure you might have from saving money on your own.

Work with your partner

Attempting to tackle your finances alone can feel daunting, especially if you’re unsure what steps to take next. Bringing your partner into the plan of saving money can help you share the load and set financial goals together. Alternatively, you could also do this with a trusted friend. This can help ease the mental pressure associated with thinking you have to work toward your goals alone.

In addition, having two people instead of one can help with figuring out the best ways for budgeting that works for your situation, whether it’s cutting out certain expenses, saving a certain amount of money each month, or both.

Celebrate your wins

If you start with small and realistic goals for saving money, you’re likely to start achieving them. To help keep yourself motivated to set bigger goals and then achieve those, celebrate the wins along your financial journey.

This doesn’t mean you should go out and spend all your money on a big party — that would be counterproductive. But it might be beneficial to celebrate with a small expense on your favorite meal or a small shopping trip.

Don’t get stuck on setbacks

Everything is great when it’s smooth sailing. If your budgeting strategy is working and you’re hitting your savings goals, then it might seem like there’s no way to slow down your momentum. But life can throw a curveball at any time, which might cause a financial setback.

However, you don’t have to let a setback, such as paying for a financial emergency, stop you from progressing. It may slow you down, and you might have to readjust your strategy, but it shouldn’t stop you.

Remember that everyone has setbacks, including the most successful people, so do your best to push through and come out even better than before. It can help to review your past progress to see how far you’ve come since you started.

Don’t restrict yourself too much

Saving as much as possible all the time is likely the quickest way to reach your goals. But is it worth it?

It may be for some, but it’s likely not the best strategy for everyone. If you have to give up everything you enjoy to save money, you could end up becoming unmotivated and feeling burnt out from the efforts you’re putting in.

It could make more sense to find a balance between setting spending restrictions and achieving financial goals. This will help ensure you still get to enjoy the things you like doing while also building a healthy savings habit.

Bottom line

Saving money isn’t always easy, but it is possible. If you put yourself in a situation where you have a positive mindset and the desire to set achievable savings goals, your chances of saving are likely to go up.

If you start hitting your goals and remember to celebrate your wins, your momentum can grow, and your savings habit can become a routine.

Author Details

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®, is credit cards specialist. For over a decade, he's leveraged credit card points and miles to travel the world. His expertise extends to other areas of personal finance — including loans, insurance, investing, and real estate — and you can find his insights on The Washington Post, Debt.com, Yahoo! Finance, and Fox Business.