In this day and age, it’s always a victory when there is money left in our bank account after bills are paid. “Yes, $5 left for the week!” I know the feeling very well. You work your fingers to the bone, putting in overtime and staying late Thursday night just to get ready for an early Friday morning; Earning a hefty end-of-week paycheck just to see it go as quickly as it came. Where has all our money gone?! Am I crazy or did I just almost “kill” myself to get ahead only to fall behind yet again?!
No, we are not crazy. I promise, we are not. It’s this wonderful world of loans, credit cards and shiny objects that do such a great job at distracting us from a planned financial future. Well, that’s not completely true. If we continue to fall into these financial “sandtraps,” we are basically planning our financial future to be empty of finances. “Apply for this credit card.” “Buy three, get one free!” “No money down and no monthly payments until next year.” It all sounds simply wonderful, like a dream come true. Until it turns into your worst nightmare.
Spending money is not your enemy, but unwise spending is. I believe myself to be a frugal wife. I conserve energy at every possible moment. I make a monthly meal plan and stick to it. I shop at salvation army for household decor, kitchenware and clothing. Why do I do all of these things? Because I have a goal in mind. When you find your purpose for saving, whether it be for new furniture or that new car or retirement, then most things that you thought were necessity are now luxury. Suddenly, that coffee shop latte every morning seems like such a waste; That new big-screen television doesn’t seem like the most pressing item to get.
Set a goal, write it down, make a game plan and look at it every day. Yes, it really is that simple! When I was in college accomplishing my internship to graduate, I worked two full-time jobs that paid me very well. The only bills I had at the time were for my apartment, electricity, my phone and gas. All of that totaled to about $1,000 a month. I was bringing home three times that much a month. You would think that I would have had a huge savings account and money put away to start paying off my upcoming student loan. Ah, on the contrary. When I finished my internship and was left with one job, I found that I was two months behind on all of my bills with no savings. I couldn’t believe that I had burned through so much for so little; things that didn’t last a day like fast food, movie rentals and their late fees, aimless shopping.
I had no goal to reach and no sense of financial future to aim for. Then I met my wake up call, the late notices and endless phone calls. You might think, “I just won’t answer the phone or check my mail.” I’ve been there, done that. It doesn’t work. Pretty soon, insanity finds you and stress starts to creep into every nook and cranny of your life. Nip it in the bud now.
As I found myself drowning in a sea of bitterness and debt, I decided to take charge and swim to safety. I sat down and made a strict budget for myself because that was exactly what I needed. My whole life I had never worked off a budget. My parents did and they taught me about budgeting, but I never thought that I would really need it. Oh, how I wish I had listened. Aimless thinking leads to an aimless life.
But don’t think that I’m going to leave you without something to help get you started. These are some of the ways that I have found much success in saving:
1. First and foremost, set your goal to be reached, either long term or short term. Get your family involved in the goal-setting process.
2. Make a budget and stick to it no matter how hard it seems. Make it something that is attainable for you and your family. If you have a family, get them involved and hear their input on things.
3. Fill up your gas tank for the week and actually plan your routes so you make only necessary trips once.
4. Make a weekly/bi-weekly/monthly meal plan and stick to it. I’m not talking diet plan, but a budgeted grocery list.
5. Leave your brand names behind. Don’t be too good to try off-brand products for make-up, hair and beauty and clothing. When you see what Salvation Army can get you for $50 bucks, I promise you will not crave “store bought” so much.
6. When shopping at department stores, head straight to the discount section first.
7. Always shop with a detailed and itemized list separated by category.
8. When you find a great deal on something you regularly use, stock up without going over budget.
10. Have a garage sale and put that money into savings.
11. Don’t be afraid to ask for discounts if something is not in the best condition (if it’s something you can fix or remedy). Example: blouse has a snag/shoes have scuff marks/only item left is a “display only.” Also, if meats are close to expiration, talk to your grocery butcher about discounting the item.
There are so many more ways to save, literally thousands of ways to save. You just have to look at your big picture, apply yourself and take charge. That large fries, hamburger and soda may sound good now, but doesn’t a comfortable retirement sound even better? Doesn’t a paid college education for your child seem wonderful? Who knows, you might be the next financial guru in the making and we will be reading your articles to find financial freedom. Don’t underestimate yourself. You’ve got what it takes.