In a perfect world, we all want to improve our finances by saving more, spending less and avoiding debt. Often, what holds us back from making trans-formative changes to our finances, is the fear that we will be in essence giving up the things we enjoy the most. The perception of an all or nothing approach scares many people away from even starting on their journey to financial freedom. But, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, it doesn’t have to be so radical, and the changes don’t have to happen overnight.
Here are some moderate changes to make to your money habits and budget that will have a lasting positive impact on your finances and general happiness:
1.CUT THE BILLS
Before you go off reducing spending in the areas that you are more attached to, take a look at those nagging bills/expenses that you don’t care about. For example, take a look at your car insurance, home insurance, cell phone bill & cable bill. I can guarantee you that there is probably a $100 worth of savings you can see in reevaluating those categories. Call up your cable service provider to take off features you don’t need, reasonably raise your insurance deductible to reduce the payments, cancel unused gym memberships, etc. Better yet, spend a few minutes a day calling around to other service providers to get competitive rates. By taking the time to do a little research, you can see savings without having to make any cuts to the areas you “care” about.
I reduced my car insurance by $100 a month by simply taking 15 minutes to research other service providers and going with the best offer. We also switched my husband’s cellphone provider from AT&T to Cricket (the budget carrier of AT&T) and cut our bill in half to $50. In total, by slashing those two expenses, we have put $150 back into our pockets at the end of the month. $150 *12 = $1,800 worth of savings for the year!
2. FIND THE ROOT OF YOUR SPENDING HAPPINESS
After you reduce the bills you don’t care about, it’s time to take look at the categories that you are more attached to. Are you spending a lot on; going out to eat, shopping or coffee? Challenge yourself to not only find cheaper alternatives to those things but the root to why you love them.
Ask yourself, what do you enjoy most, going out to eat or the company of your friends while you eat? Let’s assume it’s the latter, in that case, throw more dinner pot luck parties where everyone brings a dish, or cook together at someone’s house. You still get the benefit of hanging out with your friends but for way less money.
Like going out for drinks? Buy your own ingredients of your favorite cocktails, and make them at home and save half the money. Not only will you have fun making your favorite drinks, you will be in the safety of your home if you have one too many.
The point is, really look at what you think makes you happy, is it the actual item you are spending the money on, the experience or people that you are spending that money with?
On the weekends, my husband and I would spend a lot of money eating out. On Friday’s, we would always buy pizza at a local pizzeria shop for $27 a pie (crazy right?). After realizing how much we were spending just on Friday nights,we decided that rather than eating out on Friday AND Saturday, we would only eat out on Saturdays and make our own food on Fridays. So now, that expensive $27 Friday pizza is replaced by my husband and I cooking a meal together. If we are lazy and short on time, we eat a Trader Joe’s frozen meal (our favorite is the Orange Mandarin Chicken). By altering our eating out habits one day a week, we can save up to $108 a month ($27 x 4= $108). Occasionally, we will still go out to eat on Friday nights or buy takeout but by no means does this all feel like a sacrifice. In fact, I feel more of a sense of accomplishment when we save money not eating out. The enjoyment of spending more quality time with my husband while we cook together brings me more joy than eating that expensive pizza.
3. BLOW MONEY IS YOUR FRIEND
Last but not least, give yourself a BLOW budget- this allows you to spend money on yourself without any guilt. Blow money is the money you allocate to yourself in your budget and you can spend it anyway you want.
My husband and I each get a monthly Blow amount to spend. I use my Blow money for going out with friends, buying lunch at work, personal care expenses, etc. The point is that budgeting and saving doesn’t have to feel like all work and no room for fun. You can give yourself some freedom to spend as you please through your Blow money.
I’ll admit, every once in awhile, there is a nagging part of me that wonders, “Am I missing out on life now by prioritizing my future goals?” “Will all of the sacrifices I made be worth it in the end?”
But, are they really sacrifices? Using the word sacrifice implies that my actions are at the expense of something important to me. The word sacrifice has a negative connotation to it. So rather than looking at my financial habits through a lens of sacrifice, I choose to look at them through the lens of necessity and a means to an end.
If you can learn to be truly happy with cutting back in certain categories, then saving towards financial freedom won’t feel like a sacrifice, in fact it will feel like liberation. Make the changes gradual so they won’t feel like such a shock. Instead of making radical changes that can be traumatic to your psyche, start with moderate changes to your personal finances.There is a way to save and invest for the future while living a happy life now. The art is finding the balance between the two.
This post was is in conjunction with Women’s Money Week (#WMW2017) encouraging women to speak up about money, access financial information, take control of their finances, and reshape their financial futures.