Trading a spending habit for a savings habit isn't easy, but it can be done. Being aware of your spending habits is an important first step. You need to realize that you're spending close to $10 a day on coffee, bagels, and shampoo before you can decide to cut out the bagel and save a little money.
If you're a saver, you already realize the importance of putting money away for all the things you'll want or need in the future, such as a house, cars, college, and retirement. Even if you haven't started saving yet, knowing that it's important puts you on the right track.
Dollars and Sense
For two weeks, try keeping a list of everything—from a pack of gum to a new suit—that you buy. This will give you a better picture of where you're spending your money.
Dollars and Sense
Practice what we talked about in last chapter's discussion on budgeting, and find an area of nonessential spending. Examine it carefully and find expenditures that you can eliminate.
If you're a natural-born spender, don't despair. You have plenty of company. Don't think, though, that overspending is something you can't change, like being born short or tall. You can't change your height, but you can change your spending habits.
Nobody feels like they have much money if they compare their financial situations to the dynasties of Bill Gates or Malcolm Forbes.
If you're determined to keep up with your friends, and you buy more and more so that you'll have what they have, you trap yourself into the mindset of spending. If you don't concern yourself with what your friends are buying, and think about what you have and what you need, however, you can develop a savings mindset. If you can achieve the mindset that saving money is good and is something from which you'll benefit greatly in the future, you'll find it a lot easier to pass up things you want in order to keep your cash.
Of course, people spend money for many different reasons, not just to keep up in the great game of possessing. Some people spend because it makes them feel better if they're disappointed, hurt, or angry. Some people enjoy spending money so much that it becomes an addiction. “Shopaholic” is a word that many people use jokingly, but an addiction to spending is a real and serious problem for some people. Of course, other addictions, such as drugs or gambling, can also take huge tolls on your personal finances. Anyone with an addiction of any kind should seek help as soon as possible.
If you think you have a spending addiction, help is available. Check your phone directory to see whether there's a chapter of Debtors Anonymous (DA) in your area. DA uses a 12-step program, similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, and has helped many people from all social and economic backgrounds overcome spending addictions. For more information about DA, go to www.debtorsanonymous.org.
Saving Money on Almost Everything
Many people have a perpetual plan to start saving money, but they never do. They swear they'll start saving 10 percent of their salary, just as soon as they've got the new car, computer, boots, mountain bike, Palm handheld, guitar, bracelet, or whatever. If you want to save money, you have to make a firm commitment and stick to it. That means you won't be able to buy the mountain bike this month or next month. You might not even be able to buy it this year. Besides deferring expenses, another good way to save money is to get the best deal on the purchases you do make.
Dollars and Sense
For ideas on how to save money when purchasing the things you need, consider reading “The Complete Tightwad Gazette” by Amy Dacyczyn, or “Living Well on a Shoestring: 1,501 Ingenious Ways to Spend Less for What You Need and Have More for What You Want” by the editors of Yankee Magazine. Of course, you'll want to exhibit your new frugality by purchasing used copies of these books.
There are entire books written on living frugally, and it just might be worth your while to invest in one for tips and advice about saving money on everything from food to vacations. Much of the advice you'll encounter is just plain old common sense, such as getting your food at a discount grocery store rather than the high-priced convenience store. Still, you're sure to find some useful information.
Little savings on food, clothes, energy bills, entertainment, and incidentals can add up to big savings over time. Keep a record of all the things you don't buy and the ways you figure out to save money. You'll be surprised at your total.