6 (worthless) excuses for not saving money Monday October 9, 6:00 am ET Tamara Holmes Everyone knows the key to building wealth is through saving and investing. Yet last year, the U.S. Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis revealed that Americans had a negative savings rate for the first time since the Great Depression. So why aren't people saving for their futures? While a number of excuses may be given, few are legitimate. "Unless you're working in a sweatshop and you're getting paid 12 cents an hour, you can save," says Rob Bennett, who writes the Financial Freedom Blog at PassionSaving.com. Saving money Before you can stop making excuses, you've got to understand just why your argument is not valid. 6 worthless excuses: 1. I don't make enough money. 2. I'll get around to it later. 3. I deserve a little luxury in my life. 4. Someone else will take care of it. 5. I'm saving through my 401(k). 6. This item or service will pay for itself. Excuse No. 1: I don't make enough money. "We think we don't have enough money because we're always the last ones in line," says Julie Stav, author of "The Money In You!: Discover Your Financial Personality and Live the Millionaire's Life." What's the first thing you pay when you get your paycheck? If the answer is your mortgage, your car note or your credit card bills, you're probably buying into this excuse. One reason many people don't think they have enough to save is because they don't know where their money is going or how much money they're spending on items they don't need. "People say, 'Money just goes through my fingers,' or, 'I don't know what happened to it,'" says Stav. If that's the case, "pay attention and bring it from the unconscious to the conscious." Once you find out what you're spending money on that you don't need, you'll realize it's all money you can be saving. In order to make sure you save that amount, have it automatically taken out of your account before you pay anything else for the month. "The first check you write every month should be to you," says Stav. "That should go to your savings. Start with 5 percent; hopefully you can get to 10 percent. When you get a raise, put half of your raise in savings." Excuse No. 2: I'll get around to it later. "The answer to that excuse is: Someday never comes," says Bennett. "You get older and the more bad habits you have, the harder it is to break them." People who put off saving and investing also don't get the benefit of time, which is one of the greatest factors in successful wealth accumulation. "It's little by little that you're able to accumulate vast amounts of money," says Jeff Harris, founder of The Family Legacy Forum, an organization based in Lake Wylie, S.C., that helps families preserve wealth. "For example, take someone who is 25 years old who just sets aside a dollar a day in their retirement account. If they earn 8 or 9 percent interest on their money by the time they're ready to retire they would have close to $1 million." Excuse No. 3: I deserve a little luxury in my life. The purpose of having a healthy savings plan is not to deny yourself the pleasure of buying things you like today. Not only should you be saving for retirement and emergencies, but you should also reward yourself by saving for things you'll want to splurge on sometimes. If this is your favorite excuse, Stav suggests creating separate accounts for various savings goals, including occasional indulgences. "If I know that this account is my (spending account), that's the first one I'm going to put my hands on," she says. "If I know my other account is my vacation money, I'm not going to touch it until I take that vacation." Another way to combat this excuse is to think of saving as a luxury since your savings buy you the freedom from being constrained by money worries, says Bennett. "The way I think about saving is I call it spending money at the freedom store," says Bennett. "Just like you buy a product or buy a service, you buy freedom. And every time you put money into savings, you are a little more free than you were before." Excuse No. 4: Someone else will take care of it. While this is more likely to be the excuse of a spouse waiting for the other to bring home the bacon, anyone can fall into the trap of putting the savings responsibility onto someone else. Counting on an inheritance to kick in or even entertaining serious hopes of enjoying the fruits of gambling or lottery winnings are forms of this excuse. Ultimately, you are responsible for your own financial future. Even if someone else does bear most of the financial responsibility in your household, "you'd better have a say-so on how it's being run, because nine out of 10 of us are going to have to take care of our own money at some point," says Stav. Excuse No. 5: I'm saving through my 401(k). Yes it's crucial to save as much as possible for retirement, but if you don't have additional savings for emergencies and life's occasional luxuries you're going to end up having to dig yourself out of debt. "The reason people get themselves in trouble financially is because they don't have anything in savings," says Stav. "They think that because they own a home and they're building equity or they have money in their 401(k) that's enough. If there's an emergency or the car breaks down, then they start borrowing money." A savings plan should have a multilayered approach: Savings should be allotted for retirement, emergencies and the evolving needs of life. Excuse No. 6: This item or service will pay for itself. One of the main reasons people give for blowing their savings is because they're buying intangibles that are worth more than money over time. While there are some items that fall into this category such as an education, it's easy to rationalize that something is worth more than it is. "People say 'I should buy a vacation because I will learn about the world,'" says Bennett. That may be true, but "you have to compare financial freedom to the benefit of the trip around the world." A better idea would be to save for that vacation. It may take longer before you can go, but you won't be compromising your financial future in the process. Once you stop making excuses, you'll see your money add up. At that point, something interesting will happen, says Bennett. "After you've gotten serious about saving for six months, what you'll find is you actually like it. Spending is addictive, but saving gets addictive, too."