Although saving money is a form of deprivation, there are steps you can take to make the process more enjoyable. Fun even.
While paying off $25,000 of debt within a 12-month time span, there were times I wanted to spend money so badly I suffered from physical withdrawal symptoms.
I’d lie in bed at night, with my heart pounding, fretting over all the stuff I wanted to buy and couldn’t.
Every month, there was an item I wanted to replace, a semi-unexpected bill I had to pay.
There were winery tours and comedy shows and those sexy open toe heels that covered the corns on my toes.
How would I ever be able to police myself?
Naturally, we don’t want to deny ourselves.
“When I want it, whatever ‘it’ is, give it to me!”
But that attitude is how we find ourselves in financial ruin.
There has to be a concrete reason for telling yourself, “No.”
You want your pain to pay for something.
If you give up now, you want to trade up later.
In the meantime, there are ways to alleviate the pain and still get paid.
It’s never about the money. If you couldn’t exchange it for anything, money would be worthless.
So, how will you use the cash you save?
Are you going to meticulously organize it in the middle of your living room, then splash around in it like a maniac? No.
Will you use your savings to start a home business selling handmade, thigh high toe socks? Yes. (Or maybe not, but this option is more likely than the first.)
Let’s just run with the toe socks scenario.
Replay in your mind the sound of the email notification you hear when you receive an electronic payment from another satisfied customer.
At 6:00 on Monday mornings, you spring out of bed, work like a mad woman, then head to your noon Zumba group exercise class where you put the instructor to shame. By 1:30 in the afternoon, you’re feeling energized and ready to work again.
Think of how wonderful it’d be to sell your wares at the farmer’s market on a crisp Saturday afternoon.
Throughout the day you’re pushing toe socks, collecting cash, and being greeted by the smell of fresh bread, cinnamon, and brown sugar from the homemade doughnut cart across the way.
Get crazy. Nobody’s watching.
Go ahead. Dream.
Find a Friend
How about combining your goal to save more money while nurturing a friendship?
Not only does it give you and your friend something else to talk about besides which Love and Hip Hop diva has the best hair weave, but you have a chance to encourage one another to improve your finances.
If you’re doing great, you celebrate your success together. If you’re doing poorly, you hold each other accountable.
Obviously, you should partner up with someone who’s serious about getting her financial life in order.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Your spendthrift friends are brilliant in other respects, but you don’t need someone else excusing your mediocrity.
Love the Money You Spend
You should cherish your money.
Why? Because you gave your precious time, a resource you only have less of as you age, to earn it.
Don’t succumb to the fleeting high you get from buying some silly doodad on impulse.
The regret you feel later will last longer than the gratification you feel now.
Spending less money and, thereby, saving greater amounts of it becomes more pleasant when you put your money to good use.
For example, I no longer wander around Target looking for home furnishings and accessories.
I’ve grown extremely wary of bringing items into my apartment for two reasons:
1. Clutter turns me into an unproductive psycho. (Think Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest and her peculiar disdain for wire hangers.)
2. From my modern Crate and Barrel platform bed to the books I’ll probably read someday, I really do like my stuff. I should. I lived in an unfurnished apartment for 8 months before buying so much as a sofa.
Who needs a bunch of junk sucking all the awesomeness out of the room?
Practice Addition by Subtraction
Strangely, an episode of The Office introduced me to the concept.
Here’s an exchange between Andy Bernard, salesman, and Michael Scott, regional manager, of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.
Michael: Yes, Dwight Schrute has left this company. More personnel turnover.
Andy: Addition by subtraction.
Michael: What does that even mean? That is impossible.
Andy: Mmmm. Yeah you’re right.
I wish Andy wasn’t so stupid, because he’d realize he was right.
You can add by subtracting.
- Dump a poisonous person from your life.
- Donate a basket full of ill-fitting jeans to the thrift store so that someone else can rock ’em properly.
- Get rid of services you don’t need without reducing your standard of living.
For instance, back when I had a home phone I only received calls from telemarketers, politicians, and the rude fund raising arm of the Florida State Highway Patrol. Cancelling my home telephone service added about $300 to my bottom line annually and subtracted the amount of time it took me to answer the phone and immediately hang up without saying “Hello.”
Be Your Biggest Competitor
But when the finish line is far away, it’s hard to see it.
You need a tool for comparing where you are to where you want to be.
I currently use Mint.com to track my net worth. Back when I was climbing my way out of debt, I used a spreadsheet. Use whatever works for you.
Saving money becomes a game.
How much will you save? How long will you take?
It’s like beating your highest score in Angry Birds. Even if you’re only competing against the previous, less amazing version of yourself, you’re winning.
Ha! Suck it past self. I’m better than you.
After a while, you get so used to saving money, the act of spending money becomes painful.
What techniques do you use to make saving money fun?