Just a few months ago, I spent a few hours with one of my good friends, talking about everything we possibly could cram into what seemed like a really fast two hour mini-social. We covered quite a bit in that two hours — from latest favorite meal ideas to essential oils, our kids and their antics, what we have been up to lately and money.
I kind of nerd-out when it comes to talking about saving money (I know, very strange, right?!) One simply cannot even comprehend the sheer excitement that is created in my brain when I discuss opportunities to save, invest, diversity… our husbands quickly scattered and the conversation was rather intense at a certain point.
In a way, I would probably even compare that excitement to oh… say giving someone who loves Target a $500 gift card and dropping them off at the front door. YES. That EXACT excitement.
These friends of ours are very successful – they have wonderful kids and they seem to enjoy their professions immensely. One of the topics of conversation was saving money – not just saving money in a savings account/emergency fund, but saving for college for our kids, and having what we commonly refer to as a sinking fund.
As much as she wants to, she simply cannot save. As for him, well.. he can’t either. She knows that it’s possible and the concept is intriguing for her, but somehow or another, saving isn’t something that either one of them have been able to figure out for all these years – and the kids are close in age to ours.
When it all comes down to it, I can’t help but assume that perhaps, just perhaps, they are similar to the hundreds of thousands of other Americans who find it a struggle to save too. Do you know someone who can’t save? Maybe you find saving to be a really big challenge for your own family.
Does it mean that you are frivolous with your money? Not necessarily – but it does mean that there are underlying reasons that you haven’t been able to make it work just yet at this point in your life.
You Spend Money on Stuff – Empty Stuff.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you are irresponsible with your money, but it does mean that you need to determine where your money goes. For many, that means looking at your visits to the coffee shop, adding up your take out meals, or calculating what you spend on eating out each month.
For many American’s this is huge. A simple trip to Starbucks can be $5, but when you multiply that by 5 days a week… that’s easily $100 each month dedicated to a temporary addiction. Lets not forget… if you stop by the gas station or SONIC Drive In, or even your local coffee shop on your way home, then the damage is going to easily be double.
Empty stuff could also be that Target trip that you take once or twice a week ~ I swear that the red carts, red polos, and beautifully orchestrated Dollar Spot at the entrance of the store is just whispering for your wallet. So is the Target Cafe.
You Mistake Wants for Needs.
One of the best ways to determine a want versus a need is to avoid it altogether – let the idea of that purchase sit on your mind for several days, if not a week – chances are, you will eventually realize that it’s unnecessary. Whether you live in a place that has a high cost of living (Los Angeles) or a place like Phoenix where things are rather affordable, things like dinners with friends, spa treatments, pedicures, personal trainers, daily trips to Target, and weekend vacations to Vegas are not exactly necessities.
The best thing to do is to note your basic expenses (rent or mortgage, utilities, auto and life insurance, groceries and phone), and determine what (if anything) is remaining. If nothing to little is remaining, then you might need to find a way to lower or eliminate those basic expenses to free up room to put away.
The Concept of Saving is Hard.
Saving IS hard, y’all… but not impossible. Once you start putting money away, it really does become second nature… but making that initial step might just be the most challenging part.
One of the best things you can do (and easiest ways to get started) is with a simple Emergency Fund. Open up a savings account – avoid linking that account to your checking. By keeping it separate and not accessible through an ATM, you raise the chances of allowing that money to grow, and you won’t be as tempted to withdraw money in a mad dash to the ATM machine.
If and when you need that money, you can always make a transfer to your checking – and in most cases, that means a short wait of a few hours or, perhaps even a day or two. Once that account is open, set up an automatic transfer that allows a set amount to flow into that bank account on a regular basis – whether that be weekly or monthly.
You are Living Beyond your Means.
I don’t want to be a debbie-downer here… but if you are paying for brand new items such as cars, new furniture, a fancy phone or perhaps even the biggest cable package, then there is a teeny weeny chance that you can probably find money to save.
You just haven’t made that commitment to pay yourself first.
Think about it a while – do you really need a brand new car with a car payment? The answer is no. You really don’t need the biggest, most expensive cable package with NFL Sunday Ticket either – though, I’ll be honest, that’s a tough one if you have a spouse.
We argued that for an entire weekend.
Guess who won? I did. 🙌 There was, obviously, some give and take, but boy was that a tough weekend.
If you find yourself trying to justify why you need these payments or large expenses, then find ways to take it down a notch. Who cares what you drive – I’m always telling my kids that the fancy car on the street more than likely has quite a “fancy” payment attached to it. That doesn’t quite make it as fancy as we’d love it to be, right?
All that matters is that you have your financial health & and the health of your family – lets push aside what your life looks like to others or what others think of you. That stuff is only topical – superficial at most.
Ready to save but not sure where to start? That first hurdle can no doubt be the hardest!
Determine what you are capable of putting away by figuring out what is left after you pay your necessities (rent, mortgage, utilities, groceries). Will you be saving monthly? Or bi-weekly? If you don’t have anything left, determine those areas that you can trim to free up cash that will allow you to save.
Next, determine the amount you would like to start with – it’s always best to start small, with something you know you can affordably commit to. If that means starting with $50 each month, then make that commitment – but once you adjust to that amount, find ways to periodically raise that ceiling so you can commit to saving more.
Set up that automatic transfer to come out mid-month – once you have adjusted to that missing money, up your commitment in small percentages, and continue to do that until you reach your monthly personal goal.
Set up long terms goals – not just for your Emergency Fund, but for additional accounts once that Emergency Fund has been established. Do you want to have a few sinking funds? Perhaps you would like to start putting away for your kids — what would you like them to have set aside when they start college?
Lastly, seek out professional help. Whatever your goals are, eventually they may include investing for your retirement, or your child’s college fund. These goals may require the help of a professional that can help you identify where your money will perform best, given your age, your savings goals, and your family situation.