How Much Time Do You Have?
On average, new budgeters save $600 by month two and more than $6,000 the first year! Pretty solid return on investment.
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Today, let’s look more closely at Rule 4, Age Your Money. It means exactly what it says: when you get paid, put that cash in the bank, and wait at least 30 days before you spend it. But why?
The short answer is that it’s the ultimate pressure-release valve for the part of your brain that thinks about your finances. I mean, who wouldn’t love to pay bills—as soon as they arrive—without even batting an eyelash because, of course, you’ve got the money. It’s been in your account for a month (or longer)! Nobody, that’s who.
But how can an ordinary person, with an ordinary salary, get so far ahead of their expenses that new paychecks simply lay, unused, on top of the pile? The answer is bit by bit. Get creative, find ways to spend less and watch your money grow (old). Here are some ideas to get you started:
Unfortunately, you can’t simply take your dollars to the beach, sans sunscreen, and let the sun work it’s age-accelerating magic. You’re stuck waiting on the sands of time to get the job done. Luckily, there are unlimited ways to ramp up your savings as you wait for those gainful granules to fall. And here are ten strategies that I’ve used, myself:
One time, I thought “To heck with stock photos! I want to take photos for my personal website, myself.”
That thought lead to a pricey mistake, the purchase of a fancy-pants DSLR camera (read: dust collecting closet-space-taker). After a couple of years, I finally admitted that I’m cool with phone-quality photos. We aren’t all Ansel Adams, you know? Then, I sold it on eBay for the equivalent of half of my monthly rent.
Not bad. High-ticket items are a great boost, but don’t discount your smaller items, too. Or, do discount them—at a garage sale or on Craigslist. Every little bit, right?
This one’s obvious, but it gets really good if you can be merciless. I’ve dramatically minimized my monthly bills, by:
For predetermined periods of time, I’ll ban myself from ordering anything from Amazon. When online shopping is off limits, my impulse purchases plummet! Instead, use the “add to wish list” button. You can always buy things later—after you’ve comfortably aged your money!
The degree of difficulty for this one depends on your lifestyle, but it packs a punch! Do some research for budget-friendly recipes, and you’ll really feel the difference. Bonus: cooking at home can help you minimize your spending and your waistline.
The light version of this hack? Just cut back. I did this at my old job, where I frequently ate lunch out with coworkers. When I started budgeting with YNAB, I limited my weekly lunch budget to half of what I’d been spending. I still ate out every day, but I made more budget-friendly choices. You know what, it really wasn’t that hard!
I know some folks are very loyal to their favorite brands, but think about it. Would you rather pay more to bathe, or save that money and enjoy financial peace a decade early? If you peek into my bathroom cabinet, for example, you’ll note that my routine is simple. I don’t do a seven-step skincare ritual at bedtime—I wash my face in the shower, that’s it, and my skin looks great!
The products I buy are all basic, drugstore brands. In fact, I’ve become such a cheapskate in this department that I top off my foaming soap dispensers with 90 percent water and a few squirts of the cheapest dish soap at the store. No, my hands aren’t dry, but they’ve got more dollars to play with.
And, speaking of saving around the house, if you rent, don’t decorate. Period. This is coming from someone who regularly gets compliments on my warm, inviting space. I don’t splurge on curtains (I do have shades), just the basics to keep things organized, functional and tidy.
For clothing, there’s thrifting. (Admittedly, this one isn’t my strong, uh, suit.)
I only use a car service if it’s my only option, which is rare. Unless you travel frequently for work, this is another easy way to cut back. You’ll also save money when you’re out socializing, because you know that you’ll be driving yourself, safely, home.
Turn down the heat, turn up the AC, drive less or get off of your phone! Look at your bills that fluctuate with use, and see what you can do to minimize your usage. My monthly goal for gasoline is $30, and I usually fall below. Of course, that won’t be possible for everyone, but what other bill could you affect with a behavior change?
People that love you will understand if you can’t participate in this year’s gift exchange. They want to see your face, and enjoy your company—that’s what really matters! So opt-out, or try something more economical. One YNABer wrote in to tell me about how her family switched to a “Sneaky Santa” gift exchange …
She said, “Each adult brings one wrapped gift (with a price limit set by the host) … After lunch, each person takes a number out of the hat and, in turn, either opens a new gift from under the tree or ‘steals’ a previously opened gift from someone else! This continues until the last gift is opened. There’s lots of laughter and banter as people steal each other’s coveted gifts.”
Another idea that I came across, last year, was totally free: trading ‘grateful fors’. That family’s gathering sounded so fun, I might try it myself! Here’s how it works: Everyone writes down the top three things that they were grateful for that year. Then they go around the room sharing their memories. For a modest price increase, you could add hot cocoa, too. Sounds merry and bright to me.
Finally, you can gift experiences! A day hiking with Dad. An afternoon watching the entirety of a favorite movie series with your sister. If you thoughtfully customize this one for the recipient, it might just be their favorite gift from you, yet.
When you get money from tax returns, bonus checks, gifts from grandparents and, yes, even that ‘extra’ check in longer months? Treat them like fine cheese, and age them! These infrequent surges are much easier to bank, because they’re not part of your regular monthly income.
If you can find a way to add more income to your life, you’ll age your money at warp speed! Get a seasonal or part-time job—be strategic and pick an industry that you’d enjoy when you’re not at your full-time job.
Or offer your professional talents as a freelancer (just make sure you’re not violating anything in your employee contract). For motivation, check out the Side Hustle School podcast and get inspired.
As with most things in life, the speed at which you age your cash will vary. And remember, none of these suggestions has to be your new normal! Streamline your lifestyle for a tolerable amount of time, save up some dollars, and then adjust. You might find that you really don’t mind spending less in some areas, and keep some of your new habits, too!
For more help aging your money, drop into Reach Your Savings Goals, one of our free, online classes. And bring your questions!
Remember, budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. You can do this! Today. Right now. What do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress. (Ok, so kind of a lot.)
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