Finances. The true “F” word. There are never enough of them. We grind and work for a two week period, and receive a check that can barely sustain our lifestyles, unless we’re willing to live really skinny. Double that sentiment for someone living in a one-income household.
If we are smart and attempt to save money, it seems that something always comes up. Oh, isn’t life grand? At times it feels like we are set up to fail.
I won’t insult your intelligence in this article. You understand the importance of saving money. You most likely understand that those who have money saved are more often able to take advantage of great sales, get low interest rates when taking out loans against cars and/or houses, etc. Having a budget, one that you keep yourself accountable for, is crucial.
Sure, it’s idealistic to shout, “YOLO” at the top of your lungs while spending close to your last dollar each pay period, but the reality is that you’re cheating yourself if you aren’t tucking some money away.
So, how do you do it? How do you save money when saving seems impossible? How do you cut back on expenses that feel 100% necessary? It’s called being creative. It’s called making sacrifices. It’s called making smart decisions and easing up on some of the indulgence – because let’s face it: if you review your spending for the past few months, you would hardly call every purchase you’ve made necessary or vital to your existence.
At work, we are expected to be held accountable for our actions. Individually, we should be able and willing to hold ourselves accountable for the choices we make in life. That includes spending. I’m going to tackle personal, individual spending. Married/Joint finances is a separate topic that deserves its own article.
Personal spending. To go out eating every night, or to go grocery shopping and save money, while potentially eating a lot healthier? To buy those $500 shoes when that’s a week’s pay for you, or to bypass them until your wallet won’t take such a big hit from making a purchase on that big on one clothing item? To jetset off to Vegas and blow five grand, or to take a simple staycation? It all depends – to some, they love eating out and won’t settle for cooking their own meals. To some, that pair of shoes symbolizes something important enough for their wallet to take that hit…and with all that is going on in our world today, not to mention at our jobs, sometimes we just need to get away. That is all understandable. There is no judgement here. But if saving money is a concern and a priority for you, then these are some of the areas that you can immediately look at and cut back on. Indulgent spending doesn’t have to be erased completely. We deserve to spoil ourselves every now and then. But if you expect to save money, then cutting back in this area would be wise.
Indulgent spending isn’t the only area you can cut back on. There are very valid expenses that we pay out, that shouldn’t be quite as high in payments. Cable television is a perfect example. I lived in a household for years where we had every cable channel known to man, and we rarely even watched television. A ton of channels, just wasted – especially in a day and age when there are a ton of streaming services you can use that make those shows and movies readily available, at a much lower cost. Your electricity bill can be cut down to an extent, if you closely monitor usage and make sure you’re not leaving lights or appliances on unnecessarily. Telephone bills are another area that can often be lowered. Or sometimes we can do without upgrading our cell phone to the newest, greatest model when we already upgraded the year before. There are other valid bills, especially for those looking to start up their own businesses. To blow a few hundred dollars on business cards and promotional flyers when you literally only have a few hundred dollars in your bank account, or to wait until that move is warranted? There are low cost marketing options out there, and rather than spend your last dollar, it might behoove you to research the products and services that you can get for little to no cost before splurging on products and services that might not even beneficial to your business at this point in time. Smart choices. Sacrificing. Putting off some of those guilty pleasure purchases that aren’t required right now.
First things first, when attempting to save money, note down all of your expenses. Be sure to leave yourself a “Miscellaneous” category for incidentals. You never know when something may come up.
Once you have your expenses listed, review the different expenses and determine if any of them can be shaved down. Be realistic with these estimates; don’t get too overzealous. Include a “Savings” category. When you first start saving, this number may be small. It may be ten dollars each check, or twenty dollars, or fifty dollars. At first, the amount you start saving won’t really matter – just make sure you are holding yourself to it. Make sure you are saving how much you set out to save. Then gradually increase the amount you’re saving out of each paycheck, and check to see which other expenses you can shave down. This process of evaluating your expenses to determine what can be reduced should not be a one-time thing. This should be something that you do on a consistent basis, to make sure you are not overspending in any area without justification.
When big purchases need to be made, try not to spend all of your savings. If you need a new car and you have $10,000 saved, don’t go buying a $10,000 car. You’d think this would be common sense, but this is something that needs to be said. Find a $6,000 car and keep some of your savings. Save yourself the interest by paying for the car in full, or if you’re in need of a credit score increase, drop a healthy down payment and pay the car off in a year or two. Evaluate your choices and consider the possible benefits. Weigh the pros and cons. Determine what choices are best for your current situation, and again – hold yourself accountable for those choices.
What does holding yourself accountable mean when it comes to your own personal expenses? This is something that you’re going to have to decide, but examples would be not allowing yourself to buy new clothes until you’ve saved a certain amount of money, or not allowing yourself to go to the movies if you fail to save the amount you set out for yourself. It might sound like you’re grounding yourself by doing this – and in a way, you are. But to take your money saving goals seriously, you need a checks and balance system.
Today there are a lot of adults out there living paycheck to paycheck, spending their very last dollar before their next check is deposited into their bank account. This kind of lifestyle is extremely stressful. We have enough things in life to stress about – and coincidentally (or not so much), many of those stresses are financial in nature. Do yourself a favor and start up a little nest egg. Your future self will appreciate it.