Spending money is generally more fun than saving money. I get it! But while saving money may not be fun, it doesn’t have to be hard. These five small steps can help you save a ton of money without feeling like you’re punishing yourself.
1. Keep track of not just what you spend, but when you spend. True story: I was scrolling through my order history for a site that I may as well have my money direct-deposited to, and I noticed that I placed most of my orders around 11 a.m. on weekdays. What happens at 11 a.m. on weekdays? Nothing. I get bored. It’s between morning and afternoon shifts at work, and I’ve generally completed all my morning assignments and am waiting around for our noon meeting to get my afternoon list, and I have nothing to do. So I buy dresses. A lot of dresses.
That said, if you can keep track of when you spend, you can also curb your spending somewhat. Now when I have nothing to do around 11 a.m., I watch videos of dogs reuniting with their owners. I also admit that I still peruse dresses. But I wait a day to see if I actually still want them. (Unless they’re on sale and have limited stock. I’m not a f*cking robot, okay?)
2. Keep track of how you feel when you spend. I spend money when I’m bored. If I’m not looking at dresses and various polka dot items, I’m bumming around the drugstore looking at nail polishes that I swear I’ll actually use someday. (One look at my cuticles and you’ll know that is a boldfaced lie.) Some people spend money when they’re sad. Some when they’re guilty about something and feel like they have to make it up to someone. Some when they’re stressed. If you can track your timing of your spending and correlate it to an emotion you felt at the time, whether it’s anger, depression, excitement—you’ll be able to find alternative coping mechanisms that won’t burn a hole in your wallet and take up all the room in your closet because you’re too f*cking lazy to tailor anything so you have half a wardrobe that doesn’t fit you. Okay, maybe that last part is me, but you see my point, right?
3. Set a savings goal and give it a name. You know how with online banking you can give names to your accounts? Instead of the generic “Jess savings,” I call mine “Sager’s Puppy Farm,” because someday I want to own a nice plot of land, be able to afford other people to maintain it, and I want a lot of dogs, because dogs are the best. Saving for vacation? Rename your account “Sarah’s Bahamas Fund.” Putting money aside for your wedding? “Amanda’s Wedding WILL Have A Mashed Potato Bar At The Cocktail Hour Fund.” When the name of your goal is visible, it seems more real, which makes it more likely that you’ll work towards and be excited about it.
4. Budget for “cheat days.” My boyfriend is dieting, and he’s very disciplined and strict six days a week. But on cheat day, he eats roughly enough to feed the entire population of Belize, plus some of their livestock. He budgets for that by basically subsisting on protein bars and Muscle Milk during the week. I’m not saying it’s physically healthy, but the point is that he budgets. He can afford the extra calories on Saturday night because he didn’t blow them on stale vending machine chips on Tuesday afternoon. Whether it’s a splurge of one girls’ night out a month or a bi-weekly pedicure, budgeting for small indulgences will let you meet your Mashed Potato Bar goals without feeling like you’re depriving yourself.
5. Calculate how much an impulse purchase really costs. I get it, I was in remedial math, and this isn’t fun, but it is eye-opening: Say you make a pre-tax salary of $50,000, and you really want a $100 dress because it has pies printed on it, and you really love dresses and really love pie. If you work 40 hours a week at 50 weeks a year, you’re making approximately $25 an hour before taxes, right? So that $100 dress would take more than four hours of work to earn, and depending on your deductions and withholding options, it could amount to almost 20 percent of your weekly take-home pay. When you think about spending in terms of time and hours worked instead of money in the bank, it may make you quit blowing cash on things that don’t really bring you joy. Which isn’t to say my pie print dress doesn’t bring me joy, because it does—but so does four hours spent napping and playing with puppies, which is free…and doesn’t need to be tailored.