Hack this. Hack that. Tips and tricks to save money. They pepper the internet, and I get sucked in every time. Tons of listicles and sites and advice pieces claim that they can give you the strategy to save a ton of money magically by the end of the month or year. The truth is, though, that saving money works because of a commitment rather than a strategy you come across on Pinterest. It's true that having a beautiful plan or interesting rule set for saving can make you more successful, but none of it will matter without an actual commitment to saving money. You need to have a particular goal in mind that's more than just to spend less or save more.
Here's the thing. I'm a big spender, especially for someone who is working to pay for school things and living expenses. The thing is, though, that hasn't stopped me from blowing through paychecks and busting my budget even though I have my priorities decently straight. But, towards the holidays when my study abroad financing became the next job to take on, and my bank account wasn't where it should've been with how much I had worked, I realized that all the money hacking in the world wouldn't work. I just had to make the choice to save, prioritize what mattered, and frankly, stop buying unnecessary crap and more and more insignificant stuff.
The painful reality of saving is that you just have to do it. You have to wake up and say "no more" and make a mental commitment to prioritizing your savings account and cutting down on your expenditures. It doesn't always work cold turkey. If you've got insane spending habits, you won't be able to go from blowing tons of cash to being frugal Franny overnight. You have to pick one thing to target at a time. Go through your bank statement and tally up how much you spent on food, clothes, and entertainment the last month. Whichever one is the highest, try to slim it down. If you go shopping every other week, try wearing a piece you haven't worn in awhile instead. If you buy a latte every day, skip that and save 5 dollars in a jar every time you find yourself wanting to.
Another part of committing to saving is having a dedicated bank account for it. It's easy to have your checking and say "ok, I'll always keep my balance above X amount, and that'll be my savings." But, you just can't do that. You need a dedicated savings account so that your money is not tied to your debit card. You can open one online through your bank's website in about 20 minutes, and set up timed transfers or a "save the change" service to accumulate savings slowly without even noticing. If you've got a job, you can even route part of your direct deposit right into the savings account to keep it away from your debit card and off limits.
The great thing about having a savings account is that if you make some guidelines for yourself with it, you just can't fudge it. With those online "save a dollar" or "make a jar" challenges you can end up skipping a week or cheating how much you put in, or you may even find yourself pulling the cash out of it. With a savings account, you can make a hard and fast rule only to make deposits, not withdrawals, and can set weekly or monthly goals for what you want the balance to reach. In this situation, there's no short cut or cheat. You either do it, or you don't. You have the account, and you just have to make the commitment.
1. Create a savings account.
2. Look at your expenses.
3. Stop buying lattes twice a day.
4. Make goals for your savings account balance and stick to them.
5. Only deposit, don't withdraw. (Unless it's an emergency, and no, fashion emergencies don't count.)
And stop buying unnecessary crap.
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