We have been told that life is all about balance; work and play, activity and rest, sorrow and happiness. Keeping this balance is easier said than done, though, and especially when it comes to our finances. While the formula is simple enough, it just doesn’t add up every time as it should - and when your savings first start to go downhill, it tends to tumble down quite fast.
This post is here to break your bad habits and encourage you to have a look at the way you spend your money and change your perception on savings.
It won’t be too much fun, to begin with, and saving more than you spend might even be a bit painful. It’s about changing your lifestyle and rigid habits that have found a home in you for many years already; make an honest attempt, however, and you’ll be a lot richer in many ways.
Keep track of what you spend
To some people, keeping track of what they spend is the pinnacle of misery. It means order, organization, and discipline - the complete opposite of what a chaotic and restless mind prefers. To others, however, tracking their expenses means insight and control; you’ll be able to see where your money goes and may even be surprised by how much money you spend on certain things.
There are a lot of different ways to go about with this, and it all depends on your current lifestyle as well as your preferences. An option is to keep a spreadsheet where you plot in your weekly and everyday expenses. You could also download an app, though, if you’re modern like that; Mint and You Need a Budget are good options for this.
Another, slightly scattered version but still detailed enough, is to save your receipts like an old lady and go over the items you buy when you return from the grocery shop. With time, you might notice certain items that keep recurring, costing your household much more than you thought it did.
However you choose to keep track of things, try to find something that works well for your shopping style and start to eliminate the items that cost too much. Look at the amount you spend when you make use of this brilliant advice and compare it to the month before; feed the money you save straight into your savings account, watch it grow large and thick, and keep your debt load small at the same time. It’s such an easy way to save a bit more.
Start to pay with cash
The good old days when money was a note or a coin is closer than you think. Research has found that people spend significantly more when they pay with their card rather than with cash. It might have to do with the vague value of a credit card and that we simply don’t connect the dots as easily when we see the number on the screen and plot in our code, compared to counting the actual money in cash and handing it over.
You don’t have to cut your mattress open quite yet, though, and tuck in your life savings here instead of trusting the bank with it. Living off cash only is as simple as withdrawing the amount you need for a month or a week and staying determined not to spend more than this.
It’s the same idea as when you’re on vacation abroad and withdraw the amount you think you need right away, rather than risking costly bank fees by swiping. All the cash is in your wallet or in the safe, and you have full control over how much you’ve spent - and how much you have left.
It’s that simple. You will find, in time, that a lot of things we splurge on, are not necessary. Must you buy every item that catches your fancy? Slice off a good portion of your grocery bill, Change Cable packages to cheaper ones if you will be at work all week, travel once in two years instead of every summer, eat at home instead of those restaurants and so on. At every point, there are at least 5 items on your monthly bill you can live without. Please let them go and lighten your load!
To save more money with your regular income and on a daily basis, you just need to stay committed to it. Making grand plans and dreaming about a savings account bursting with cash is easy enough with an optimistic mood and after a few glasses of wine in the evening. The morning after, and the following week, it’s quick to toss it out the window again - just like with your unrealistic 6 AM jogging routine.
Keep it up, however, and it will suddenly be difficult not to save.