Italy was the kick in the rear I needed to get smart about money in 2016.
My husband and I have been planning to go to Italy ever since we started dating 10 years ago, but one thing or another kept getting in the way and we still haven’t gone. So this year, I made a promise to myself that we are going, and that means we need to get really serious about saving money.
It’s amazing what a difference a goal makes!
Now we’re saving every cent we can, whereas before, we’d just fall into the usual pattern of a little frivolous spending here, a little there, and then one more year and another would pass and we were still going in circles.
But not this year. Because of Italy, I realized how important it is to have a tangible goal to work towards, and then all of a sudden, saving money becomes a fun challenge.
My plan is that we’ll get so accustomed to saving that when we’re back from Italy, we’ll continue to save because it will be a habit…and then we’ll start saving for yet another goal. I’m loving our challenge, and I’m hoping you’re inspired too. Here’s my advice on how to get started:
- Dream about a really juicy goal – something you’ve been wanting for awhile that you felt was out of reach. Maybe it’s a new car, and you’d rather pay cash than have car payments. Or maybe you want to save so you can go back to school. Maybe it’s something smaller like a new computer or camera or bike. Maybe it’s bigger and you want to quit your job and have the luxury of six months savings to tide you over until you find a new job. Maybe you want to retire earlier than later. Make sure your goal is really, really appealing to you.
- Decide to make saving money a fun challenge rather than a chore. You actually have to make a decision about this because otherwise, you could easily fall into “woe is me” thinking that you can’t go out and buy all of the stuff you used to buy. So make a clear decision that you’re going to be positive about this. If you stay positive, you’ll be far more likely to succeed than if you think it’s a chore or that you’re being denied the things you want.
- Set up a way to save automatically. I cannot express enough how helpful an automatic method of saving can be. I have my direct deposit set up to take a portion of every paycheck and put it directly into our savings account. Even if you can only reserve $50 each paycheck, it really adds up.
- Use the available tools. In today’s tech-driven world, there are loads of useful tools to help manage and save money. Mint helps with budgeting, Key Ring keeps your loyalty cards digital, and PriceGrabber, RedLaser and PriceBlink alert you to the best price for an item.
- Keep track of your expenses. All of us have recurring monthly bills, such as rent/mortgage and Internet, and in our case, student loan payments, a car payment, and our gym membership. I keep track of each of these in an Excel spreadsheet that I monitor for monthly budgeting, and include a budget for groceries and extras like eating out or shopping. Once the ‘extras’ budget has been spent each month, we don’t allow ourselves to do any more extra spending.
- Go on a spending freeze. Sure, it’s no fun to skip your daily latte, and it’s a hassle to make your lunch instead of eating out. But for us, our trip to Italy is going to be far more memorable, and your dream goal will be the same. I’m planning to do some spending freezes throughout the year, nixing any frivolous spending. Some of my friends might join in, so that we can still have fun with a support system to help make it happen (for example, having a girls’ night with store-bought snacks instead of happy hour with pricey cocktails).
- Dump the extras. Although it may be tough, cutting things like cable can make a radical financial change over the course of a year. My husband and I actually did this a couple of years ago, and we’re better for it with a $20 monthly spend on Netflix and Hulu, versus $180 per month on cable. Sure, it delays our ability to see some shows, but the wait pays off with nearly $2,000 in savings each year.
Some of these can be harder to do than others, but it really helps to remind myself of the goal, a trip to Italy, which is better than a new pair of boots.
For more tips to become more financially smart in 2016, sign up for Janet’s class: “Financially Free: A 21-Day Class“!