This is classic coming from me, right? I’m not known for my money-savvy ways. I’ve been known to waste money, impulse buy, and spend unnecessarily. I can save money really well when I’m on a money saving spree. However, as soon as something big happens and I have to break into my savings, I get this, “F the POLICE!” attitude about saving. It’s like in my mind I think, “Well, I’ve already busted into the savings, might as well have fun while I’m doing it.”
It’s not a good mindset when you’ve got bills to pay and goals you’re saving for.
I’ve just started getting the medical bills from this lovely broken leg of mine, and it looks like they’re going to pretty much devastate what I’ve been working all year to save. I guess that’s what savings are for, but I’m trying really hard not to let it destroy the “savings” mindset I’ve been working toward.
Living with Sean “the Scrooge” Anderson helps, but sometimes the militant savings approach doesn’t work for me. These tips are a little more forgiving for those of us who want to have a little fun while working toward a financially secure future.
1. Start saving for retirement now. Whoa. Did this get a little too serious all the sudden? This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to open a retirement account right out of high school (like a certain boyfriend of mine, ahem), but think about putting $20 to $100 (or more, if you can) a month away in an account designated for retirement. We’re hearing so much turmoil and unhappiness about Social Security from older people now, don’t be unprepared when you’re 75.
2. Create a mini-budget. We’re still in our 20s, and we don’t exactly have it ALL together right now. I can create a budget all I want, but chances of me following it exactly are pretty slim. By creating a tentative budget, I know approximately how much money I have coming in each month and what my regular bills will always be. I’ll always have to buy groceries twice a month, pay for my gym membership, budget for the approximate costs of the gas, water & electric bills, etc. Again, it doesn’t have to be strict, just rough numbers so you don’t end up in end hole when the end of the month comes.
3. Wait a few days before impulse buying. I’m terrible at this–especially when it comes to online shopping. I drink too much coffee so I need a French press. I go on Amazon, find the one with the most good reviews, and buy is instantly. Etc. I’ve wasted so much money on this approach–buying things that end up sitting around after one or two uses. Before you impulsively click “Checkout,” let it sit in your online “cart” for a few days to see if it’s really something worth buying on a whim. If you can live without it for those days, chances are you can wait to budget the purchase before just buying the one with the best reviews.
4. But don’t spend your 20s being a grouchy hermit. Your 20s is when you’re supposed to go out and explore and “find yourself” or whatever. Don’t spend all of it saving money for your 30s. Do a little traveling, meet friends for dinner, buy (used, perhaps?) hobby items like kayaks and bikes and whatever else you enjoy. Just remember that surprises (like broken legs or fender benders) are always on the horizon, so you want to make sure you have at least a little stored away in case of emergencies!
5. Avoid borrowing. Avoid loans like the plague. Sure, they got us a little in college, and that sting should remind you how ridiculous paying off loans can be. I know getting a loan is not always avoidable (cars explode, school is necessary), but always try to borrow the least amount that you can.
6. Buy used when you can. I know from experience that a lot of my impulse buys end up on Craigslist after just one or two uses and a long time taking up space in the cabinets. If you really need something (read: coffee maker), try looking for a new or gently used steal on Craigslist, at garage sales, or your in local paper’s online classifieds. I just looked and found a “we got 3 for a wedding gift” coffee maker for $5. Much less than any department store, and never used. The only investment you’d make is the trip to pick it up & 5 buckaroos.
What money-saving tips and tricks do YOU use?