December 14, 2015

Turning Pennies Into Memories ~ Sticking to the Plan

This is the third post in a series on how to finance your travel dreams (please see "Changing Priorities" and "Establishing a Budget"). Whether you're working a minimum-wage job, have a comfortable income, are burdened with heavy debt, or just have a few small loans to pay, the principles in this series can be applied to almost every category. As someone who has been able to finance trips to Europe in cash while working minimum wage jobs or while a spouse was unemployed, believe me, this is something you can achieve if you make it a priority. It's just a matter of time.

Changing Your Priorities | Establishing a Budget | Sticking to the Plan


Let's start with a brief recap:

You've changed your priorities and mindset about spending, choosing to take control of your finances and to dictate where your money goes instead of floundering between pay periods wondering where in the world your income went and how you'll survive until the next paycheck.

You've established a budget prioritizing your "needs" above your "wants" and have committed to a savings plan (no matter how small!) in order to create a habit of planning for the future, anticipating rainy day situations, and establishing responsible spending habits.

So, now what?

Roll your spare change & start a separate savings with it.
Now it's time for the nitty-gritty. Making a plan is one thing; implementing it is another. You can't save money on paper - it plays out in the grocery store when you make decisions about what to buy; it surfaces when you decide you're "too tired" to pack tomorrow's lunch; and it manifests when you decide that going out for drinks with friends is easier (and less "embarrassing") than telling them you need less costly social plans. Living out your budget is the real battle.

Lazy people can't save money. You have to be organized in order to stick to your financial battle-plan. Here are a few tips to help with the follow through to your priorities and budget:

  • Don't go grocery shopping unarmed. Make a meal plan, develop a list of ingredients, and buy only the items you need. Going to the grocery store hungry will make you more likely to deviate from your list! Limiting the frequency you go grocery shopping will also limit the number of times you're tempted to buy that box of Double Stuffed Oreos that your wallet (and waistline!) really don't need. (Remember: Putting "needs" before "wants" will get you that much closer to your financial goals!) 
  • Bring a lunch to work. These days even fast food options are becoming less and less affordable, and if you're looking for healthier options, you'll spend roughly $8-15 on a lunch depending on the eatery. By comparison, packing last night's leftovers, making some hearty sandwiches, or even bringing a can of soup and toast will put you back anywhere from $1-5, especially if you made large meals that can be distributed into several packed lunches. (Bonus: Packing your own meals is generally more healthy than eating out, too!)
  • When at all possible, buy used. This applies to clothing (although maybe not your underclothes!), cars, furniture, you name it. If you really want to make some drastic financial changes, you have to throw your pride out the window. Thrift stores and hand-me-down clothes will be your best friend. To be honest, although I can afford brand new clothes now, I still shop at TJ Maxx, Ross, and the clearance racks of any store I find myself in! I can't bring myself to pay full price on an item if I can buy a gently used (or never been used) item for a tenth of the price. I've received more compliments on my clothing since budgeting my spending than I ever did when I shopped the mall for name brand clothing. (Sidenote on buying cars: A brand new car loses between 15-20% of its value in the first year alone! Get yourself a deal by buying models just a few years old for the best value.)
  • Enlist the moral support of your closest family and friends. Focus on your end goals - freeing up the money currently going towards student loans for putting towards future travels, future house, future fill-in-the-blank - and then briefly touch on the concrete ways you'll be accomplishing these goals, such as preferring BYOB house parties over bar hopping, etc. Ask them to encourage you along the way and to be mindful of your changed priorities. Putting all this out into the open will help alleviate future pressure to spend money you'd rather be saving. (Note: I understand that you might not want to dish out all your financial dirty laundry, but finding a way to at least briefly touch upon your plan with friends will help you in the long run.) 
  • Keep your eye on the prize. Saving money is not for the faint of heart or those who want the easy way out. If it were easy, you would've gone down that path years ago, right? So do your best to stay motivated about your end goals and/or incorporating little rewards for yourself along the way. You paid off the credit card with a $1,000 balance? Treat yourself to some Cold Stone ice cream. You eliminated your $5,000 auto loan after only 12 months of intense sacrifice and budgeting? Go out for a nice meal to celebrate! Just make sure your one night out of celebrating doesn't undo the months of self-control! (Tip: Change your phone or laptop's background picture to a place, thing, or event that reminds you of what you will do with your money once you've freed yourself from debt. I stared at a picture of Santorini for quite a long time before I actually booked the trip, but it was all the sweeter seeing it in person on a trip paid in cash than it would've been if I had to come home and work my butt off to pay Mr. Visa back for the experience!)
Yes, this is going to be hard. Yes, there are going to be times you'll want to give up. And yes, there may be times where you say screw it and let some binge shopping blow your budget out of the water. When you fall off the financial wagon, don't be overly discouraged. Just refocus on your end goal and get right back on track. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was your mountain of debt. In most cases it'll take you longer to pay back your debt than it did to accumulate it in the first place! But the longer you wait to work on righting your financial house, the longer and harder the road to being debt-free will be.

But like I will continue to iterate with each of these posts, it will all be MORE than worth it in the end! Go turn those pennies into memories!

What are some of your money-saving tips?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by! I'd love to hear your comments, feedback, and suggestions.