Here it is-- the cold truth about saving money. The truth can hurt but it feels so good knowing how to save money successfully. Take a deep breath and read on for money "real talk".
There must be a plan
Some might think if they just try really hard and stay focused, they will save money. The truth here is that you need to have a plan. A simple budget will bring light to how much money is available after bills are paid. Begin listing fixed expenses like housing payment, student loans, and other bills that are exactly the same each month. Next, list out the bills you pay, like electric and groceries, that are variable each month. For the amount, use an average from the last 12 months. Tools like Mint by Intuit track expenses, categorize, and calculate the averages. Now to find out how much money you can save. Take the total monthly income minus total monthly expenses. Income - Expenses = Surplus/Deficit. If the final amount is zero (or negative) then it is impossible to save money without making changes. The Cold Truth: If you spend more than you make, there is no money to save.
Choose what to sacrifice
And, yes, there will have to be sacrifices to increase the amount that can be saved. For some it will be easy to cut out the daily Starbucks coffee to save money. For others, it will be more difficult and might include sacrificing how much is spent on necessities like clothing and food. There are several articles out there about saving money like how cutting usage of several common household items can save you money. What will be the least hard to do without or less? Maybe the adjustment is simple like brown bagging lunch to save fuel and food costs. Create a budget for the variable expenses and name the amount to spend each month in that category. Financial experts like Dave Ramsey will suggest using cash and envelopes with the category name on it. When that cash is spent, then not another penny can be spent in that category. A site like Mint.com allows for electronic tracking if cash isn’t a good system for you. It will be a challenge to stay within budget but reaching the end goal is worth it. The Cold Truth: To have more money to save, you will need to sacrifice niceties and sometimes necessities.
Find the motivation
The sacrifices will be much easier to make once the motivation to save is found. Without a reason, or a goal, cutting costs and giving things up is nearly impossible. Small goals sometimes aren’t as inspiring as a large goal like owning a home. Finding medium goals will provided the motivation and positive reinforcement needed to stick to the plan. If saving money is a new thing, start with a medium goal like “save $500 to buy a new TV by the end of the month”. The new TV is the motivation and the goal is specific enough to maintain focus. So what’s the bigger goal? Financial independence? Early retirement? Dream big and stay motivated! Then break it down into medium goals like “save $7,500 for emergencies”. The Cold Truth: If you don’t feel motivated, you will fail at saving money.
Inhale. Exhale. That’s the cold truth about how to save money. Without a plan, sacrifice, and motivation it is impossible to save money. Begin with a budget. Find ways to cut spending. Stay focused on the goal like “not living paycheck-to-paycheck” or “own first home”.