Guest post from Melissa Blevins and her journey towards financial independence which first appeared on www.seekingfinancialindependence.com
First off, I want to thank Humbug and Fagin for offering me this guest spot on their blog. I love reading about their exploits in the Great British Trade Off.
Today I want to write about saving money, which is something I’m passionate about and is the first step to financial independence. I’m going to talk about ways of doing it without even thinking about it.
However saving isn’t something that I’ve always been good at.
The Broke Banker
In 2008, I had just gone through a nasty divorce and my 2-year old daughter and I were living in an apartment in Macon, Georgia. My ex-husband and I had moved to Georgia from the Oklahoma panhandle a year previously to try to start fresh. After the marriage ended, I had no family near me to help me through this difficult time, I found myself spending money I didn’t have.
Every other weekend, my daughter would go to her Dad’s house and I would make plans to go out.
Eventually, I landed myself in hot water because I was able to use overdraft protection at my employer. I was overdrawn by nearly $1,000, with pay day loans as well and was up to my eyeballs in debt.
I was officially the worst money manager….my job was to counsel people on how to manage their finances!
Then came the eviction notice. I was officially the worst money manager and here’s the thing……………………..my job was to counsel people on how to manage their finances!
Something had to give, I called my Grandma who ended up helping me with the rent, but only after creating a detailed budget to plan to attack the problem and change my behaviour.
Taking Ownership of my Financial F-Ups
The next day, I faced the music with my employer and let them know about the mess I was in, the bad financial decisions I’d made and my plans to fix them.
Imagine the embarrassment and shame I felt. I don’t ever want to face that again. Since then saving has become part of my everyday plan moving forward.
This is the first time I’ve shared this story, I’m doing it in the hope that if you can relate to it, you’ll be able to get the help you need to start making better financial decisions and one day will achieve Financial Independence for yourself.
How to Save Money Without Having to Think About It
Do you ever feel like you can’t build up your savings balance because you’re constantly having to borrow from yourself for unexpected emergencies (or even splurges)? It happens to the best of us if we don’t have a good plan.
I know it’s not easy, I’ve been there
It all Starts with a Budget
By creating a written plan for your money, YOU become the boss of your income! If budgeting seems overwhelming to you, take it one step at a time.
Grab a piece of paper and do the following in a single column.
1 At the top of the page, write your take-home (or net) pay for the month.
2 Next, list your rent or mortgage, as well as all your utility bills.
3 Then list all your regular monthly debits
4 After that list all your other monthly expenses, groceries, car repair fund, fuel etc etc etc
5 Subtract all of your expenses from your income, hopefully you’ll have a positive number. If you don’t, go back over all the expenses and see which ones you can maybe reduce until you get to the point where you do have a positive number. That’s what’s left for savings and/or extra debt payments.
I know it’s not easy, I’ve been there. It’s also frustrating when your behind on bills and don’t even want to open the mail. But you just have to put on your big girl pants (or underoos) and get it done.
Trust me, once you write it all down on paper you will begin to see the true financial picture so much more clearly.
Hopefully, you’re taking advantage of the tax advantages of saving for retirement and Financial Independence. If not, you’ll want to research the options between 401k’s, 403b’s, ROTH IRA’s and Traditional IRS’s (and don’t forget about Coverdell Savings Accounts for kid’s college) All it takes is a call to your HR department and they can set up your payroll deduction to help you maximise the savings and tax benefits. Some of these accounts can lower your tax liability, so consult a tax advisor or CPA prior to setting this up.
(I’m writing this for US readers, in the UK the tax advantaged accounts are SIPP’s, ISA’s and Company Pension Schemes)
Did you know that if you take a 2-liter bottle and fill it with dimes, you’ll have approximately $700 when its full? How easy would it be to stop spending dimes altogether and start putting them away at the end of each day!
You are in complete control
To take it a step further, you could save all coins or small bills (notes). You are in complete control and if your coins are at home being saved and not in your pocket you’re less likely to make a frivolous purchase.
Those of us who make a set salary every single month know how much their paycheck will be. They plan for a certain amount. After you’ve created a budget, and you know how much is left for savings, I encourage you to set automatic transfers to an online savings account. When the money is out of sight, its out of mind as its automatically transferred for you.
You don’t have the chance to ‘chicken out’ and blow the money on something else.
Set it and forget it, before you know it, you’ll have built a nice nest egg
Set it and forget it, before you know it, you’ll have built a nice nest egg.
If you’re like I used to be, and you kind-of totally suck at money management, its not too late to get it together! Start small by saving small coins and work your way up to payroll deduction and automatic transfers.
The key is to change your behaviours and make savings effortless so that you can grow an emergency fund and nest egg that will provide security for the future and ultimately Financial Independence.
As I said at the beginning of this piece, I’m really passionate about saving and helping people take control of their money. Do check my website out if you’d like to, I’ve a wealth of experience to pass on. I’m at melissablevins.com