Now that I’ve accomplished my goal of getting a full time job, and I’ve halfway accomplished my goal of losing 20 pounds, I want to start focusing on my third big goal for my 30th year: improve my finances.
I’ve been putting this goal off all year for quite a few reasons. First of all, my year started out with two big financial setbacks that put a big dent in my emergency fund: Otis’ stomach surgery in February and paying our taxes in April. After we paid our taxes, I started to freak out over how low my emergency fund had gotten, so I decided to focus on building it back up for piece of mind. So in May and June, I put my debt on the backburner and focused on saving. Now that it’s July, my EF is looking better, but I’m now facing another financial setback: a paycut at my new job. It’s not a huge paycut, but it’s enough to make me realize that I need to start finding ways to live more frugally so I can save money and get back on track with paying off my debt.
Something else that has inspired me to start working on this financial goal again was reading this excerpt in Sophia Amoruso’s book, #GIRLBOSS:
“If you learn to control your finances, you won’t find yourself stuck in jobs, places, or relationships that you hate just because you can’t afford to go elsewhere. Learning how to manage your money is one of the most important things you’ll ever do. Being in a good spot financially can open up so many doors. Being in a bad spot can slam them in your face. And being broke gets old, so start making smart decisions now to avoid paying for stupid ones later.”
This part of her book really resonated with me, especially the part about being stuck in a place you hate because you can’t afford to go elsewhere. Chris and I have been in our current 2-bedroom/1-bath apartment for almost three years now. Once our lease is up in November, we want to move into a house because we want more space. (Plus we’ll need more space if we’re ever going to start a family!) We were originally thinking about renting a house, but recently realized that it would be a waste to throw all that money away renting a house every month when we could be investing in a house. So do we have enough money to actually buy a house by November? I think we will have a chance if we get serious about saving and paying off debt! Here are some of the small ways I plan to start living more frugally so I can save for a house, pay off my debt, and have better control of my finances:
1) Get rid of temptation: I recently unsubscribed to all the marketing emails I was getting in my inbox every day. Those emails are the devil because they notify me of when my favorite stores are having sales, and when there’s a good sale, I want to shop! If I don’t know about all the good sales happening at The Limited and Express, I won’t feel tempted to spend money on new clothes.
2) Get rid of monthly subscriptions: I recently figured out my monthly expenses that were not actual bills and canceled most of them. I got rid of my Pandora One ($5/mo; $60/yr), my Happy Mail (cards and stationary, $15/mo; $180/yr), and my Cosmo magazine subscription ($25 to renew in August). I kept my unlimited yoga studio membership ($99/mo) because it’s fitness-related and I actually use it. I also kept my HostGator ($9/mo) and Vaultpress ($15/mo) subscriptions for my blog. However, if having this blog is going to cost me $288 a year, I’m going to have to start making money with this site in order to make up for the cost and break even. More on that later!
3) Stay local: Chris and I have traveled quite a lot since we’ve been together: Thailand, Las Vegas, New York, etc. As much as we love to travel, we’ve realized that if we’re ever going to move into a house and start having kids, our priorities need to change. Other than a trip to Carmel in September and a few camping trips this summer, we don’t have any big travel plans for the rest of the year which will definitely save us money. I think we spent about $5,000 on our New York trip last year. Yikes!
4) Lower my budget for gifts: I used to spend $25-30 on gifts for family/friends, but from now on I’ll only be spending about $20 on gifts. It seems like every month, there is always a birthday or some kind of special occasion where we have to buy a gift; this month we have five birthday gifts AND a housewarming gift we have to buy. That shit adds up! I also plan to be more selective about whom I buy gifts for. Do I really need to buy X a gift for Y occasion? Or will a simple greeting card do?
5) Eat out less: I think this will be way easier now that I’m trying to eat Paleo and cook at home more. Chris and I went out to sushi with friends last weekend and spent $55 on dinner before tip. This was a huge wake up call to us and we learned that even though we spend more money on groceries now that we’re trying to eat more organic foods, we’re still saving money by cooking at home vs. eating out.
6) Buy the Kindle version of books, or even better, get them from the library: Even though I have an ipad I can read books on, I recently bought a bunch of actual books I wanted to read because I thought I might “want them for my bookshelf.” I realize now that that was a stupid decision because the books are now taking up space and collecting dust in my apartment. From now on if I want a book, I’m going to either buy the Kindle version ($10 or less) or borrow them from the library/a friend.
7) Take advantage of cash back rewards: I have one cash back credit card that I want to start using when I buy everyday necessities like gas, groceries, toiletries, etc. so I can rack up free cash! Once I’ve earned at least $50, I want to transfer that money to either my savings or debt. I just gotta make sure I stay on top of paying off my balance every month!
8) Keep a piggy bank: I keep a change jar on my bookshelf to throw random coins in whenever I get some. I recently brought the coins into my bank and they added up to almost $50! That money went straight into my house savings.
9) Reduce the amount of races I sign up for: I love to run and do races, but I recently realized that the races can add up after a while, especially the half marathons! (They can be anywhere from $80-$200.) I’ve decided to limit the amount of races I run and be selective about which ones I do. Forty bucks to sign up for a 5K? No thanks, I can run 3 miles around my apartment FOR FREE.
10) Really think about purchases before I make them: I did a spending freeze back in April and it really helped me to start thinking before I spend. Instead of buying things when I want them, as soon as I want them, I put the item on a list in my phone and I think about it for a few weeks. One purchase I recently decided against was buying new jewelry from Stella & Dot. “Do I really need $50 earrings?” I asked myself. Thankfully, I told myself no and crossed the expensive earrings off my list.
I know a lot of these changes are pretty small, but I think if I keep doing them over time, they will really add up. And before I know it, I will have more money to put in savings and toward my debt!
What are some of your favorite ways to save money?