How to Save Money by Training Your Brain

A few simple steps can help you create a lifetime of financial security. Here’s how to grow your savings by changing your brain.

Key Takeaways

Having money in savings is comforting and empowering. With money saved up, you can pay for emergencies and unexpected expenses without disrupting your budget. Understanding how to grow your savings is also the foundation of your big goals, like buying a house.

However, not everyone is able to create this kind of financial safety net. In fact, the Federal Reserve found that about 63% of adults in the United States would not be able to cover a $400 unexpected expense with cash.

Not having money saved can lead to negative feelings like fear and even shame. For some, the urge to “binge budget” can be powerful. Binge budgeting involves making unsustainable decisions about your spending, such as deciding to stop eating out or cutting out social activities and hobbies.

Instead, we should confront an often overlooked culprit in our savings struggles: Our brains.

Why is it so hard to save money?

Here’s one reason to kick that financial shame to the curb: saving is difficult for a majority of people. 

A recent survey shows that fewer than half of all Americans have over $1000 saved. The percentage decreases with household income levels. Fewer than 22% of Americans with a yearly income below $30,000 have enough in savings to cover a $1000 emergency expense.

While there are economic factors that make it difficult to save money, the way we’re wired as humans is part of the problem.

Our brains are programmed for our survival. Survival responses are all about the here and now: food, shelter, our sense of belonging, etc. You can imagine how saving money could be in conflict with those instincts. 

Preparing for future events isn’t as easy for our brains as making decisions that benefit us in the present moment. This mental aspect is often overlooked by those wondering how to save money.

How to grow your savings with mindset changes

No matter how our brains are wired, we are still empowered with the wisdom and judgment to make better choices. The cool thing about our minds is that we can improve our instincts and responses with conscious efforts (and some helpful tools):

Look into the future…literally

A study by Stanford University found that people who viewed age-progressed images of themselves were much more likely to save more for retirement than those who did not. 

Apparently, this is a great method to show your reptilian brain that preparing for the future is critical to your survival. This may sound strange, but you can try using an app like Aging Booth to visualize yourself in a stage of life when you’ll rely on your retirement savings.

Automate your savings

Do you find it hard to transfer money into savings? Maybe you’re worried that you’ll need it for an upcoming expense, or you’d rather spend that money on something in your Amazon shopping cart. 

Many bank accounts now enable customers to set up automatic transfers from their checking accounts to their savings accounts. Try scheduling a transfer on payday, so that the money goes into savings right away. This helps you see your savings as separate from your spending money, and eliminates any temptation to avoid hitting that “transfer” button.

Use an app to help you budget your money

Budgeting is great for your bank account AND your credit. Now, putting your financial future in perspective is easier with modern technology. 

The StellarFi app allows you to view upcoming bills, so that you know how much you can put in savings while still being able to cover your expenses. This can help you avoid overspending, since all your bills are viewable on one easy dashboard.

Technology can help you see your financial future clearly, and make decisions accordingly.

You have the power

Many of the steps we need to take in order to create financial well-being, like saving money, go against some of our natural instincts. There is, however, so much more to us than our wiring.

Money can reveal the ways in which we are not aligned with our goals. Look in the mirror and tune into your feelings. How do you feel about the ways in which you’re taking care of the person you see?  The right decisions will follow.


StellarFi (StellarFinance, Inc.) and its affiliates do not provide financial, tax, legal, or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own financial, tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction. StellarFi receives a referral fee from the partners mentioned in this article.