As I talked about before in my post about our financial journey, I did not start out as a money-saver. It’s a mindset that I have grown over the years. At the beginning, I was quite the opposite. I loved eating out, shopping, and spending frivolously! It’s a struggle I still have to reign in sometimes.
So when I say that saving money is not always easy, I get it. I know how hard it is to pass up something that you WANT NOW in exchange for a more secure future for your family later. The right now is a tangible thing, while the later is more arbitrary.
I was thinking about the process that I went through, and I’ve come up with this list of 5 steps you need to go through to become a money saver extraordinaire!
STEP 1: Write down your goals.
Countless business and life experts talk about how important it is to have written goals. Your financial plan is no different. If you don’t know why you’re saving, it will be even harder to stick with it.
Saving for a beach retirement? New house? Want to pay cash for a car? Or college for your children? All of the above? Print out some pictures and make a dream board. Hang it somewhere you will see it often, to remind of your WHY when you want a big TV or a new car or your friend shares about their latest vacation.
STEP 2: Get your spouse on the same page.
This step is integral. It’s nearly impossible to get anywhere if one spouse is saving like crazy and the other is spending it all. Sit down and have a discussion together about your future. Explain why you don’t want to be in debt any more. I really recommend going through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University together, if you can. It is a great way for BOTH spouses to learn and grow together toward financial freedom.
STEP 3: Make a written plan.
Yes, I’m talking about the B word… budget. It doesn’t have to be super restrictive at first. The most important part is to track your spending, know where your money is going, and to make a plan to implement changes to make it better (that’s step 4). I think it works well for both you and your spouse to write separate budgets, then get together and discuss it, meeting in the middle when necessary. For example: you want to spend $200 a month on eating out, they want to spend $50, then you agree on $125. If the spending categories in your budget are really high in the beginning, that’s okay! Just having a plan is the important part at first.
STEP 4: Implement little changes.
Some people read the internet, and blogs like mine, and get completely overwhelmed with all the things they think they have to do to save money. You all need to realize that I didn’t wake up one day and decide to do 1,000 things differently! I made (and am still making) one small change at a time. After a while, it will add up, and you will see that you are making a big dent in your budget.
Start with 2 new things a month — or maybe even 1 a week, if you are really motivated. Browse the internet for ideas, or look through my “Saving Money” section. It might be that you start making your own laundry detergent. Then next week you switch your cell phone plan. Then you cut back on fuel consumption for your vehicles. Then you make pancake mix from scratch. Every little change adds up. If you do one new thing a week, a year from now that’s 52 changes! Ten years from now, it’s 520!
STEP 5: Keep re-evaluating.
It’s great to make a budget and a plan and goals, but those things will get you nowhere if you don’t keep up with it. Schedule a time each week to log into your bank and update your spending so far. Go to a cash-only envelope system. Have a monthly budget meeting with your spouse, to talk about where your money went this month, where you went over a little and why. Talk about ways to make it better. Readjust the budget if needed. A budget is a fluid thing, always changing! Life changes as we move homes, have children, kids grow, and get involved in different activities. Your budget needs to change with you.
Keep dreaming about the future with your spouse. Talk about how you want to retire and things you want to do together. That will give you an optimistic perspective on your financial picture, instead of the hopeless feeling that many people have every time they talk about money. And lastly, give thanks to God for what you have. Contentment comes from within, and thanking Him for your blessings is one way to have contentment in your current situation, without always trying to keep up with the Joneses.
I hope this all helps you get your footing for a secure financial foundation!