About three years ago I decided to start saving money. It tripped me out that I was 28 years old and really had no savings and really didn't own anything of appreciable value. I started simple, I just put $100 in a savings account per pay check and then applied whatever I could to my credit cards. Maybe $500 a month. Within a year I had enough money for a trip to Europe and $0 in Credit card debit.
I then upped my savings account to $250 per pay check, started give $100 to my parents and increased my contribution to my 401k. The next year I took a trip to Costa Rica and Peru.
This year I made a wager with a friend of mine. Her roommate was moving to Germany and wanted to save $10k. On a $30k salary. And did it in one year. We decided to challenge each other to pull it off. It would require about $850 a month (a third of my take home salary). I scaled back my 401k savings, and started off well with $1000 in tax return money. At first it was a pain in the ass, I dipped back into the savings once when I overextended myself. But after a while a flow sort of developed, one paycheck was savings and spending money for two weeks and then the other was rent/bills and spending money for the next two weeks.
Another strange thing happened. After a certain point the money in savings sort of became fictional. As if it wasn’t money I could withdraw from a back and count and roll around in, but rather just a bunch of points. It makes it less fun to have the money but probably much safer.
I managed all of this without a significant increase in salary those three years (2% over inflation)Things that helped me greatly.
- The advice of Andrea for paying off credit cards. Cut up all but one card. Take that card and wrap it up in paper and tap it closed, you can use it if you need to but that layer of paper is a mental barrier. Pay the minimum on each card. On the card with the highest interest rate, pay as much as you possibly can on that card till it is paid off. Then take whatever amount you were paying on that card, and apply it to the next card and so on till you pay them all off. Keep them paid off and keep the one card in paper.
- Reading the Money forum on Craigslist. Some good advice from there;
- When you get a windfall of money take 10% of it and spend it on whatever you want. Take the other 90% and save it or apply it to credit cards.
- Look at how you spend money and how you can save it. Start with what you really need and see what you can pare down. I’m a cheapskate so there wasn’t much but I did save about $15 a month (or $180 a year on my phone bill).
- Take a side job or a hobby that pays. It doesn’t have to be lame, you could be a valet or just do oil changes at a shop on Sundays. $100 a month is over a grad a year.
- Reading the Richest man in Babylon. It is a book written in the 20's which dispenses financial advice through a collection of parables set in ancient Babylon. Reading a book of parables to achieve financial independence is pretty low on my list of ‘hip’, but it really did work for me and has for many others. I checked out a copy for the local library and it had been donated by some financial group.
- The $10k challenge with Alyssa. This I suspect will ultimately have the largest long term effect on my finances. All of the other activities got my head above water and got me focused on having a stable financial life. But this challenge helped me focus on setting larger, longer term goals. I just recently got a promotion so my goal for 2008 is to save about 75% of my raise in addition to the $10k. That and take another international trip.
Labels: Money, Saving