“Save a part of your income and begin now, for the man with a surplus controls circumstances and the man without a surplus is controlled by circumstances.” ~ Henry Buckley
“Paying yourself first” is a commonly used phrase which refers to the practice of automatically saving or investing your income before you start to spend it. You pay yourself first when you contribute a percentage of your income to your savings and retirement each pay period. It may seem unrealistic to talk about paying yourself first when faced with so many other financial obligations, yet while it is critical to pay all your bills on time, planning for your future cannot always take the back seat.
But wait, isn’t spending your money basically paying or rewarding yourself after working hard? Not quite. Think of it this way, when you spend money at your favorite restaurant, you are paying the owner. When you buy a new pair of shoes, you are paying the seller. Every time you are spending, you are paying someone else. But when you save or invest, you are keeping that money to yourself. You are paying yourself.
Sometimes, however, our expenses might appear to be too many to allow us to save and invest. If you are having trouble finding ways to pay yourself first, try taking these three steps to get into the habit:
Figure out how much you can afford: If you take a close look at your expenses, you may find that even small changes in spending habits, such as bringing your lunch to work, could create big savings over time.
Set a personal payment goal: If you know you can only pay yourself a small amount right now, look for opportunities to increase these payments in the future. Determine how much of your monthly salary you need to set aside to meet your financial goals then find ways to make changes that will impact your expenses in the long term.
The best way to develop a saving habit is to make the process as painless as possible. Make it automatic. Make it invisible. If you arrange to have the money taken from your paycheck before you receive it, you will learn to make do with what you get.
Why pay yourself first?
When you pay yourself first, you are mentally establishing saving as a priority by telling yourself that you are more important than the utility company or a random business owner. Building savings is a powerful motivator since it empowers you not only to think of today but to have a long-term outlook of your finances.
Sound Financial Habits
Paying yourself first encourages sound financial habits. Once most people are done spending, there is unsurprisingly little left over to save. You can think of savings as an expense too. Create a budget and include savings as an item. The first item. So, instead of saving what you are left with, you spend what is left after saving.
Secure Financial Freedom
By paying yourself first, you are building a cash buffer. Regular steady contributions are an excellent way to build a nest egg, you can use the money to deal with emergencies, purchase a house and save for retirement. Paying yourself first gives you financial freedom and prevents you from getting into debt should an emergency occur.
The real barrier to developing this habit is finding money to save. Many people believe it is close to impossible. But you can save at least 10% of your income if you put your mind to it. That is only ten shilling out of every 100 shillings and 100 shillings out of every 1,000 shillings. Saving this little may seem insignificant, but if you try to save just 10% of your income, you discover that the process can be very helpful in the long run.
If you try to pay for everything else first and then save, you will often find that there is nothing left to save. But if you save first and then pay bills after, it will encourage you to live within your means while securing your financial future.
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