Learn how to save from $20 to $350 in a week!
There are people, who are born with a talent for saving money. They are very rational about spending their money and almost never make impulsive decisions to buy something that they do not really need. I honestly envy these people. I was born with a different talent, or rather a curse – I am good at spending money.
Since I was little as soon as I got some cash I would always know what I wanted to spend it on. And even if I put some pocket money aside, it would be for the sole purpose of buying something later that I could not afford at that moment.
However, the older I got the more I realized the importance of learning the art of saving and handling money. I was really eager to become less prodigal, but the usual approach “Save on Everything!” did not really work for me.
If anything, most of the money saving tips that were out there, while making a lot of sense, would put me in a mild state of depression. Using less shampoo, when washing hair, turning down the thermostat and putting on an extra sweater when I am cold, wearing clothes more than once before washing them, buying only discounted products – all these tips made me feel the lack of money even stronger. And, honestly, by saving a few cents here and there my financial situation did not improve much.
By trying hundreds of different tips I found three that really worked and helped me to get my finances in order. If you are a natural “spender” like me and you are tired of feeling frustrated and guilty, because you are not saving enough money and that your credit card debt is growing every year, use these tips! They will help you to improve your finances in just one week and to become more frugal without having to drastically change your lifestyle.
Forget about “I can’t afford it!” set of mind!
Often when we try to cut back on our expenditures the first thing we tell ourselves is “I can’t afford it!” which basically means “I really want it, but I can’t have it.” This way of thinking creates inner conflict between desire to spend money and common sense that tells you that you should not do so. These conflicting emotions provoke tension, frustration and feeling of guilt.
Forcing yourself not to spend money is just like being on a cabbage soup diet. Sure, you can do it for a week and even a month, but one day you are just going to snap and eat as many hot fudge brownies and French fries as you humanly can. The same behavior is triggered if you keep telling yourself that you can not afford something. Believe me, as soon as you get the chance you will spend most of your savings on something really great, but really useless just to satisfy your hunger for spending money.
Therefore, whenever you have an impulse to buy the next cool thing you see, do not tell yourself that you can afford it. Instead, ask yourself if you truly need it. In reality there are only a few things in our life that we can not live without. I am sure a 48’ flat screen TV or the 25th pair of shoes is not on that list.
Many self-development programs teach us that in order to have money we need to think like millionaires. This is why the first step to prosperity and debt-free living is in switching your mindset from “I can’t afford it!” to “I don’t need it!”. Can you see the difference? In the first case you concentrate on lack, in the second case – on abundance. This small shift of mindset results in huge changes in your financial situation.
Go cash-only for a week!
A telephone survey from the nationwide Pew Research Center has shown that older people are much more likely than the rest of the adult population to save and invest enough money. Sure, these results may be easily explained by the fact that older people (65 years old and above) are much wiser, rational and more experienced when managing their budget, but that is not the only reason. I believe that older people tend to spend less, just because they are more accustomed to using cash rather than credit cards.
Why would using cash cut our spending? Because when we have to pay with actual money rather than blindly swiping our credit card, we instantly become more conscious about how much we are spending. If you do not believe me, next time try to pay for something that costs over $300 with cash. You will notice that giving away each banknote causes a tiny twinge of pain. This is a good kind of pain. Pain we can use to our advantage.
How does a cash-only week work?
There are only three easy steps:
- Make a quick estimation of how much money you expect to spend during the week. I would suggest that you add an extra 10% to your estimated amount, because we often tend to be overly optimistic when it comes to planning our budget.
- Go to the bank or ATM machine and withdraw this amount of money.
- Take all the credit and debit cards out of your wallet/purse and hide them somewhere in your desk, to avoid the temptation to use them. That is it!
Note! The only condition of a cash-only week is that you have to stay within your budget. No exceptions! You have a limited amount of money. You can not have more. You need to live off it for a week. If by the end of the week you realize that you have very little money left, it probably means that you will have to cut back on entertainment or eating out.
Find out where your money goes!
It is almost impossible to save money if you do not know three “magical” numbers:
- The first number is how much money you have coming in every week. Most of us can quickly do the math and divide our salary by 4.
- The second number is the amount of money that you have going out every week. This is already more challenging $2 for a pack of gum here… $1,5 for a beverage there… we do not even notice how these little payments add up and turn into big bucks over the course of a week.
- Finally, the third number that you absolutely must know is your debit minus your credit or the first number (money you get) minus the second number (money you spend) per week. Once you have a clear picture of your incoming money and outgoing money, you will be able to identify areas where you can save.
You can use a personal-finance system like Mint or Quicken, and manually enter your transactions. Or you can carry a little notepad where you write down all of your transactions, just make sure that you do it on a daily basis, because after a while it gets very difficult to keep all the numbers in your head. Do this for a week and afterwards analyze what you are overspending on and what small and easy adjustments you can make to lower your expenditures.
If you apply these three tips without doing anything else, you will begin to notice a few extra hundred dollars on your checking account by the end of the week. Just get into the habit of putting that amount of money into your savings account and promise yourself not to touch it for at least a year. I can not explain you how great it feels to see your savings account rapidly growing with very little effort on your part, so I will just let you discover it on your own.