Why Can’t I Save Money? 17 Reasons You May Be Struggling

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We all know saving money is essential for your future. But what if stockpiling cash doesn’t come easy to you? What if you’ve tried everything you can to grow your cash cushion but haven’t been successful?

You might have even asked yourself, your partner, or your close friends, “Why can’t I save money?” Unfortunately, determining the answer to that question requires a thorough assessment of your financial situation because the answer is not always obvious. To help you identify your problem, here is a list of 17 reasons you may struggle to save money

Why Can’t I Save Money? 17 Reasons You May Be Struggling

If you are wondering why you can’t save money to save your life, you will need to think closely about your money situation. There may be one or more factors involved that are causing the problem. Keep reading to explore several reasons you could be overlooking.

1. You Don’t Have a Plan For Your Money

Having a plan for your money involves budgeting. You will have more difficulty saving cash if you don’t have a budget. Tracking your spending for a couple of weeks will help you establish your spending plan. Of course, not all budgets need to account for every last dollar bill you earn. But you should have a general plan for your money to help you determine what you can spend and save. Then, when you stick to a budget, you can start saving money.

2. You Are Spending Too Much Money on Food

Housing, transportation, and food are most households’ three highest monthly expenses. While housing and transportation (car payments, insurance, and gas costs) are relatively stable, food costs can quickly get out of hand if you aren’t careful. If you are having difficulty saving money, look at your food bill. You may have been spending more at the grocery store lately or eating out more frequently.  

There are plenty of ways to save money on food costs. However, meal planning is one of the most significant ways to save money on groceries and avoid takeout. Being intentional with your meals will help decrease food waste and prevent unnecessary trips to the grocery store. In addition, eating at home promotes healthy eating and family bonding time.     

3. You Aren’t Living Below Your Means

If you often think, “Why can’t I save money?” chances are good you aren’t living below your means. Consistently spending more money than you bring home every month will cause you to use credit cards for your necessities, leading you into debt. Tracking your income and expenses will help you determine areas for reducing spending.

Frugal living is one way many people can live below their means. Having a frugal lifestyle is when you choose how you spend your money based on your values and what is most important to you. For example, choosing to drive an older vehicle because it’s paid off instead of leasing a new car every three years to save money for a family vacation is how a frugal person considers their priorities when spending money. Frugality is about making intentional decisions to spend less and save more with your money.

4. You Have Too Much Debt

Chronic overspending leads to debt. And debt is expensive, so if you have debt, whether from credit cards, car loans, personal loans, or student loans, that could be why you are having difficulty saving money. Paying down debt and getting rid of your credit card debt will help free up money so that you can stash your cash in a savings account. Try to negotiate your debts and determine a debt payoff plan to get out of debt as soon as possible.

5. You Don’t Make Enough Money

Not earning enough money so you can save money from your salary every month may be why you struggle to boost your savings. Many factors can impact how far your paycheck goes. Things like being in a single-income household, living in an expensive area, and having a growing family can make it challenging to make ends meet.  

If you aren’t earning enough money to make ends meet and save money, asking for a raise, getting a higher paying job, finding a second job, or starting a side hustle are ways to increase your income.  

6. You Don’t Have Any Financial Goals

Financial goals are so crucial for saving money. If you don’t have a plan for your money, it will be hard to be motivated to manage your money effectively. Long-term goals, for example, saving for retirement, are essential. However, short-term and intermediate-term goals are also important because these goals are stepping stones to your long-term goals. By experiencing small wins as you reach these smaller savings goals, you will stay motivated to work toward the much more challenging, long-term goals.  

Why Can't I Save Money:  Lifestyle Creep, Small house and larger house models

7. You Succumbed to Lifestyle Creep

Lifestyle creep, also known as lifestyle inflation, is when your spending increases as your paycheck increases. Getting a raise or promotion at work and then upgrading your car or home is a prime example of lifestyle creep and why you wonder, “Why can’t I save money?” even after a significant raise. Instead of trading up on material things, try living the same as you did before your increase in pay and saving your extra income.  

8. You Don’t Have a Cash Cushion

Not having an emergency fund is another reason you may have difficulty saving money. Let’s face it. Emergencies happen—your water heater breaks. Your car leaves you sit. You may need to take extended time off of work for health issues. Any significant unplanned expense can cause you to take on debt if you don’t have an emergency fund. A mountain of debt will lead to living paycheck to paycheck, which makes it impossible to save money. Aim for at least three to six months of expenses in your emergency fund.

