How to be frugal in an age where debt rules the land
Forget the promises and vows and New Year’s Resolutions if they haven’t worked for you in the past. If there is something you need to do, just do it. If it’s not that easy, let the nagging specter of unfinished business haunt you until you finally take action for what’s necessary. Either way, you can’t ignore what is inevitable forever, or you will most definitely regret it – when it’s too late.
It could be losing weight, quitting smoking or being a better parent – it’s something you KNOW you must do. And unless you’re independently wealthy you can likely throw “Save Money” in the mix, too. It really saves to be stingy every once in a while. If you’re like many Americans working a low wage job and just taking it day by day, you need to do something for yourself and your future. Everyone’s situation is different. Some are saddled with student loans, other have credit card debt, while others like to gamble. Of course it’s difficult to save cash, you barely have enough to eat at McDonalds. But there are little tricks you can implement that you may be able to make routine. Here are the best ones:
Set Goals For Yourself & Just Do It
They don’t need to be extremely difficult or intimidating. But make some sort of plan, no matter how simple it may seem. Start easy, put ten dollars in the bank each week. If you’re a little more advanced than that, it certainly would benefit you to research investing in financial markets.
And research could lead to investing wisely. You can start slow, but you should look at ultimately saving at least 10% of your gross income each year. And the best way to ensure that is automation. Have it automatically taken from your bank account each week and place it in either an investment fund or even just your savings account. Call it your “retirement account” or your “emergency fund” – either way it’s a small step in the right direction to protect your future.
If you consider yourself a practical sort, try stepping it up a bit. Start thinking ahead more. Get yourself in the habit of meeting small financial milestones. Maybe you want to buy your significant other a ring. Or you desperately yearn to return to the state you grew up in. Or maybe it’s a new car that is more desired than anything. Write these down. By taking them seriously you’re more likely to achieve them.
Maybe you’re single. It in itself is a struggle. But you can’t just hold out for a partner before you start saving money. The truth is most couples do not combine their finances. In this modern age individuals fiercely protect their financial independence. In other words, counting on some type of personal merger is not the way to go. You need to set up your own safety net.
Cut Down and Be Stingy
Here’s a tip that we can all relate too. It’s all too easy to fall into the routine of getting a fast food lunch. But when you consider you’re averaging $8 dollars a day on it, the question of whether or not it is a practical habit becomes a no brainer – absolutely not. There are so many low cost options for lunch, from peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to a $2 frozen dinner or even a $.88 can of Chef Boyardee, you CAN save a few bucks every day – and it all adds up.
Who doesn’t love going through their pockets and coming up with a five dollar bill? It’s a nice surprise but it’s also a sign of poor money management. You need to track your cash flow. You want to know how much you have at all times. You can’t save money without gauging how much you typically spend. Even little things like snacks or coffee, you want to keep a record of your spending habits. Then you can look at what expenses can be cut from your routines. Capisce?
Planning For The Long Haul
Set a five year goal for yourself. But be aware that the return on a typical savings account is minimal at best, Even the best money market accounts are returning only one percent on your investment annually. That’s not much to work with. Think a little bigger, you can still be safe but aim for a ten percent return to start.
Do you have a particular friend who does pretty well for themself? Instead of hitting them up for money, ask them for advice. Or better yet, seek the input of a financial professional. They will consider all of your circumstances when devising a personal savings strategy personalized for your needs. If you have a 401 K such advice is completely free. If not, you may get similar aid from the Human Resources department at your place of work. It’s better to have an idea of what your options are than to be clueless to it all.
And that’s just it – know your options, find the ones that are compatible with your lifestyle and start saving for the future. Ideally it will soon become old hat and you won’t even realize that you’re putting money away. But you are – and that’s a good thing.