An article on saving and budgeting
As we transition into adulthood, money is one of the main things that drives up our anxiety. You can catch most millennials sobbing, counting nickels and dimes as soon as rent and bill payments go through. Why are we struggling? There are many answers to this, but not many solutions. According to a Career Builder survey more than 78% of workers in the U.S are living paycheck to paycheck and debt is a growing issue. There’s no doubt that our incomes aren’t appropriately matching the trends of inflation, and we have to put up with lower wages, longer hours and higher prices. Savings? Investments? Emergency funds? Debt free? What kind of obscure concepts are those? We don’t have the sweet cushion of disposable income anymore. What if i told you that all these concepts could be within grasp if we stopped spending money? — Says every finance blog ever. Well, i’m not here to force you to “Stop Spending Money”, and save every last dime you have, because that is impractical. We can, however, improve our spending habits. Its very sad that we have to suffer for the economy’s (and capitalisms) shortcomings, but there are long term benefits to curbing some of our “toxic” financial behaviors.
“ For the lower class, no amount of rationing their income is going to make them rich in a system that keeps robbing them of the opportunities and resources to advance.”
A common fallacy is that we need to suffer and save to achieve wealth. If you think you can “save” your way to riches, i hate to break it to you buddy, you can’t. For the lower class, no amount of rationing their income is going to make them rich in a system that keeps robbing them of the opportunities and resources to advance. Low income earners hardly have any income to save, and accusing them of being financially unstable because of their spending habits is narrow minded, and ignores the systemic issues holding them in their plight. Saving is not the answer, but just an extra step to stability.
For people that do have a little leeway to save from their income, It is encouraged to budget, and stretch your income as far as you comfortably can. Budgeting is the best way to control cash flow and curb some unconsciously careless spending habits. These are my 10 essential budgeting & saving tips to get you started.
- Tip #1 – Keep track of what you spend. Our ability to be totally oblivious to what is coming in and out of our accounts is… damaging, to say the least. I understand that it’s painful to stare at a depreciating bank balance each day, but it’s necessary for financial growth. Outline all your expenses and give yourself a summary of what you typically spend each month. The more you take responsibility for your spending habits, the better they become.
- Tip #2 – Categorize your expenses and create a budget spreadsheet. Creating a budget spreadsheet is important for monitoring debits, credits and cash flow. There are numerous budget templates available online for free, if creating your own is too much of a task. Here’s one. Once you create a budget for all your expenses and compare it against what you typically spend sans budget, you tend to realize how impractical or unnecessary some purchases were and adjust accordingly. Without a clear cut limit set for ourselves, we overspend.
- Tip #3 – Budgeting Apps. If a spreadsheet is too primitive for you, technology is here to save the day. There are a plethora of budgeting and saving apps available for free online. I personally use Mint. It’s easy to navigate, lets you create budgets, monitor your monthly cash flow, categorize spending, and keeps you up to date with upcoming bills. The best thing about Mint is that you can connect all your credit cards, loans, bank accounts & bills to it and it automatically does the rest of the work for you. Other useful apps are EveryDollar, Wally, You Need A Budget & Acorns.
- Tip #4 – Cut out unnecessary spending. Impulse buying is exceedingly common amongst all of us. Let’s play a game, take a shot everytime you see an ad on your social media. You’ll get pretty wasted in like… a minute. The internet is literally feeding us ads and subconsciously selling us products that enable compulsive shopping habits. Consumer culture and capitalism convinces us to buy things we actually don’t need. A huge part of budgeting is cutting out pointless and extraneous expenses. Try to limit your spending to basic needs and things that add value to you. Think a purchase through for 2 weeks, and if you become disinterested after that time elapses, you don’t really need it.
- Tip #5 – Unsubscribe. We tend to latch on to subscriptions we don’t use enough or even at all. You’ve been “meaning” to go to the gym for 6 months now, but you haven’t gotten around to doing it. That $50 per month membership adds up to $300, which could’ve been used for something more beneficial. Get rid of that amazon prime subscription if you only use it once every two months. Get rid of netflix if you’re too preoccupied with life to binge watch your shows. Don’t be afraid to unsubscribe.
- Tip #6 – Curb your restaurant/fast food spending. It’s certainly easier to get chick fil a for lunch, but that $$ you spend on fast food/restaurants multiple times a week can add up quickly. Opt for simple home cooked lunches or even microwavable frozen meals. According to a CNBC article, 90% of Americans don’t like to cook. It is not only affecting our health, it’s also affecting our wealth. As much as we all love wining and dining, majority of us can’t afford to do it as much as we think we can. I understand that sometimes, after a long day at work, it’s impractical to cook, but try as much as possible to have meal prepped, batch cooked or simple foods in your kitchen. Curbing excessive restaurant spending is very cost efficient in the long-run. Here are some simple recipes.
- Tip #7 – Have an emergency fund. According to bank rates financial security index survey, only 39% of survey respondents said they would be able to cover an unexpected $1000 expense using their savings. Ideally, you should have about 3-6 months worth of expenses stashed away somewhere. Although, this isn’t exactly easy for everyone to do, it is necessary. Due to income restraints, a lot of people can barely afford to pay their bills, so saving is a hard task. I urge everyone to put away as much as their paycheck affords, to save for miscellaneous future emergencies. Nerdwallet lists some high yield savings accounts. Once you have enough money in your emergency fund, it is encouraged to stop saving & start investing any disposable income you may have.
- TIp #8 – Aggressively pay off debt. You should always set aside funds to go towards outstanding debt. Paying the minimum payment can plunge you into a never ending cycle of accumulated interest and perpetual debt. Try as much as possible to pay significantly more than the minimum to minimize your overall balance and length of debt. Less debt equals increased net worth (net worth = Assets – Liabilities). Having less debt payments also means; having more monthly disposable income to put towards investing, savings or even leisure. If you are finding it hard to totally eradicate your debt, make sure your revolving credit usage doesn’t surpass 30%, and your debt to income ratio is no more than 28%.
- Tip #9 – Automatic transfers to savings. Having a certain amount automatically deducted from your paycheck into a savings account each month is a very effective saving method. It creates a guaranteed safety net that accumulates monthly. It also minimizes your disposable income, forcing you to live slightly below your means without even noticing. Save it before you even see it.
- Tip #10 – Figure out what works for you. There is absolutely no one size fits all guide to budgeting and saving. Different things work for different people. Sit down with yourself (or a professional), and figure out how you want to move forward with your finances. If you’re not in a position to save any of your income, put it off till you can. I will always recommend budgeting though, because it puts your finances and what you can afford into perspective.
If you’ve gotten this far, i just want to thank you for taking time to read this. I really appreciate. If you have any thoughts, opinions or suggestions, don’t be afraid to comment or reach out to me on social media!
What are some of your helpful budgeting tips? Let me know!
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