If your monthly expenses are spiraling out of control and your nest egg has remained the same — or even shrunk — over the years, it may be time to assess your spending behaviors. Here’s what Keimani Woods, communications manager at TimeWise Financial, changed about the way she spends her cash so that she could start putting away at least $800 a month.
1. I Reevaluated the Things I Spend Money On
“I thought about my life and what I enjoy doing the most and prioritized those things by cutting out the extra. For example, I enjoy traveling, so I make sure I have money saved to travel every year,” said Woods.
Once she reevaluated what was important to her and what was not, she created a savings goal that not only kept her motivated but also aligned with her values.
If you want to save an extra $800 a month like Woods, start by analyzing your financial statements to identify recurring expenses and determine where you can cut back. A simple way to do this is by exporting your credit and debit statements to CSV or Excel format and then sorting them to identify unnecessary expenses eating away at your budget.
Sure, it might mean giving up that monthly subscription to a streaming service or cutting back on other entertainment, but the payoff is often worth it.
2. I Reevaluated Who’s Worth My Time and Money
You may have friends you hang out with purely because they live nearby or because you feel obligated to. But have you ever stopped to consider whether these relationships are worth your time — and money?
After some self-reflection, Woods realized that she was spending a substantial amount of money each month on people who wouldn’t even be there for her in times of trouble. “I decided these aren’t the types of relationships I want to invest a ton of money or time into anymore,” she said.
“Now, if I’m spending money to hang out with you, we need to have a genuine relationship or bond,” she added. Though this shift in her spending habits has caused her to spend more time alone, Woods doesn’t mind and appreciates her own company.
3. I Stopped Eating Out So Much
Woods found another way to improve her spending habits by making a simple change to her routine: eating out less and cooking more. “Yes, groceries are becoming more expensive by the day, but I always look for BOGO deals and sales at my favorite grocery stores. This way, I can try new foods on sale and also get more bang for my buck,” she said.
If you want to follow in Woods’ footsteps, here are a few ways you can save money on groceries, besides taking advantage of BOGO deals:
- Meal planning: Knowing what you’re going to cook before heading to the grocery store can help you avoid falling victim to last-minute impulse purchases. And if you get strategic with your meals and plan them around what’s on sale, you could save even more. Use a recipe planning app like Bublup or Epicurious if you need help preparing a healthy and budget-friendly meal.
- Buying in bulk: For items you use often, like rice and pasta, consider buying in bulk. While you may pay more upfront, the price per unit is generally lower. But be sure to only stock up on non-perishables that could last months, not fruits that rot within a week.
- Using coupons and store loyalty programs: If you’re a fan of the TLC show Extreme Couponing, you know just how massive the savings can be. Plus, coupons aren’t just in the Sunday paper anymore. You can now find them online and through mobile apps, as well. And if you’re already a loyal customer of a particular store, their loyalty program could offer exclusive discounts you won’t find anywhere else. Combined, these two could shave off a good chunk of change on your monthly grocery bills.
4. I Shifted My Mindset Around Money
How you think about money can have a major impact on your financial well-being. That’s why Woods decided to shift her mindset around spending. Instead of viewing money as something to burn through as quickly as possible, she now sees it as something to save and invest for the future.
“Sometimes, I even challenge myself to freeze my spending in order to speed up my savings. Why? Because I value having money on hand for emergencies, investing, treating my loved ones and helping people in need.” And it was through showing restraint and valuing the long-term benefits of saving that Woods achieved her monthly savings goal of $800.
Here are some fun challenges to improve your relationship with money and make saving for a rainy day more exciting.
- No-Spend Challenge: As the name suggests, the no-spend challenge involves not spending any money on nonessential items during a period of time. That means no online shopping sprees, no daily trips to Starbucks and no unnecessary purchases.
- Cash-Only Challenge: This challenge is as simple as it sounds: You ditch the plastic and challenge yourself to only use cash for a set period. The theory behind this challenge is that you’re typically less likely to make impulse purchases with cash, since you can see the money leaving your wallet.
- Round-Up Saving Challenge: With the round-up saving challenge, you’ll round up to the nearest dollar and save the difference for each purchase you make. Apps like Acorns or Chime can help you do this automatically.
Spend Less Than You Earn
If you are able to spend less than you earn each month, it’s almost impossible not to see your savings account numbers go up. However, it’s easy to let your spending get out of control if you’re not keeping a close eye on your finances.
So, if you’re not already tracking your budget, start now. Budgeting apps like Mint, Honeydue and PocketGuard can all help you keep tabs on how much money is coming in and going out of your wallet each month. Combined with better spending habits, you could be on your way to saving over $800 every month like Woods.
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