4 small changes that can help you save more money during the coronavirus outbreak


If you are concerned that your job or income is at risk because of the coronavirus outbreak, there are ways that you can start saving more money now. 

It's easy to get caught unprepared, because people tend to think in more immediate terms and can forget to save for an emergency, says BJ Fogg, Ph.D., behavior scientist at Stanford University and the author of "Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything." "The near term matters to us more than what might happen in the future," he says.

Only 41% of U.S. adults have enough savings to cover a $1,000 emergency, according to a Bankrate survey of 1,015 people, and 28% have no emergency savings at all.

Fogg says tweaking a few habits can make a big difference. To jump-start your savings, Fogg recommends making four small but high-impact changes.

Use positive talk every time you don't spend

The impulse to comfort shop right now is understandable. But before you make that online order, step back and take an inventory of what is really essential for you during this time. "Say, 'Not today, good for me,'" says Fogg.

Make sure to be kind to yourself to help make pausing this way a habit that will stick: "Say whatever makes you feel positive and makes you more likely to do it in the future." 

You can also picture other people cheering you on, says Fogg. "Imagine your father saying, 'That was excellent.' Your mother, father, aunt," he says. "People need to find what works for them.'"

If you feel like you really want something, Fogg says, "say to yourself, 'I can lead a full life without it.' You might still be tempted, but say it and listen to it." 

Make your own discounts 

When it comes to buying discounted goods, you can overspend without realizing it. But Fogg says you don't have to wait for stores to offer you deals — you can create your own. 

Fogg says one simple way to cut costs is by calling your cable company for a better deal. 

You can look at other areas to save too. Nina Job, a hairdresser based in New York City, who had to temporarily shut down her business, is working with her landlady to negotiate what she pays in, and when she pays, rent.

Say to yourself, 'I can lead a full life without it.'
BJ Fogg
behavior scientist and author

Turn savings ideas into a game for yourself

Fogg suggests setting a timer for five minutes and making a list of all the things you might do that would help you save for an emergency fund. "See if you can get 20 different ideas of things you could do," he says. The object of the game is volume, so really let yourself brainstorm. You're not making a commitment to trying everything on the list. 

After the five minutes is over, go through and pick two or three that you can get yourself to do, and forget about the rest. "You list a bunch of options in a creative way without any commitments, and then you say, 'Let's get real,' and you pick," he says. "Yeah, I can call my cable company. Yeah, I can set up a change jar." If you're one of the employees still leaving the house, you could tell yourself, "Yeah, I can pack a lunch." 

Picture your future self feeling grateful

Cast yourself into the future, mentally. What is that thing you really want and need to save for? It could be your child's education, or a safety net in case of a medical issue or a job loss. When you save, Fogg recommends having that image of your goal ready in your mind. 

Fogg says the key thing is to connect how you feel when you know you're making the right decision to the habit of saving. "It's that emotion that wires the habit, and the stronger the emotion, the faster the behavior wires in."

This strategy can help you bolster your confidence to stick to your game plan, even in tough situations like the one we are navigating now. And once we're on the other side, these habits can set you up for success for years to come. 

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