Most often, money is hard to come by and easy to lose track of, probably because we spend most of our time making it and the small time that’s left over afterwards spending it. And while spending is certainly necessary in some capacity in order to survive, it’s also certain that more often than not, we are spending in ways that actually make it harder for us to survive. So, how can the sickness of this cycle be stopped? By sitting down with your paycheck and teaching it a lesson.
#1 Predetermined planning
Once you’re holding that paycheck in your hand, look at the total in the box and decide then and there how much of that amount will go straight to your savings account. Don’t betray yourself, stick to your projected amount. Once it is filed away in your savings, considered it a lock box. Anything beyond the amount you’ve left yourself should remain unspent. If you’ve got itchy, spender’s fingers, try setting up automatic deposits between your checking and savings accounts.
#2 Be sure when you shop
To be fortunate enough to live in a fast world where many material objects and physical relaxation experiences are available to us can sometimes lead to less than fortunate truths. When you’re spending, be sure you’re buying something you actually (at least sort of) need.
#3 Don’t play cool
We like to say that after high school we don’t care anymore about appearances – that is, appearances that reflect our financial standing. But we all know that it’s all too easy to fall into this trap, spending more, collecting more clutter, eating out too often, simply because we want to save face in our social surroundings. Richard Browning of "this Is Money" puts it best: "Trying to keep up appearances is little more than a costly illness. Remember, you cannot judge someone by what they have because you don’t know how they got it. Chances are they’re in more debt than you are."
#4 Eat from home
Remember those brown bag lunches? There was a reason mom made you take the thing to school – to save. And as silly as it seems in retrospect the principle still applies. If you spend a small amount of money each day on one or two meals, this adds up to an unappetizing figure by month’s end. Dave Ramsey, financial consultant and author of many acclaimed money-making books, assures us that, though it seems like an insignificant step to save in small ways, "putting these steps into practice will help you experience more and more freedom. Just like anyone else, if you make smart choices now and avoid stupid ones, you’ll reap the benefits of wise decisions over time."
#5 Learn to cook
To take your at-home dining a step further, buy ingredients at the grocery store instead of ready-made meals from the fresh food section. The extra amount charged for labor is fairly ridiculous and excessive. Moreover, cooking is fun and special occasions surrounding food are certainly a clever and endearing way to magnetize women, while protecting your wallet.
#6 Take a walk, take a ride, buy a Prius?
Whenever you can, walk. Whenever you can’t, bike. By avoiding wasting gas on your local errands and wanders to the coffee shop, just as with eating at home, the little steps will add to huge leaps in savings. If you find yourself driving constantly and without a way out of such patterns, consider investing in a hybrid. Jerry Edgerton, hybrid vehicle savings representative, assures that "gas savings would make up the difference in less than two years," and more and more frequently "some insurance companies offer discounts on auto insurance for owners of gas-electric hybrid vehicles." In the long run – a worthy investment to consider.
#7 Cut the housecleaner
Make an effort to stay tidy and shoo away your cleaning support. If you pick up a few things each day, no accumulation will occur and, therefore, no overwhelming, helpless feeling. Cutting this weekly cost can mean massive things for the month’s bigger picture.
#8 Have fun for free
Whether it’s playing Wii with a few friends while playing bartender at your place, playing drunken board games or staging a beach barbecue, there are ways to have fun that involve less money than movies, nightclubs and restaurants. Practicing this a few nights a week will not only help your bank account, but further your much needed human interaction in today’s crazy maze of media and various money-stealing situations.
#9 Shop for free
One Portland town has devised a way to create a small neighborhood communities (5,000 members and growing) that use the internet as a form of connectivity between members, who hit each other up for random necessities, like eggs, soil, batteries and return the favor in a sort of modern bartering system. Journalist Nikhil Swaminathan notes their clever innovation in the temperature of our current climate: "In February, a grope of British businessmen led by the Virgin Group CEO Sir Richard Branson sounded the alarm for peak oil – the point at which the world’s oil supply will begin dwindling…If we take seriously the forecasts that it will occur in 2015, then our reliance on those modern conveniences needs to be rethought." (GOOD magazine). So while it may seem cooky now to trade out free couches for cases of beer on craigslist, soon it may be the best way to buy.
#10 Exercise yourself
Gyms are pretty much professional bankrollers, because they know that the amount of time you will actually spend taking advantage of their offerings is very little in comparison with the money you’re spending to have the right to be there. This means you would actually be better off hiring an occasional trainer when you know you can make time or, better yet, by moving your exercises to the free outdoors
#11 Use the library
Remember the library? With booksellers, online book shopping, iTunes music store and Netflix memberships, we forget that the library is completely free and, many of them, well stocked. Instead of buying a book or DVD, check your local library first.
#12 Beware: texting
Texting can eat up a phone bill fast. If you’re clever enough to have an unlimited plan, disregard this problem. However, you can still be mindful of phone minutes by trying to make long phone calls a nightly habit, after your minutes become free.
#13 Use cash before credit
When shopping, allow yourself only to spend the bills in your back pocket, without dipping into the well of your checking account. Researchers and writers of the Live Science Staff declare their results of a four-part study: "People spend more money when using credit cards compared to cash purchases." By tangibly experiencing your spending, you are likely to be more careful. "Consumers simply feel the pain of paying more when they part with cash, the researchers, led by Priya Raghubir at New York University, write. (September issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied)