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Save more, spend less

Millions of Americans are struggling to save more. The high unemployment of the past several years has convinced us that we need to shore up our personal financial safety net.

Yet it's hard to consume less and save more, especially when "summer's here and the time is right for dancin' in the street" (to quote the Motown song).

The terrible economy of the past few years has decimated family finances, too. It's actually remarkable how much financial progress families in the U.S. have made as I note in this column for Kiplinger's, A Midyear Resolution for Your Personal Finances.

Unfortunately, it takes time to build (or rebuild) savings.

There's no magic budget app or 12-step program that makes it easy to save. But that doesn't mean nothing works. "Finding that balance between saving and spending is the art of life," says Meir Statman, finance professor at Santa Clara University and author of What Investors Really Want: Discover What Drives Investor Behavior and Make Smarter Financial Decisions.

Don't despair. I think there are three critical, underappreciated factors that can help us find a better balance between savings and spending. They are time or, really, the lack of it; automation, which means use technology to make savings as automatic as possible; and appreciate financial or emotional incentives to reinforce your savings commitment.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.
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