“You probably make really good money.” False.
“You barely have any bills to pay.” False.
“Do you have a trust fund?” I wish lol.
People often wonder how I am able to travel so much and the above mentioned are some of the guesses I’ve received in the past. When I give the simplistic answer of, “I have a great budget,” I often receive the dismissive wave of a hand or a pair of rolling eyes in response. A budget seems to be this impractical, over-rated idea that involves denying oneself in order to save money. While I admit budgeting is difficult at times, it is also extremely enjoyable. (Seriously, I’m not lying.) Whether you will believe it or not, the key to a successful year of travel begins and ends with an excellent budget.
I took the time last year to create a reasonable, fiscal plan for 2017 and would like to share some of my saving tips with you. Here’s how to save money without suffering:
Broadcast Your Budget:
Of course, I don’t mean grab a megaphone and announce your plans to everyone that starts a conversation with you. However, it is important and helpful to make your close friends and family aware that you are trying out a new budget. Why?
Letting people know you’re on a budget will make them more inclined to plan budget-friendly outings and less expensive recreation. People who love you will respect your budget and try to help you reach your savings goal. Instead of suggesting a night out at an expensive restaurant downtown and a swanky bar your friends may invite you over for drinks and a movie night at their place. Yay for supportive friends.
Another reason it is beneficial to inform others of your budget is that you may very well find that you are not alone. Yes there are other people out there who also create plans to save money! Shocking! But seriously, talking about your budget with friends and family can lead to a knowledgeable conversation and give you more ideas on how to save. Almost everyone in my family has worked in some form of a financial job and speaking with them has provided me with so much insight and encouragement.
Pay Yourself First:
By ‘yourself’ I mean your savings account. (If you don’t have one of those, stop reading and go open one. ASAP)
The minute I get paid the first thing I do is put a portion of my check into my savings account. Then I focus my attention to my bills. Before my brain can think of unnecessary purchases to make (like that Collector’s Edition of Rihanna’s 8 albums on vinyl) it is imperative that I first take out X amount of dollars to save.
Setting aside money in your savings account will make it less tempting and more difficult to touch the money in that account. If you can’t trust yourself to set aside the money manually, then set up your direct deposit with your job so that a portion of your check automatically goes into your savings account.
How small or large of a portion should you set aside for saving? My brother, an experienced saver and successful bank manager, suggests that people should strive to save 20% of each paycheck. Do the math based on your income and get prepared to start saving with your next upcoming check. I’ve been doing it for years now and it truly works!
Buy it vs. Make it:
Living in a world overloaded with advertisements and saturated with materialism has morphed many of us into shopaholics. Myself included. I love to shop. I get a thrill when it’s time to swipe my credit/debit card and I get something new in return. However, part of a successful budget involves less shopping and more creating.
Before you buy an item, ask yourself if you could make it for a cheaper price. You may realize that many of the items you pay for, you could actually make yourself.
Instead of purchasing scarves, blankets, and hats, I developed a love and skill for knitting. It’s way cheaper and more fun to knit my own creations rather than buy someone else’s. Instead of buying the awesome but often overpriced bath bombs from my favorite beauty store, I decided to try a Pinterest project and create my own. The same goes for food. Try to cut down on eating out and focus on cooking at home. Invest in a good cookbook and try new recipes every month. I have saved so much money and realized how much I love to cook. The same can be true for you!
Participate in cash saving challenges! Never heard of them? There are many cash saving ideas on Pinterest and other social media platforms that you can try. The $5 challenge is a money saving idea that I am currently participating in. The rules are simple: Every time you make a cash purchase and receive a $5 bill as change, you must save it. The original Twitter post of the $5 challenge suggested to save the $5 bills in a shoe box but I use a jar instead.
The goal is to do the challenge for an entire year and at the end of the year count up how much money you have saved. I started at the beginning of this month and I am already surprised by how quickly $5 bills are adding up. It’s not too late to join me. Grab a jar or shoe box and let’s save together.
Hey Big Spender:
Don’t make your budget unrealistically strict. It is unreasonable to conclude that you will not spend a large sum of money at some point within this year. Big purchases are sometimes unavoidable. However, just because you have to purchase a new car or a new TV does not mean it has to be the most expensive, grandiose kind there is. Don’t be a big spender. Be a smart spender.
Reward yourself for your smart spending from time to time. But BE CAREFUL. Rewards can quickly revert to bad habits! Set limits for yourself.
Before my budget, I spent a lot of money on books and wine (two of my favorite things). Now instead of frivolously spending in Barnes and Noble or at Cooper’s Hawk every week, I make it a treat to reward myself once a month with a new book or bottle of wine. I also find that enjoying a really nice dinner downtown or buying a nice dress every blue moon makes it more enjoyable than when I did these things more often.
The most important advice is to WRITE OUT YOUR BUDGET & GOALS. If you don’t write your budget down it remains only a mere idea. Make it real. Write it down. Make it visible. I wrote my budget in a journal and I leave it on top of my nightstand so I can see it every morning when I wake up.
Budgeting is infamous for being a form of suffering but my money saving habits and subsequent adventures have brought me nothing but happiness. I enjoy being able to travel anywhere I want. My hope is that some of my tips can aid you in creating your budget this year so that you may do the same.
Save More Money. See More Places.