You’ve made the decision to take control of your finances. Congratulations that’s fantastic! So how are you going to go about doing that?
“I’m going to just spend less.”
If you simply plan on spending less, we have some bad news for you. Your plans and all your best intentions are likely doomed to failure. It’s like the difference between having a vague plan for what you want to do with the upcoming days/weeks/months in your head and actually putting those plans to paper with goals and benchmarks to hold yourself accountable.
Get a clear picture of your spending
This saving money proposition is a long-term project so you need to take some time to at the outset to get the lay of the land. In order to figure out how much you can save, you have to determine exactly how much you are currently spending and where. That means spending dedicated time tracking your spending. At least a month. The longer you do it the better.
Tracking may not fun ‑ but then debt isn’t fun either. On the plus side, tracking your spending is part of saving. The act of keeping track keeps you conscious of what you’re doing with your money. You can use an expense tracking app or if you’re more old school, use a spread sheet or notebook. How you do it isn’t important. The key is to track everything. Every coffee, every grocery bill, every shoelace. Even if it’s something out of the ordinary like a birthday present, track it. The reality is, we all end up running into at least one or two out of the ordinary things every month.
Once you’ve got it all laid out in front of you, you can start making your plans. Where can you trim? How much can you afford to trim?
Write down your goals
This is where you go from the vague goal of I’m going to spend less to and actual plan for how much less you are going to spend. For example, if you typically spend $200 a week on groceries and can get away with $150 then write that down. If you normally have two drinks on Friday nights after work and you’re going to cut that back to one then mark it down. Write it all down.
If you’re only writing about what you’re going to cut out that’s not very motivating, so you need to counter that with the savings goal to make all feel more worthwhile.
Write down how much you want to save and by what date. Give yourself something to look forward to. A written goal holds you accountable. It keeps you on track. But not if you write it down and never look at it again. Put your goals somewhere where you can see them every day. On the fridge, on the mirror in the bathroom, as a stickie on your computer.
Motivate yourself with visuals
Are you saving for something in particular? Like a vacation or a new suit or a fridge? If so find a picture and put that up right alongside your written goals. After you’ve accomplished your first goal move on to another! Make creating financial goals and achieving them a habit!