If we went out and asked people how often they use the logic: I’ll start saving when I make more money, we would probably see how common this thinking trap is. We rely on this line of thinking not only when it comes to money, but in many areas of our lives. We assume we need to wait for the perfect conditions before we can start doing the things that can actually bring about the shifts and transformations we want to see in our lives. And it's this flawed thinking that ultimately stops us from making progress.
Perhaps more than amassing a certain amount of money, the importance of saving is in the thinking and habit changes that it implies. Aligning our spending and saving with our deepest values and what we most cherish in life creates a healthier more fulfilling life, which is ultimately what we’re aiming for.
Here are 8 ways to go from good intentions to healthy money habits, without neglecting the first:
1. Define your intention in a powerful way.
What’s your intention for saving money? Is it to feel abundant, fulfilled, generous? If you’re saving for a specific project or goal try to understand the emotional benefit that goal will bring about, ultimately, that is what drives us forward. If we can identify precisely what we’re trying to achieve, we simplify the decision-making process and we can course correct whenever necessary. As much as it seems insignificant, having that clarity will make it easier to say no to many things so that you can say yes to what matters most.
2. Know exactly how much you make, how much you spend and how much you want to save.
Once again, before moving on to the more practical steps, you have to know exactly how much money is coming in, where it’s going and how much you’d like to save. Write it down in paper, or on your laptop, or in one of the many apps that are out there, choose what works best for you, as long as those numbers are within reach and in sight. Even though it can be overwhelming and scary to face reality, the faster you get on to this, the faster you’ll be able to take the actual steps to create a better future.
3. Define your priorities.
Now that you know how much money you spend and where you spend it, reflect in an honest and deep way, if your current spending habits are aligned with what you most value in life. For example, if what you most value is learning and, yet, the biggest chunk of your income is spent in clothing and accessories it might be time to reassess habits and draw strategies to keep you on track.
The idea is not that you feel guilty about it, we all have our own contradictions and incongruencies, it’s essential that you look at it sincerely and with a growth mindset.
First of all, take a look at your bank statements, and according to your current spending identify your priorities. So in the previous example, your actual spending revealed clothing as your number one priority, write that down. If you’re spending a good amount of money in the gym membership, on organic food, and meditation classes, it might be that you prioritize your well-being so write that down. Do this for most of your spending, identifying what it is that you're valuing and bringing things together in categories, whenever possible.
Next, look at the list of priorities that you came up with and ask yourself if they accurately translate how you want to live or if there are any changes you need to make. Make a new list of your 3 to 4 priorities at this moment, taking into consideration your intentions and values. Compare it to the first list. Then establish a plan so that your spending can reflect clearly your second priority list.
4. Plan your meals and grocery shopping.
So much of our most trivial spending is a consequence of our lack of planning and organization skills, especially when it comes to food and eating out.
With the exact amount of how much you spend in groceries and eating out, define a budget for eating out, for example up to €100 per month in restaurants, and or eating out no more than once a week.
To stay on track with your goal each week, make a list of the meals you’ll cook and try to optimize the ingredients so that you can use them for more than one meal. The idea is that you go grocery shopping once a week, and avoid running to the deli and buying things out of impulse. You’ll not only save money, you'll save yourself time and mental space.
If it sounds too rigid make a plan for 5 days of the week, that way you have another two to go with the flow. Remember this, what matters most is what we do most of the time.
5. Buy brandless goods and generics.
Whether it’s cleaning products, beauty items or even food, the difference between a brand product and a generic is often solely in the marketing. Therefore, except for a few items where the quality of a certain brand is really important to you, opt for brandless and generic ones and save yourself some money.
6. Sell what you don’t use keep only what you love.
Declutter your life, which is almost like saying, Marie Kondo your life and get rid of everything that you haven’t used for a year, keeping only what brings you joy and adds life to your life.
Start by imagining your ideal lifestyle, for example, having the freedom to manage your time according to your own priorities, and reflect for a while on what is it that you need to live that lifestyle.
Then, thank the objects for their place and purpose in your life and sell everything that keeps you away from living your best life.
You can sell just about anything from books to clothes, to kitchenware, and so forth. There’s no excuse not to sell something nowadays, selling online makes the process easy and quick. Plus, if you frame it to yourself as a lifestyle upgrade it can be both incredibly rewarding and fun. Think about it, getting rid of what weighs us down leaves more room for what lifts us up.
7. Plan an essential week.
Pick one week per month (first or last, for example) and challenge yourself during those days not to buy anything that isn’t strictly necessary. During that week, take that chance and notice everything that you already have, make a gratitude list and write down the 3 things you’re most grateful for every day. At the end of the week, write what you learned about yourself, what surprised you, what was most challenging and least challenging, what you want to let go of and want you want more of. I can't say this enough, clarity is power.
8. Do it yourself.
Be it beauty treatments, gardening services, or having something fixed around the house, try to do it yourself instead of paying for it, if that’s not an option consider asking a friend for help, make some food and use that time to thank and catch up with your friend. You’ll not only save money but invest in strengthening some relationships.