Welcome to The LWSL Beginner’s Guide to Savings!
My goal for this series is to guide you through a series of assignments intended to put you on sounder financial footing. Basically it is eight weeks to a better budget.
If you’ve already read and followed the other LWSL Beginner’s Guides–either the Beginner’s Guide to Coupons or the Beginner’s Guide to Cleaning–then the format of this series will be familiar to you. Each week we will tackle one specific area to work on and then complete assignments related to that segment of our financial life. It is thus important to note that following this series will take some effort and commitment on your part. I have unfortunately not yet discovered the magic version of saving money, where all you have to do is read about it for it to happen. This is the blood, sweat, & tears edition. (Okay, well maybe no blood…)
And now for a few disclaimers: I am not a certified financial expert or planner. I don’t have a degree in business or accounting. I have no credentials whatsoever beyond my own experience to qualify me for teaching anyone about saving money. There are plenty of money experts out there who could probably explain this stuff far better than me, and some I will even refer you to. My only goal here is to try to break down the scary world of budgets and saving into manageable bites that anyone can handle. This is the baby steps guide to saving.
Part One: Stop Spending!
Saving is not easy. We live in a crazy consumer-driven-gotta-have-it society, where the latest gadget/gizmo/car/movie/fashion/toy is constantly being promoted, and we are made to feel like we’re missing out if we don’t have the latest or the best. The sheer quantity of stuff available to to purchase at any given time is pretty much a bottomless pit. There is always more, more more!
So what’s a girl (or boy) to do?
Well, it’s pretty simple really: Stop. Buying. Stuff.
At least in theory it is simple.
In practice, it is sooooo much harder.
Our reasons for spending money on stuff we don’t need are plentiful and varied. It makes us feel good. We want to look better. We want our house to be pretty. We want what everyone else has. It’s fun. We’re bored. We’re lonely. We want people to like us better. We want to be “ahead of the curve.” We’re tech junkies. We can’t pass up a “good deal.” We think we might need it someday. The sales pitch worked. We’re stressed. We’re trying to fill a void. It was on sale. We’re addicted to [Starbucks, tobacco, scrapbooking, shoes, video games, books, etc. etc.]
The truth is that whatever the reason, much of what we spend our money on is unnecessary, a want rather than a need. I need to eat, but I want to drink my Keurig K-Cups coffee every day. I need to wear shoes, but I want to have dozens of pairs in every color and style imaginable. It is so very important to realize the distinction between what we think we need and what we actually need.
It is the first critical step on the path to savings.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should never spend money on anything, and live an austere (and boring) life void of pretty things entertainment or yummy coffee drinks. Don’t forget, the title of this blog is Living WELL Spending Less.
But for the sake of this series, we are going to start by curbing all spending so that down the road we can figure out how to get those things we want in a way that fits our budget.
Which brings me to this week’s assignment:
1. Freeze your spending!
Try to go at least seven days in a row without spending money on anything except what is absolutely necessary, as in matter-of-survival necessary. No clothes, no candy, no quick stops at McDonalds, no craft supplies, no nothing. Don’t worry, it’s only a week. You won’t die. I promise. And if you are really feeling motivated, try committing to an even longer period of no spending, such this 31 Days of Living Well & Spending Zero challenge. It is a great way to get your budget back on track in a hurry!
2. Make a list of wants and needs
Spend your time reflecting on all the things you spend money on in a months time, and divide those things into a “needs” list (i.e. I need to pay rent, buy food, make my car payment, etc.) and a “wants” list (cable TV, designer jeans, Starbucks, etc.) Don’t just make a mental list. Sit down and physically write down every single thing you can think of that you spend money on, from the mundane to the major.
3. Get inspired
Read a few articles to get yourself motivated. It will give you something to do while you’re trying not to spend money.
5 important lessons I’ve learned so far.
A great reminder that more stuff doesn’t make us happier.
These are 7 smart things all parents should learn too!
A super insightful post about the reality of driving a beater.
4. Find new (free) ways to fill your time
Think long and hard about the reasons you spend money frivelously. If you are using shopping as a way to fill a void in your life then you need to seriously explore other hobbies that don’t cost anything. Go to the library and check out some new books, make it your mission to explore every park in a 20 mile radius, set a goal of organizing every closet and cupboard in your house by the end of the summer, or better yet, connect with a few local friends who may also be trying to curb their spending. There’s nothing more effective than a little accountability!
I think the thing that surprised me the most when I stopped spending money out of boredom was how much more creative I became. The world is full of free activities. You just have to look a little harder.
Still can’t think of anything to do? Here are a few more ideas:
50 cool things to learn that won’t cost a thing.
25 fun & thrifty ideas for quality time.
20 ways to spend time with the one you love.
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And that’s it for this week! Stay tuned for another riveting installment next Wednesday and remember, I want to hear from you! If you’ve decided to take this 8 week challenge, or if you have any ideas for fun free activities you’d like to share, please leave a comment below. Saving money is so much more fun when you have someone to share it with.
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