Ah, saving. It’s that thing everyone knows they should be doing, but not everyone knows how to go about actually doing it. It’s kind of like an adult chore that you don’t quite want to do, so you just avoid it and hope for the best (that’s usually my tactic, anyway). But let’s face it, cringing and trying not to look at your bank account until the very last, or most necessary moment, is no way to live. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned recently, it’s that budgeting doesn’t work. That’s to say, it’s not entirely realistic for a lot of people. Traditional budgeting has you planning out specific amounts of your salary each month or week for foreseen costs, but most of the time fails to take into account a variety of unforeseen circumstances. From those random dinner dates to last-minute travel, and so much more, budgeting doesn’t always account for that little bit of wiggle room necessary for covering such random expenses. If we learned anything here, it’s that it’s all about balance.
That said, saving money doesn’t always have to be just about budgeting. There are super simple things you can start doing on a daily basis that can pay off in the long run. As Priya Malani, co-founder of Stash Wealth says, “Starting small is better than not starting at all. And the sooner you start saving, the less you have to save overall, freeing up money for more fun things like upgrading your lifestyle—and your living quarters.”
Saving a few extra dollars here or there can most definitely help you get to that saving goal: whether it’s furniture for your first place, a big-ticket home item, or a down payment on a new house, it really is the little things that go a long way. We spoke with financial experts about some of the most simple ways you can start saving for yourself. Consider these little lifestyle changes, and we promise you’ll be on your way to living a more fiscally responsible life.
“Starting small is better than not starting at all. And the sooner you start saving, the less you have to save overall.”
Take advantage of sales
Sales are wonderful, but only if you’re buying things you actually would need or want without the sale price tag on them. When the long weekends and holidays, BOGO (buy one, get one), and coupons roll around, it can be super tempting to snatch up a ton of stuff, just because it’s discounted, but be smart. For example, Labor Day is said to be the best time to get outdoor furniture and appliances on sale, while Black Friday is the time you’ll find the best deals on things like new TVs. But as our expert, Wendy Liebowitz, CFP®, Vice President at Fidelity Investments’ Fort Lauderdale Investor Center advises, “Only buy IF you were planning on buying those items anyways. Otherwise, you are just spending money you otherwise wouldn’t spend.”
Work for a reward
“Don’t just treat yourself to that pricey cup of coffee or new article of clothing or expensive dinner, work hard to earn it!” says Liebowitz.
“You will find that if you tie that expense to a goal, you will direct your behavior to accomplish that goal so you can earn the reward.”
Think of it almost as if you’re playing a game with yourself. The more you earn, the more goals you can create to potentially spend those earnings on. Even when it comes to planning your next trip, think logically about earning that much needed R&R time. Need to hit a certain goal or execute a certain project at work? Post-completion may be the best time to start booking those flights and planning those itineraries. Not only will this hopefully cut down on impulsive buys (yes, even pricey coffee adds up) but will get you into the mindset of making more confident purchases, knowing you earned them.
Treat yourself, just do it in moderation.
Ask yourself, is this a “want” or a “need”
We get it: you may not really “need” that super sleek air purifier from Urban Outfitters, or that sell-out concealer stick, but you definitely, really, want it. If it’s a goal for you to save up for it, great, but if it’s something frivolous, you’d do well to think about how the purchase may affect your wallet Liebowitz note. “You may find yourself declining a purchase if you realize it is a discretionary spend that you can live without.” Initially, getting into the habit of think through each purchase may seem tedious, but once you start, it’ll soon become automatic.
“When I’m shopping, I have a game I play before making a purchase,” says Malani. “Let’s say I see a dress that I ‘must’ have. Before I look at the price tag, I decide what I think it costs (essentially, what it’s worth to me). Then I look at the price tag; if the dress costs less than the number in my head, I’m feeling good about the purchase. If it costs more, I really have to decide if it’s worth it to me (most likely it’s not).”
“You may find yourself declining a purchase if you realize it is a discretionary spend that you can live without.”
Given that everyone has their own preferences and priorities, this may be more difficult for some than others. Some things are undoubtedly worth the extra buck for the quality, but others, like certain groceries, may not be worth the additional cost that comes along with the brand name. While Whole Foods did take the cake versus Brandless in our taste-test comparison, it may be worth it to try out different labels and see what you like. Our expert notes that you may not always need to spend more money on brand-name items. In fact, sometimes the store brand is the same quality at a lower price point.
Discontinue unused memberships
“Did you sign up for the gym as a New Year’s resolution and don’t use it? Discontinue it!” Liebowitz says. Memberships that automatically withdraw from your account each month are sneaky ways to lose money— especially if you aren’t getting the full use out of them. Try calculating how much use you’re getting out of that gym membership by diving the monthly cost by how many times you actually go workout (and for how long) in that period. If the number turns out not to be worth it for you, you can still get an equally good workout by using apps on your phone, for a fraction of the price.
“Recognize how much you can spend on discretionary “fun” items each week, then plan your lifestyle activities around it,” says Liebowitz. Perhaps you should dine in or do a pizza this weekend, so you can splurge on a fancier meal next weekend—or just make them yourself at home. Eating out can quickly cut through your monthly expenses when done too often, so find a happy balance that works for you and your lifestyle. We get that brunching is just as much of a social experience as it is an eating one, but you can also try hosting a stress-free brunch at home or make it a pot-luck to cut down on those pricey bottomless mimosa costs.
“Recognize how much you can spend on discretionary “fun” items each week, then plan your lifestyle activities around it.”
From beauty to the home, if you can do it yourself, you can significantly cut down on expenses. Even designers have their favorite DIY projects. Budget-friendly fixes can be totally worth it if you’re willing to put in a bit of elbow grease to get it done. Even your favorite Ikea classics can get a chic and expensive-looking makeover with a little crafting, so don’t sleep on being creative when it comes to things you can do yourself. There’s even a great peel-and-stick wallpaper that you can install yourself, cutting out the costs of professionals.
Track your budget
Yes, traditional budgeting doesn’t really work but tracking your spending does. Try it out by setting up an app like Albert, which analyzes your income and spending habits every day, showing you where your money is going. You’d be surprised at how quickly the little things add up! Liebowitz also suggests trying the envelope method.“You can always determine your budget and put cash in different envelopes for the week or month according to their budget category. This keeps you on track and hopefully, you won’t overspend.” Either way, take it upon yourself to look at exactly where your money is going. This will come in handy for making more responsible choices in everyday life.
Create an emergency fund
When all else fails, life gets in the way, or your lifestyle/job changes, you’ve got to have something to fall back on. “Nothing derails reaching your goals than an unexpected cost,” says Liebowitz, and Malani agrees. “We recommend having 3-6 months saved to cover your essential expenses.” Life comes at you fast, and you’ll sleep better knowing you have a cushion in case it does.
Bottom line: saving doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it can be really, really easy when you become more mindful of your spending, how you do it and why and make adjustments accordingly. Simple everyday life choices will make you feel more empowered about your money, and in turn, your life.
“Bottom line: saving doesn’t have to be hard.”
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