I have a few bad habits I’m working on. I’m working on having a regular sleep schedule and I still say “um” an excessive amount when I’m trying to communicate a complicated thought. Everyone struggles with controlling their own behavior – after all, no one is perfect.
However, I have a lot of positive habits that I’m quite proud of. Some of the most measurable differences in my overall happiness have come from learning healthy spending and saving habits. I’ve always felt most vulnerable when I’m worried about having enough money, whether it’s for essentials or to participate in an activity. Getting to a point where I no longer need to worry has been liberating.
Many people think that financial security is exclusively tied to your paycheck. Yes, making more money obviously helps you save money, but there a lot of people that make six figures who are in massive debt, and there are a lot of people earning a lot less than six figures who are developing a nest egg.
Saving money and achieving financial security is all about adjusting your behavior to match your priorities. Whether you’re an established professional wondering where all your hard earned income is going, or you’re an entry level worker who wants to make the most of your first paychecks, the saving strategies are the same.
Here are my top five favorite money saving habits to help you stay within your budget without feeling like you’re deprived:
#1 Learn How To Cook
I love eating with my husband and my friends. There’s something about sharing delicious food that draws us closer together, whether it’s an intimate, elegant meal or a loud and boisterous family-style meal.
I know the struggle is real when it comes to restaurant bills. It’s so tempting to always plan social events around going out to eat or ordering take-out, but it doesn’t have to be this way! Make a point to learn how to cook, and you’ll not only save an incredible amount of cash (seriously, $50 of groceries is way more than what you get at a restaurant), but you’ll also impress your friends, family, and partner. Not to mention you’ll be eating healthier food that’s always seasoned exactly how you like it.
My favorite resource for delicious, inexpensive recipes is Budget Bytes. I’ve also worked up to augmenting recipes I find all over the internet. You can also save hundreds of dollars a year just by learning basic principles, such as how to cook inexpensive meats and the value of finding your local farmers market!
#2 Buy Gifts Throughout The Year
I hate to break this to you, but most “sales” are a hoax. Yes, occasionally you’ll find a great deal, but the majority of the time – especially near the holidays – the “discount” is actually the normal price of the item. Many stores are known to markup their products throughout the year specifically so that they can appear to offer their most popular items at a fraction of the cost.
The better way to buy gifts? Search for deals throughout the year. If you think of a gift at the beginning of the year, keep an eye out for the price. You’d be surprised to see how much the price can change when you track them over the course of a year. Many cards also give you cash back if the item you bought happens to go on sale after you’ve already bought it – this is a great perk to keep in mind. You’ll not only save hundreds on your holiday shopping costs, you’ll also be giving incredibly thoughtful gifts!
#3 Volunteer At Events
Did you know that many events – from county fairs to 5ks – offer free entry if you volunteer? Whether you’re itching for a carnival, your favorite band is playing at a music festival, or you want to participate in a race later in the year free of charge, your first step should be contacting the organizers about volunteer opportunities!
Volunteering also helps you meet others that are involved, which means that you’ll find out about more cool events in your area before the general public does. Form a great group of friends and skip the entrance fees by donating your time instead of spending your money.
#4 Think Of Costs In Hours Spent Working
I think everyone has spent at least some time unsure of whether a purchase will be “worth it” or not. Whether that means trying to decide if you’ll still value the item in a few months, or if it makes more sense to buy it instead of something else, this can be a tough call.
The way I’ve learned to decide if a purchase is worth it is by calculating how many hours I have to work to pay for it. For example, if I want a new pair of jeans, I ask myself, “would I be willing to work right now for 4 hours in exchange for these?” If I would, then they’re probably worth it – and if not, I leave them behind.
#5 Automate Your Savings
Lastly, it’s important that we all embrace our human flaws and take advantage of modern technology. Specifically, I mean setting up an automated deposit into your savings account. Ideally this would occur directly after your paycheck hits your checking account. Automating this deposit will make sure a certain amount is put away before you have a chance to spend it, which will help you treat your income post savings as your maximum spending amount.
At the end of the day, it’s important to recognize that financial health is the same as physical and mental health – it relies on habits and small changes much more than grand gestures. These habits helped me get started with financial stability, and I’ve added to them over time. If you feel frustrated or deprived by saving your money, remind yourself that your future self will be happier to have that money on hand when you need it!