Yeah, yeah. We know we should be saving money. We know we need emergency funds and retirement savings and grocery stockpiles and all that stuff.
But that doesn’t stop us from feeling overwhelmed with the getting started. Where do you even begin saving money when you’ve never been much of a saver? Or maybe you consider yourself a saver, but you’ve gotten out of the habit or had something unexpected wipe out your savings and want to start again. What do you do then?
What to Do When You Don’t Know Where to Begin Saving Money
Start at the beginning.
If you’ve ever take an aerobics class, you know that they always start with a warm-up and then the class gradually builds in intensity until you’ve reached your optimal heart rate. You need to take a similar approach with saving money. Warm up to saving by getting back to the very basics of spending less than you earn, and tracking expenses. Once you’ve gotten back to the basics, you can build on those skills and try more advanced money-saving strategies.
When you finally make the decision to save money, you want to get to it right away. But remember that personal finance doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Start small. Find little ways you can do things to save money in the things you do every day. Whenever I start to feel like I haven’t been good at saving money, I like to pull out my copies of The Complete Tightwad Gazette, America’s Cheapest Family, or 10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget. Just paging through the thousands of ideas in those books always inspires me to find ways I can save in my home.
Making menu plans, clipping coupons, and establishing routines to save on your utility bills are small things you can do that add up to big savings over time. Those little things you do to save money help you get in the habit of saving, and help give you the confidence to tackle projects that can save even more money.
Ask yourself two basic questions before every purchase.
One of the simplest ways to begin saving money is to take a few seconds before you buy anything and ask yourself two basic questions: “Is this a need or a want?” and “Can I Afford this?” Answering those two questions can help you avoid many impulse buys that keep you from saving your money. And here’s a tip: If you don’t know the answer to “Can I afford this?” then that’s a sure sign you can’t.
Celebrate successes and learn from failures.
Saving money is hard work! It’s not something that always comes easily or naturally. So celebrate the savings strategies that have worked with you. And there will be times (like when I tried to cut a roll of paper towels in half to save money), where you’re efforts miss the mark. Just learn from those mistakes and move on.
Do what you can do.
Don’t worry about what other folks are doing to save money. Don’t look at Pinterest and feel grossly in adequate because you haven’t figured out how to make your home look like it was decorated by Pottery Barn on an income of $20,000 a year. You must focus on what you can do and what works for you. It is up to you to determine what your time is worth. Some people love to bake their own bread as a way to save money, but not everyone has the time (or inclination) to do something like that. That is totally okay. You worry about you and you do what you can do. By staying true to your capabilities and your values, you will find money to save.
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