You might be wondering why you’re still not racking up your savings even after trying to live frugally and saving any chance that you get. Well, there might be some things that you’ve been doing wrong. There are really strict and healthy habits that people who save follow that you could be missing out on. 

People who save are people with goals.

The first habit of people who can save money is that they have goals. After all, if you want to reach your long-term financial goals, you first have to identify what they are and then have an idea of how much money you need to reach them. Having no goals is like following money on a wild goose chase.

Here’s the basic principle behind it: You need to give each of your big goals an estimated price tag. This way, you can have a rough estimate whether you’re putting enough money away each month for each specific goal.

It is also important to keep in mind that making a mental note is not enough. If you don’t have a specific plan, it might take you longer to get out of debt. You can very easily reach the point when you’re ready to make a big purchase, and you won’t be financially prepared.

For example, you want to buy a $250,000 house within five years. The cost of a down payment depends on what type of loan you can get, but typically, you would need between 5 percent and 20 percent of the home’s sale price in cash for a down payment. Of course, the higher the down payment, the lower your mortgage rate could be.

If you plan to put 20 percent down, you need $50,000 in cash. In order to reach that goal in five years, you should be saving roughly $850 a month (at the minimum). The bottom line is that you need figure out exactly what your goals are and spread them out — by month or paycheck — to ensure you’re saving enough. Doing it over time makes reaching a number like $50,000 a lot easier than it may sound — and the earlier you start planning, the easier it will be.

People who save have can distinctly separate needs and wants.

This can be a tough one for a lot of people, because saving more money often requires change. Of course, people find it hard to determine needs from wants just because people are generally programmed to follow what they want. However, the hard truth is that nothing about your financial life can ever improve or change unless you decide to make it happen. Then again, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to turn your life upside down, as there are tons of ways to cut costs and save more money without dramatically changing your lifestyle.

With that said, your saving strategy really depends on your individual routine and lifestyle. If you’re spending more than you make — on things you don’t really need — you can never get ahead financially, and it’s time to switch things up. Figure out what’s important to you at the present time and for both the near and long-term future, then make sure that your current lifestyle is aligned with your goals and the future life you want to have.

You can start small. For example, when getting coffee, you don’t need to spend $5 for a cup of coffee if you can get the same buzz from a cup of Folgers. If you’re subscribed to a postpaid account for your phone and realize that you don’t need that much anyway, you can go and look for prepaid options like getting tracfone minutes. There are many choices that you can opt for that can really reduce your spending. You just have to make that conscious decision.

You have to act faster, too. It is known that the longer you continue living the habit of a paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle, the more difficult it becomes to break the cycle. So the earlier you learn to spend less than you make, the sooner you’ll be able to have a confident and empowered relationship with money.

One thing that most people don’t realize is that it’s never about the amount of money you make. Setting yourself up for savings is more about adjusting your habits and lifestyle in order to improve your life both now and down the road. So when you do start making more money, you can really benefit from the added income, rather than waking up one day and realizing you have no idea where it all went.

Once you start making small changes to your spending routine, you can quickly realize how big of an impact it can have on every aspect of your life. Each step you take, like paying off a debt or getting closer to a savings goal, can give you even more motivation to keep going, because you’d be able to see the increasing control you have over your own life and your own money.

Start by going through your monthly expenses and take a good hard look at where all of your money is going. If an expense isn’t aligned with your plans and goals, get rid of it.

People who save know how to live beneath their means.

As the famous saying goes, “The single biggest challenge for an individual trying to get control over their finances is not their income level. It’s their financial literacy and their awareness of the problem.” This is where the idea of living beneath your means comes to play. It basically means to spend less than you make. In other words, don’t go into debt and save your money in case of emergency.

Living below your means requires you to prioritize, pick and choose. It could be tied to the previous point of separating needs from wants. This is how it works: Consider taking one less vacation or limiting how often you go out to eat. When you do go out for dinner with friends, you can eat at home first before you go out so that you won’t order a lot and get stuck with a big bill when everyone splits the check. In any case, you can still have a social life without draining your wallet. It’s all about prioritizing.

Decide what’s most important to you and start saving for those things. A few examples may be building an emergency savings fund, paying off debt, or buying a house or a car. Actually, you get a lot by starting to pay off your debts slowly and really getting away from the idea of debt.

By making your goals a priority, you give yourself a much better chance of reaching them. Also, one of the most important things to remember is to set a timeline for it. For instance, when it comes to buying a house, you want to make sure your have planned every little details in the process, and this includes knowing when you would actually start paying for it and when you are supposed to be done with it. Additionally, not having a certain time frame to reach your goals is already counterproductive since you’re pushing back the achievement of your goals even further. 

Bottom line: If you want to get on the quickest path to reaching your goals, you have to start living below your means, and the best way to do that is to start paying attention to what’s going on with your money, so you can keep your priorities in line.