Robin Tanner's Blog
If it always seems like your money disappears as fast as you earn it, you're not alone. All too many people live from paycheck to paycheck -- even when their income is well above average.
Why is this condition so widespread? Well, the reasons are as varied as people's spending habits, lifestyles, and financial obligations, but there is one factor that is often overlooked: self-defeating attitudes toward money. Here are a few examples you may be able to relate to:
- "I don't have the time or patience to compare prices." The truth of the matter is that it doesn't really take that much time to do a few quick price comparisons when you're in the supermarket, department store, or on the Web. During the course of a typical week, you probably make dozens of spending decisions, many of them almost unconsciously. By simply increasing your awareness of how much you're spending and what the alternatives are (if any), you can often save hundreds of dollars a month.
- "People who use coupons are penny pinchers." Although the term "penny pincher" is frequently used to describe someone who's stingy or overly careful with their spending habits, some people consider it a badge of pride to be frugal and careful with their money. It's all a matter of perspective. There are numerous blogs, small businesses, and newspapers that have no reluctance about including the words "penny pincher" in their name While few people want to be thought of as cheap or stingy, frugality has different connotations. It's associated with being economical and thrifty.
- "I don't want people to think I'm cheap." This can be a tough self-defeating thought to overcome because it's often so deep rooted. However, if you're a compulsively high tipper or often feel obligated to pick up the check at restaurants (rather than splitting it with your fellow diners), this could be a contributing cause of your budgetary problems. Generosity is a wonderful thing, as long as it's not based on a desire to be liked, accepted, or approved of by other people. As a side note, concerns about being perceived as "cheap" is one reason some people don't take a closer look at their retail receipts, restaurant bills, and other invoices. Remember this: There's nothing cheap about being unwilling to pay extra for cashier or restaurant staff mistakes -- which are more common that you might think -- and unauthorized or redundant fees on bills.
For many of us, it can seem like our paychecks are gone before we even get a chance to see them. With seemingly endless bills and expenses, both recurring and unforeseen, saving up for a house is a daunting task.
Fortunately, there are ways you can prepare yourself for those intimidating down payments and many closing costs.
In this article, we’re going to walk you through how you can start saving for a home right this moment. After all, every day is another day you could be contributing to your savings and taking another step closer to owning your own home.
Use a Budgeting Tool
The first step to saving and determining how much you can save is to start budgeting. Many people hear the term “budget” and get nervous thinking they’ll have to start counting the number of coffees they buy. However, there are less anxiety-inducing ways to budget.
From your phone, tablet, or computer you have access to a large number of free budgeting tools. Mint, You Need a Budget (YNAB), and PocketGuard are three of the top budgeting tools that will get you started.
With apps that integrate with your bank accounts and loan balances, there is little work required on your part. Just set an amount to save each week or month, and direct the funds into your savings account.
Set up a dedicated savings account
Speaking of savings accounts--now is a great time to set up a new one. It’s almost always free to open a new account with your bank. What’s more, it’s a lot less tempting to pull from a savings account when it’s labeled something like “HOUSE SAVINGS - DO NOT TOUCH.”
Once you have your budgeting app and bank account set up, it’s time to dig into some of the ways you can save money without skipping meals.
Cutting Monthly Expenses
Rather than telling yourself you can’t buy any more fancy Starbucks drinks anymore until you have a house (don’t torture yourself), make a list of all your monthly expenses. That can include anything from Netflix and Spotify to haircuts and car washes.
A great way to make this list is to go through your credit and debit card transactions. If you have autopay set up, you might not even realize how many services are withdrawing directly from your accounts each month.
For each item on your list, determine if you can either eliminate the expense or spend less on it. Maybe you go for the deluxe car war rather than the basic. Or, you might pay for services you don’t use as much as you used to.
If you’re worried about having no entertainment if you drop Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, you could try out your local library system. Most of the time you can have books, movies, and music shipped for free from all around your state.
When it comes to cable, cell phone plans, car insurance, and other monthly bills give your provider a call and tell them you’re thinking about switching over to a cheaper competitor. They’ll likely offer you a discounted rate. If they don’t, follow through on your promise and call other providers to see if you can get better rates.