I learned to save money the hard way—here's how
A couple of years ago, my parents told me that “money is power.” In typical teenage style, their message went in one ear and out the other. I actually believed one had to spend money to earn power. Now that I’m older and wiser, (Okay, who am I kidding, I just have larger expenses to cover) believe I possess more knowledge about making the most of my hard earned “power.” Looking back, what they meant was money can provide the opportunity to make a big purchase here and there but saving is just as important. Having large expenses to cover such as rent, groceries and gas helped me realize the importance of saving as it reduces stress, increases flexibility and provides that in case of emergency safety net.
Since moving out of my parent’s house, (goodbye homemade dinners five nights a week) I’ve come to realize that saving means more than taking a percent of your paycheck and putting it into a savings account. The definition of “saving” has broadened into searching for deals. Since then, I’ve come up with a couple of strategies to make saving a little easier for young professionals.
Spread your money out
In order to trick myself into spending less, I spread my money over three different accounts. Translation: I deposit most of my money into a checkings account where I pay all of my bills from. However, if I pick up a catering gig, I’ll alternate depositing that money into one of my two other accounts. Seeing that I have a smaller amount in my checking, forces me to ask myself, “do I really need another pair of shoes?” More often than not, the answer is no. Although it’s never easy putting those brown suede booties back on the shelf, it’s a relief to pay Visa less at the end of the month.
Hit the sale section
I used to think there was something wrong with my family as my mom and dad always shopped the sale section first. I thought to myself, ‘we can afford the full priced stuff, why do we have to buy it on sale?’ And then I had to get the brakes changed on my car. Costs add up pretty quickly, especially the unexpected ones. Point being, just because you can afford it at that moment does not mean you should buy it. Check out the sale section first and if you’re still not convinced, Google it. More often than not, Amazon Prime will have it. Trust me, those jeans will go on sale.
Dine out early in the week
Restaurants tend to be busiest on Friday and Saturday evenings. So the odds of securing an inexpensive weekend meal is rare. Check your local paper for deals earlier in the week. For example, there’s a local restaurant that serves two dollar tacos on Tuesday nights. It’s undoubtedly cheaper than any meal offered on Saturday.
Although it’s time consuming, planning ahead can be life altering. I didn’t understand this until I started eating out whenever I was hungry. Mistake number one! By the end of the month, I was three hundred dollars over budget. Food is expensive, especially when you dine out.
Do your best to save
Starting out is never easy as there are a lot of firsts; rent, phone, insurance, car payments, you get the picture. Understanding how to distribute that money to cover your expenses is challenging. A first ‘real’ paycheck may seem awesome but if you don’t factor your expenses into that check, it will disappear rather quickly. There is always a way to save if you try. If your full-time job leaves you living paycheck to paycheck go over your expenses and see what you can live without. Ask yourself, ‘do you really need the most expensive shampoo at Walgreens?’ If that’s not working, pick up a catering gig once a month and deposit that money into your savings.
Always pay on time
People who don’t pay their bills off in full at the end of the month run the risk of getting charged higher interest rates. When this happens, you end up paying interest on the amount you owe in addition to the item itself. This will take you longer to pay off the expense and by the time you do, the interest may cost you more than the item itself. It might be hard to write that check at the end of the month, but by avoiding paying your bills on time, you actually end up paying more.
Saving is never easy as it takes constant patience, planning and hard work. The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is that saving is possible, even for someone just starting out. Every little bit helps. It actually does.Ellen Penchuk is an aspiring writer who enjoys consuming excessive amounts of Diet Coke in the Vail Valley. As a natural redhead, she enjoys burrito eating contests, parallel parking and raising her right eyebrow. You can follow her shenanigans around Colorado through her Twitter and blog.
[Image via Comedy Central]