How many times have you reached payday and thought to yourself, “I can’t wait to tuck some of this money into savings!”
Yeah, me, either. Well, not until I started budgeting in YNAB, anyway. Still, no matter how much we love budgeting, many of us are still more smitten with spending than we’d like to admit. (Which is no surprise, when you consider the estimated 10,000 branded messages we see each day—we’re primed to buy-buy-buy!)
But there’s something much more satisfying than spending, frivolously, if you’re willing to stop and recalibrate …
Spend Less, Have More
Consider, for a moment, how you truly feel—deep down—once you’ve got the new gadget, paid for yet another restaurant tab or ordered the fancy new lamp. At first, you feel great. Euphoric, even. But, if you’re spending mindlessly, that elation is followed by a guilt hangover.
When the feeling of “I really shouldn’t have” washes over you, a lot of us ignore it, but that voice in your head is like a financial canary in the coal mine! It’s begging you, on behalf of your finances, to leave your card in your wallet (or to at least consider the purchase more carefully).
That voice knows something that you may or may not be admitting to your conscious self: every dollar that you spend is one less dollar that have, which means fewer choices. In other words, you’re trading freedom for, well, stuff—stuff that you probably won’t even remember in a month.
The Ultimate Spending Detox
Instead of frittering away your paychecks, wouldn’t it feel better to have a healthy little nest egg saved up, in case your car breaks down or you need to fly cross-country to visit a sick relative? And wouldn’t it be amazing to plunk down a deposit on a beautiful home in your favorite neighborhood? Or, rest easy, knowing that you can retire without sacrificing your quality of life?
If saving that kind of cash is (understandably) overwhelming, then here are three tips to help you change your habits and learn to love spending less:
1. Choose Happiness (Now)
As Sheryl Crow famously crooned, “It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.”
Super cheesy, I know—but also, super effective! When you learn to feel satisfied with what you have now, you unlock your saving superpowers. Shiny objects and flashy Facebook ads lose their allure because you’re good. Satisfied. You don’t need a product to fulfill you because your cup runneth over with joy!
… and that means that you can sock away the cash that you would’ve spent trying to be happy.
I’m not saying you’ll never get the urge to splurge, but when you’re focused on feeling grateful for the things you already have (health, family, friends, a roof over your head, a stocked fridge, a loving pet, and so on), you shift your attention away from perceived vacancies in your stuff inventory and ‘lack’ dissipates from your state of mind.
And this strategy serves up a double-whammy: when you actively focus on the gratitude you feel for your life, as-is, you’re more inclined to make choices that protect it. You won’t feel deprived by eating out less often if you’re enjoying the peace of mind that comes with knowing you can afford emergency vet bills for your fur-fam.
2. Visualize Your Success
If you think saving is all about stashing away as much cash as possible, then let’s break that down. See, it’s far too easy to dip into your “extra” money when you’ve paid all of your bills and you know that the dollars are just sitting there.
The fix? Give Every Dollar a Job! Just like it’s better to spend mindfully, it’s better to save mindfully.
In other words, decide exactly what you’re saving for. When you make categories in your budget, like ‘Emergency Veterinary Fund’ or ‘Retire by 2028’ you’re a lot less inclined to ignore them. And because your saving categories represent the things that will satisfy your deepest life desires, you’re less likely to dip into them—you wouldn’t raid your dream home fund for drive-thru nachos, am I right?
3. Be Kind to Yourself
If you have aggressive savings goals, good for you. There are tons of ways to ramp up your efforts, quickly. But keep in mind that success is the culmination of your habits over the entire course of your life. If you scrimp so much that you can’t imagine living that way for long, you won’t!
To ensure the longevity of your enhanced choosiness, pace yourself. A wonderful way to build in little splurges that won’t wreck your big financial goals is a Wish Farm (in other words, thoughtful spending on things that bring you joy—things you don’t have to delay, at least not for too long!).
Eyes on the Prize
It’s a lot easier to save when you know what you’re saving for—so get clear, make those budget categories and try to enjoy today. For more help learning to save, drop into our free, online classes Pay for Big Expenses without Borrowing, Break the Paycheck-to-Paycheck Cycle or Reach Your Savings Goals.