The writer of this article says that she had never logged onto her online banking portal without nerves. She admits that she even sometimes refuses to check her balances, in order to keep herself in a state of denial. But, when she recently went in in order to see how much damage she has done so far this month, she was met with an entirely foreign feeling: relief. Usually, by this point into the month, she would have already breezed through her checking account. She had to choose between surviving off of Cup Noodles, which she says is delicious, until payday or racking up her credit card debt. But, after a few weeks of actively trying to save money, she has already begun to see some major results.
She says that this was not her first time that she was trying to maintain a budget, either. She was trying with using a lot of money-saving apps and living on cash allowances only. But, her lack of financial discipline always failed her. So, what has changed this time? She gave herself a reality check by detailing every single credit and debit card charge from the past few months onto a spreadsheet. The results were horrifying. She says that she always knew she was a terrible spender. She had no idea how much was going where. Seeing her expenses laid out in front of her seriously made her reconsider her financial habits. After realizing the source of all her debts, she decided to actually follow through with recommending the following rules:
1. You should start by paying the minimum amount on your credit cards.
She knows that you are probably thinking “What the f*ck?” But, when she noticed that one of the largest portions of her money was going toward her balances, a light in her head turned on. Even though she was putting down some hefty payments, she was basically charging just as much throughout the month and keeping herself in an endless cycle of debt. Instead of setting herself up for a failure, she put down the minimum on her cards instead of making more cash available. With her better spending habits, the pool of money still has yet to be drained. At the end of the month, whatever actual funds she has left on her debit card will be going straight to credit card payments. This also means that it will take a bit longer to pay them off in full. But, she has realized that this was a smarter method than giving up everything she has up front with no room left for any other expenses. Chipping away at her balances was also way better than staying at a standstill.
2. Grocery shop for the upcoming week.
She honestly says that she always thought that this whole “grocery-shopping-will-save-you-money” thing was just a myth. She is happy to report that it is actually not. By starting to plan her meals out for the week ahead on Sundays, she got exactly what she needed from the store instead of blindly adding items to her shopping cart which was not really adding to her full meal. In order to make the things easy, she bought prepackaged salads for lunch and make meals with big enough portions for leftovers. Not surprisingly, food is her biggest expense which is based on her spreadsheet results. As a person who ate out every day for lunch and dinner, she claims that grocery shopping will save us a lot of money.
3. Be selective about social obligations.
Being social is actually an expensive thing. Happy hours, dinners with friends, as well as weekend plans are fun and all that, but you should think about if you can really afford it. It is okay to say “no” to invitations once in a while – as you will probably need a break. Or, as an alternative, you can suggest cheaper things to do. For example, the writer explains how she meets a former coworker and close friend once in a month for dinner, shopping or movie. She obviously wants to spend more time with her, but she offered her to make her dinner at home, and Netflix instead. This all cost her 12 dollars, instead of $80-ish that usually set her back on their date nights.
4. Be smart about where are you going.
If you travel a lot, you should be strategic about your travels. Fortunately, San Francisco is a very walkable city, so she can get to and from a lot of places for free when she is not lazy. But, in addition to cutting down your ride shares, you should also start thinking about accessible locations. So, instead of working out at studios across the city, you can book your ClassPass slots around your neighborhood. Another great alternative is suggesting restaurants and places to hang out near transit lines.
5. Resist the urge to shop
When it comes to treating herself, she says that she has zero self – control. She is also all about instant gratification, which is actually not helpful in the slightest. But, when she stopped herself from getting cookies delivered to her apartment, and buying that top she knew that she did not need, she was preventing more damage from being done. What can also really add up is buying coffee every day, so she limits her caffeine splurges to Fridays. So, if you don’t need something, don’t get it. This is much easier said than done, but shifting our mindset into money-saving mode can make all the difference.