Study finds regular saving preferable

Have you ever tried to plan something months in advance and find yourself doing everything at the last minute? Apparently, that long-term type of thinking fails with money, too.

We are more successful in meeting our financial goals when we make them short-term instead of long-term, according to research by Rice University and Old Dominion University. Participants in a study who planned to save a certain amount each month were more successful than those who planned to save a set amount to use a year later. In fact, the month-to-month savers ended up saving more over the long term.

"Our study shows that Americans are better at saving money when they are thinking about it month-to-month, on an ongoing basis rather than a long-term goal," said Paul Dholakia, associate professor at Rice's Jones Graduate School of Management.

For example, saving for a $2,000 vacation in a year or planning to pay off a $2,000 debt in a year is more successful if $166 is saved every month for 12 months, or $42 a week for a year. To be more disciplined, put the money in a separate savings account.

"It will be painful, but like that mortgage or car-loan payment, we need to start thinking about a savings transfer every pay period," Dholakia said.