10 Simple Questions To Help You Save 20% of Your Income

Use these same questions to help you lose weight and accomplish your SMART goals!

Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck. How much money can you save each month?

According to a 2017 report published by CareerBuilder, 56% of U.S. workers save less $100 each month.

75% of full-time workers live paycheck to paycheck.

Nearly 1 in 10 of those earning more than six figures said they struggled to make ends meet.

All things considered, I know how to save money. I’m pretty good at it.

I want to lose about 40 pounds, and I want to finish at least one of the books I’ve started (finish reading one or writing one).

These seem much, much, much harder.

At the grocery store today it occurred to me that I should approach my SMART goals the same way I approach saving money.

Before you can start saving at least 20% of your income, consider these 10 questions first.

  1. Do you really think you can do it? Do you believe you can?

Lose 40 pounds?

I have a confession. I don’t really think I can do it.

I’m committed to it; I’m invested.

But deep down, at the heart of it, I just don’t know that I can.

Can you save 20% of your income?

  1. Is this the best time? Is it wise?

Now, one could argue that it’s always the right time to save 20% of your income. Always!

You have your own debt/savings story.

Less than a year ago, both my partner and I were preparing for career changes.

We had some savings (but not enough). While we were technically able to meet our savings goal, debt required our immediate attention. It was time-sensitive!

If you have the means, only you can answer whether NOW is the best time to hone in on your savings.

What can you save right now?

  1. What’s in your way? What’s stopping you?

Credit card debt?
Student loan debt?
A sick relative?
A career change?
An upcoming out-of-state move?
A medical emergency?
Childcare expenses?

These are real barriers that shouldn’t be overlooked, but is there anything you can save right now? 

  1. What challenges are real (i.e. legitimate)? Which ones are imagined?

I was the fat kid in my house growing up, and on into middle school. Strength, health, and fitness were important to me.

Today, I want to lose 40 pounds, but I don’t know how.

On the surface, it seems unbelievably simple: eat less, get active.

I have 3 jobs (and I’m trying to take blogging seriously on top of that). I’m up at 5:30am most weekdays, 6:30am most weekends. Home at 9pm two evenings each week.

Plus, I’m starting an online MBA program next weekend.

I’m always tired.

I can’t do dairy, caffeine, or onions.

Bananas aggravate my stomach, and any fruits with too much acidity.

Mushrooms make me itch. Garlic gives me heartburn. I’m allergic to nuts.

I’ve already given up soda, juice, and most desserts.

We’re pescetarian, so we eat fish but no other meat.

I want to lose 40 pounds, but I don’t know how.

What challenges are real? Which ones are imagined? What solutions can you invent for the ones in your mind?

  1. What resources can you tap into to help achieve your goal?

If insufficient income is the greater issue, how can you leverage your skills and experiences to earn more?

Side Hustle Nation always gives me great ideas, even if I’m not able to execute them immediately.

If poor budgeting or money management are the issue, make time to comb through all your expenses. Make note of your interest rates and monthly payments.

Are there any places you could be saving more?

Is there anything you can cut? Is there anything you didn’t know was there?

  1. What sacrifices must be made (if any)?

Since I started caring about and paying attention to my weight this January, I’ve gained 11 more pounds!

So, I’ve decided that I just can’t eat dessert any more. No more cake or cookies.

What are you willing to give up?

  1. How long are you able to stick to your goal?

My monthly budget is remarkably accurate, but my income fluctuates each month. Because I tutor on the side, my hours are determined by the students’ availability.

Since I create curriculum for the tutoring center, my hours are determined by how much extra time I can spare after my full-time job and after the actual tutoring.

Because of these fluctuations, it’s hard to set a specific long-term savings goal I can consistently commit to. So, I make more reasonable, scaled down goals.

How long can you commit to your plan?

  1. If a new routine, process, or template are needed, who will create and manage it (if not you)?

Do you need accountability? How will you get it?

I make my own budget, and I keep it to myself. I don’t like talking about money.

Do you have anyone who can hold you accountable? Do you want to be held accountable?

  1. Whose help or support do you need?

Similar to above, with one caveat—find people who know more than you know about saving and investing money.

Read books, watch videos, skim blogs, listen to podcasts, and develop your own expertise.

Learn as much as you can for as long as you can.

If you find people you trust who are willing to answer your questions, ASK THEM!

Then, develop a system for tracking your progress and growth.

  1. Whose consideration or criticism will stand in your way?

I love my partner dearly, but he can’t join me on my fitness journey.

He’s fit, a former track star, and a cyclist. He’s never been the fat kid.

On weekends, he wakes up at 5:30am to run because “doesn’t the crisp, warm air feel nice?”

He wants to hike the Appalachian Trail. No BS.

Truthfully, I can’t match his intensity—yet. He doesn’t understand my struggle.

Who’s in your way?


Answer these 10 questions now, so you can start your savings journey:

  1. Can you really do it? Do you truly believe you can?
  2. Is now the best time, or is debt a greater priority right now?
  3. What’s in your way? What’s stopping you?
  4. What problems need solutions? What solutions can you find?
  5. Can you make a list of all the resources you have at your disposal?
  6. What sacrifices must you make to make this a reality?
  7. How long can you stick with this goal?
  8. Do you have what you need (knowledge, time, and discipline) to be successful?
  9. Whose help do you need (if anyone’s)?
  10. Whose criticism must be disregarded?

If, after you answer the questions above, you discover that you can save more than you do, get to the root of your spending. 

Is your debt a symptom of something much larger? Something unresolved?

How much can you save, and when can you start?

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Author: Anj.

Hi! I'm Anj. Thanks for visiting my page. I'm an aspiring writer, former teacher, and Houston native. I've worked in education for more than 15 years. This blog was inspired by (1) my first year teaching experiences and (2) my lovely student loan debt. Feel free to connect if you'd like to share a story about race, education, or personal finance.