Make it Count, Make it Fun, Make it Hurt, Make a Budget, and simply Make It
These are my guidelines for what to plan/think about before the savings start rolling in…
Before you decide to save money, you need to have money coming in. You need to Make It. So, get a job! Alas, I have no great tips and tricks for that. But that doesn’t stop me from giving advice…
First off, if you are unemployed I sympathize. And empathize. Although I have drawn a paycheck for the past several years, I still have often felt unemployed due to how little I contribute to our household in a serious “Show me the money” way. But Tom has done a great job of opening his eyes (and mine) to what my time at home affords us.
I cook most of our meals. I do almost all of the household chores. I take care of our four-legged companions and have time to hunt down the cheapest way to ensure they are vaccinated and protected. I use my flexible schedule wisely to shop/make from scratch/put a little elbow grease to our needs in a cheaper fashion.
My second employment tip is to never think anything is beneath you. How many people get their dog’s poopy butts scrubbed clean by someone with an M.S. in Physics? Yes, it’s not rocket science. Yes, there’s a valid argument perhaps I should be doing rocket science. But a good, flexible opportunity arose and I grabbed it.
My last employment tip is that if your life (be it single or co-habitated or what) can afford you to travel for work, do it. Tom and I saved so much money in part due to the fact his travel per diem paid his food bill. Best case scenarios were weeks when he had a full mini-kitchen in his room and bought groceries. He brought home jars of peanut butter and foil packets of tuna.
Make it Count-Set a Goal for Saving
While I have always been a saver, the times I remember saving in such a drastic manner as this I was preparing to divorce and/or quit a job. I had deadlines and goals in terms for my savings.
Happy thought #1- your goal does not have to involve a divorce and/or quitting a job! A dream vacation? A year’s worth of night classes? Whatever the case in setting a goal, make it at least a year in the future. This gives you time to have the months you spend too much get balanced out (hopefully) by the months you end up being able to squeeze a little harder.
Make it Fun – No One Ever Saved Money During a Spanish Inquisition
There is true fun in saving money. For me it is seeing how my goody-toe-shoes-better-for-the-environment lifestyle adds up – literally – in my bank account. (Ask me how little my water bill is!) Also, Tom and I veg around the house a lot. Perhaps a bit too much. So I love finding groupons/free stuff to do outside where we’ll get a little active and try something new.
But that’s me. What do you like? Do you eat a lot of brand name package foods for which there are coupons galore? Do you want to make a thermometer chart and watch the temperature rise with each successful month? Set small mini-goals for which you reward yourself? Saving money needs to become part of your lifestyle. Going on a spending “diet” is about as fun and productive as eating cabbage soup all week.
Make a Budget and Make it Hurt – Cutting the Fat and Watching the Bottom Line
The point of 2011 was to save money. As much money as we could. So we set a realistic, but aggressive, monthly budget. All of our fixed amount bills (phone, mortgage, insurance) got deducted from our income right away. As did some savings earmarked for vacation. Then we set realistic amounts for the necessities – food, gas, pet items, the electric bill, etc. The budget did include about $200 leeway in “Miscellaneous” and $100 for eating out. The miscellaneous really saved us because we did not have a category for small car repairs (oil changes) or any budget for clothes. Neither of us buys new clothes often, but we do go through shoes.
If you have no idea how to start a budget, simply track your spending one month and use that. This is where using non-cash methods of payment that have online account access can come in extremely handy. Most credit cards will do tracking for you – even putting it in categories.
Whatever you use, you have to use it. While I am a huge fan of apps, I prefer more rudimentary software such as a spreadsheet to do my budgeting. And years ago, when everyone was using spreadsheets and Quicken was brand new, I used pen and ledger. Whatever you choose, you’re going to want to be friendly with it – at least let it get to second base. So if the greatest newest software someone recommends falls flat for you, admit it and move on. Don’t let poor tracking skills be the reason you don’t own your own private island in three years.
The flip side of Making it Fun, Making it Hurt, is going to have the same personal flavor as fun. But not as fun. Hence the hurt. The point is, in saving money something’s gotta go in order for the pennies to add up in your favor.
Not everyone can live without cable. We can. But we cannot live without a land line because when Tom works from home he can’t get good cell reception in his study.
We do not live like hermits. When people invite us places, we go. But when we do the inviting, it is usually to go on a hike or the Farmer’s Market or somewhere we have a coupon.
It still amazes me what people believe are necessities in their life. And don’t think this laptop AND iPhone user is calling the kettle black. I’m well aware that I have many privileges in my life (TWO cars!) which I consider necessities. But that’s the point of Making It Hurt. Get down and dirty and real with what you need in life to survive. The rest is icing. Icing on your bank account cake.