I have read a lot of about these two: budgeting and saving. Years ago, I was a fierce saver and I still keep a modest life-style and save as much as I can. I just need to save more and I can save more, that is all (in my case it is true what they say; as the income increases, the expenses increase, too).
These experiences and countless number of books, blogs, and internet resources do not make me an expert on budgeting and saving. Nope.
Nevertheless, this experience and reading helped me to know my own preferences/abilities as well as those that I could/would not apply.
So here is my two-cents for those who are thinking about saving and having a modest/frugal life – nothing specific, just philosophical:
1. Know what you want: you want to save for future activities, to pay down debt, for your retirement, or not? I am not going to try to tell you, press you, or motivate you to decide or do anything – you are your own boss. You must, can, and do know what is best for you. That is THE most important thing; just know what you want.
2. You can save and I bet you are already saving: trust me when I say that no matter what your income is, you can save. Maybe not too much if your income is low or expenses are high, but you can always spare something. Maybe you bought an item on sale and that saved a cent or two. Hold on to that saving, cherish it, love it. Congratulate and respect yourself for having it. These feelings are incredibly powerful.
This also applies to other items, not only money. Did you use the old t-shirt as a cleaning mop, give yourself a hug. When you cook something out of scratch with whatever there is edible in your kitchen, put on a music and dance to celebrate. Did you notice you were wasting something (food, toilet paper, cleaning product etc.) and stopped yourself next time? Celebrate – you have done good. Are you cooking at home for yourself and others? Are you cleaning your own place and take care of the yard/garden yourself, rather than paying someone else to do it? You are wonderful!!! – you gotta love yourself. Your efforts are already saving you and possibly your family a lot more than what we often think of. Good job!
Do you already have a modest life-style? Already conscious in your spending habits and saving anyhow? Then, you should be proud of yourself – do not let anyone beat you down for your spending habits or life-style. Remember you are your own boss.
3. Know your income and your fixed+variable expenses: I am pretty sure the majority of us know their income, especially if it is a fixed income. I also believe the majority of us are aware of the major fixed expenses; rent/mortgage, transportation, insurance etc. Unless you can live without one or more of them (or reduce their cost), we can assume that their total is the minimum you let go every month. In addition to the fixed expenses, the variable expenses we need to be aware of, too. These are the ones that can go sky-high if not controlled well or due to unexpected circumstances (such as house/car repairs). Variable expenses are also an opportunity; if we know what they are and what value we give to them, they can be reduced (or increased – depending on your preferences).
4. Aim short periods of saving time to assess your saving: Maybe you are like me and motivated by seeing the fruits of your plans/projects in a short time. Why not to aim for saving a particular amount of money in a single day? In a week? Have a plan and see how you are doing at the end of the saving period. If you have saved, you will likely feel motivated to keep going. If you have not, no worries; try again or adjust your plan realistically. Or drop it all together – again you are the boss.
5. Give yourself rewards: I would highly recommend not straining yourself to a point that you would completely forego the safety, comfort, or the joy that your money is supposed to provide you with. Whether it is a different loaf of bread you would like to try, the new movie you were waiting for, or replacing your old tires with the new ones, reward yourself. Regularly (it does not have to be expensive to reward yourself). As a matter of fact, if you have a budget, specifically budget for your “reward money”. You are looking forward to abundance by saving, not straining or crashing yourself.
6. Whatever they say, write, or recommend may not work for you: It is good to get to know more, see different money saving strategies, and experiment with these strategies. But not all of them may work with you – your primary interest is to find out those that will be applicable to you and possibly to develop your own ways. To me that is really exciting; I love experimenting. Imagine developing your own way of savings and cherishing them:)
Examples of strategies I can give you that will not work for me is to cut the cable (the only alternative could be Netflix), or cooking beans/legumes rather than using canned food (dried beans take too much time to cook.. I am not that patient). I will also not stop using my credit card; it is convenient and essential especially during my trips. Another strategy I was reading about is “having one large grocery shopping a week” – I have been doing in the last decade, but I realized it caused some green produce to go bad; so recently I am doing the opposite; doing grocery shopping maybe twice a week and in small quantities. I have not wasted anything yet and I am proud of this.
Others I am happy to try. For example, shopping freeze (one of my favorites; I froze buying books for two months and also vacations other than the trips to visit my family), budgeting and keeping track of every single expense (my recent favorite; absolutely works for me), respecting money (a recent one again, which changed something in me – certainly works), regular automatic deposits to saving/investment accounts, paying off the smallest debt first (to feel the motivation to keep going as one debt is already off my list), having an emergency fund (even a little one helps), having one credit card, followings sales and stocking up non-perishable items (such as toilet paper).
These small savings, by accumulating, will make a difference in the savings. But the best savings come with cutting or reducing the “big expenses”. What are your big expenses? Can they be eliminated or reduced? How big would be the impact of their reduction in your savings? Think about it – you are the boss.
6. What are your preferences? Financial goals?: Why do you want to save your money? What is it preserved for? How exciting or necessary is it? When I think about the tangible outcomes, I am more excited and motivated to keep trying; maybe that will work with you, too?
A little bit philosophy, a lot of questions 🙂
Good night everyone.