You guys, the envelope method is going really well. And best of all, I’m enjoying it!
When I set out nine months ago to quit my desk job and pursue work that makes me happier, I wrote a list of things to help me achieve that goal. One of the items on the list was “Save – create an account for job escape.”
CHECK! I did it.
Here are 10 money saving tips I’ve used to help me build up my escape account. These are tips for building up a short-term savings account, an amount of money you plan to use within the year:
Make coffee at home. If you buy it every day of the week, you spend an unnecessary $30+ a month! It adds up.
Freeze your gym membership for a little while. My friend Sarah told me about this a few years ago and I finally did it. I wasn’t using the gym that often in the summer anyway, and I saved $32 a month by freezing my membership for six of the warmer months of the year.
Set aside $50 a month from your paycheck, every single month without question. If you can put away more, great. If you can’t, just commit to a minimum of $50 a month. It’s not that much and if you set up an account that withdraws it automatically, you won’t even notice it’s gone. Again, it adds right up! I cannot emphasize enough how much this helped me. I also found an online savings account (www.tdameritrade.com) that paid me $100 after 12 months of putting something away each month. That was 100 bucks – FOR FREE. I’ll take it! (I’m not sure if that site is still offering that deal anymore – but if they’re not, you might be able to find another online savings account that offers beneficial perks.)
Pay down less on your credit card. Wait! I know what you’re thinking. What? That’s crazy! I gotta pay that thing off! And yes, you do. Paying as much as you can to your credit card debt is a good thing. My suggestion to pay less to it is only for someone working on a temporary savings account, one that you’ll be using to, say, escape from your desk job in the coming months or year. And even then, paying less to your credit cards might not be for everyone. I know my friend Phil, for instance, is a proud Snowflaker and he is on a mission to pay off his debt as quickly as possible. I think that’s fantastic. But for short-term savers, this might be a good option to consider. Only you can know what’s right for your situation. Obviously, it’s always a good idea to consolidate your debt onto as few cards as possible, and find a low or 0% interest rate. And consult your doctor.
Don’t spend a ton of cash on alcohol. Consider the potentially tacky option of bringing your own flask! Why not, right? It could be fun to do a few times, and you’ll be the hit of the party. It’s so easy to spend wads of cash on booze in a night. And if you’re gonna go out and financially splurge on a night of drinking, plan for it so that you can choose to spend less the day before and the day after.
Spend less the day before and the day after a splurge. If you’re going to splurge, plan for it. This same philosophy helped me to lose 115 pounds and maintain my weight loss for the last seven years. If you know you’re going out with friends, or to a fancy restaurant, or to Whole Foods so that you can cook up a big dinner party, trim down your spending on the days around the event. Damage control.
Don’t shop at Whole Foods. I like Whole Foods. And if you like to shop there, great! But also consider local farmers’ markets, Trader Joe’s, the fruit and veggie bodega in your ‘hood, the produce carts on the streets of the city (if you’re a New Yorker), and the other small markets that we pass by every day. Fancy grocery stores are expensive and that might be an expense you can avoid when it’s often easy to buy fresh, local, inexpensive food that tastes just as good. Kath from Kath Eats Real Food is an impressive person to follow in terms of the way she and her husband shop for their meals. They are so frugal with their monthly food budget – they’re an inspiration to thrifty cooks everywhere.
Wait for the DVD. Unless you’re just dying to see the newest flick in the theater, skip the movies for now. Kevin and I went to see a movie last week, just because we wanted to experience a movie-going night, and we ended up spending $30 on two movie tickets and a small thing of Milk Duds – and we hated the movie! It was such a bummer to realize that we could have gone out for margaritas for half that and had a much better time. If you’re saving short-term for something that’s going to be happening within the next few months or a year, you’ll probably be okay without the movie-going experience for a while. Unless you just have to see it and everybody’s raving about it. Then at least buy your soda at the drug store and sneak it into the movie in your purse. $5 for a soda at the movies? Get the eff over yourselves, theater-runners!
Cancel fancy cable channels. The savings add up and you don’t need the premium fancy pants package anyway. You will find something to watch on TV, I promise.
Allow the occasional indulgence. This is another trick that helped me lose and maintain a large weight loss. And it works for being a smarter spender too. I still let myself go out for dinner from time to time, or to buy a magazine I don’t necessarily need to have. If I don’t let myself have little treats, I will probably rebel by spending a bunch of money at once because I’ll get so sick and tired of being frugal. Decide which indulgences matter most to you. If you’re a Whole Foods chef through and through – great! Cut back in other ways, but allow yourself to shop at your favorite grocer. If you love to try new restaurants – great! Pick one to visit every couple weeks and plan for the financial splurge. As with anything – food, exercise, relationships, workload – spending wisely is all about balance.