9. You Are Paying Too Much for Your Vehicles

When you want to save money from your paycheck, you’ll need to reduce your expenses. A high monthly cost for many people is car payments. Experts recommend keeping your car expenses to less than 20% of your income. For example, if you make 15 dollars an hour, you may bring home around $1800 monthly after taxes, which means your car payment, car insurance, and gas expenses should be less than $360. Spending less money on this area of your budget will help you free up cash for saving.

10. You Enjoy Shopping-A Little Too Much

Consider your spending habits if you are wondering why you can’t save money. Do you have frequent impulse buys? Is shopping your coping mechanism for stress or other negative emotions? Or is online shopping one of your favorite pastimes when you are bored? Overspending on material things is detrimental to building your savings account. Try a no-spend challenge to help reset your spending habits. Deposit the money you avoid spending into your savings account to get a jump start on your financial goals.  

11. You Aren’t Automating Your Savings

“Pay yourself first” is a famous phrase that means saving money for retirement or short-term financial goals before you pay your expenses. Just like you set up automatic contributions into your employer-sponsored retirement account, automate a set amount of money to be deposited into your savings account from each paycheck. Paying yourself first will ensure you save money before it hits your checking account, where you can easily spend it.

12. You Think You Don’t Have Extra Money to Save

You may have a preconceived notion that you need a certain amount of money to deposit into your savings account. However, no amount is too small to save. Even small amounts add up over a year. For example, were you five dollars under budget for your groceries this week? You could put it in your savings account. Did you get your monthly cable bill reduced by twenty dollars? Deposit that money each month. If you get in the habit of banking any extra cash, you will start to see your savings account grow.  

13. You Buy Everything New

If you’ve never bought anything used, now’s the time to start if you want to save money. You can purchase secondhand clothes online through apps like eBay, Poshmark, and ThredUp. Or check your local Goodwill or thrift stores. Check Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist for furniture, home accessories, workout equipment, power tools, and even appliances. Let someone else absorb the bulk of new car depreciation by purchasing a used vehicle. Before heading to a store to buy something new, shop around for a used version for significant savings.      

14. You Are House Poor

A house is typically the most expensive purchase you will ever make. But your mortgage shouldn’t prevent you from saving money. A good rule of thumb is to keep your housing expenses under 28% of your income. So if you earn $3400 a month, your mortgage, homeowners insurance, and taxes should be less than $952.  

15. You Only Will Buy Name Brands

Spending money on name-brand clothes, accessories, food products, furniture, and other items will cause you to spend more cash than necessary, making it harder to save money. Instead, try shopping for knockoffs, generics, and store brands to save money. Or, as a compromise, shop at off-price retailers like Ross, TJ Maxx, and Marshalls for name-brand items for less.  

Why Can't I save Money: live in a high cost of living area, row of houses

16. You Live In An Area With a High Cost of Living

Certain areas in the U.S. are costly to live in or near. If you live in any of those areas, your money will not go as far. Paying more for housing or rent, food, and other necessities will make it challenging to put cash in your savings account. If you live in or near the following areas, you are most likely paying more for your basic living expenses. That may be a reason you can’t save money.

  • New York, NY
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Honolulu, HI
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Oakland, CA
  • Boston, MA
  • Orange County, CA
  • San Diego, CA
  • Arlington, VA
  • Alexandria, VA
  • Bethesda, MD

17. You Are Keeping Up With the Joneses

“Keeping up with the Joneses” is a phrase used to describe when people buy material things that their friends or neighbors have to portray a similar social or economic status. Spending money on something beyond your budget to show you are as successful or well-off as others is a surefire way to spend the money you could have otherwise saved. Keeping up with the Joneses is a big reason many people can’t save money. Take a look at your spending habits to determine if this is the reason you can’t save money.

Final Thoughts

If you are tired of constantly thinking, “Why can’t I save money,” it might be time to explore your current spending habits and financial situation. Just because you have difficulty saving money now doesn’t mean you will always struggle. Use these examples to examine your financial situation and determine how to modify your spending habits to save money and live your best life.

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