life & love

ATTEMPT NO. 7350 TO CUT BACK & SAVE MONEY

who doesnt like money

Apparently it didn’t take too long to break my promise to blog two to three times a week. Last week was a lonely week on Adventures with Em, and for that I am sorry.

I could probably rattle off a few good excuses for you, like the fact that I was so tired I thought I was going to fall asleep at the wheel on Monday or that I had a jam packed weekend with the family, but I’ll save you the screen time.

Hopefully this week will be more productive, but I’m guessing it’s going to take some time before this little adventure of mine becomes a habit.

But enough about that.

I was recently inspired to take a long, hard look at my budget and the current state of my checking & savings account. Although what I found did not horrify me, I certainly could stand to do a little less spending. Especially in a few key places.

Have you heard of Mint? It’s a website/app that compiles information from all your checking & saving accounts, credit cards, assets, loans, etc. and shows you detailed information about your spending habits. It also shows you your net worth.

I am proud to tell you that as of March 25, 2014, I am worth a grand total of -$41,889.11. Note the negative sign. Thanks student loans!

In reality, I’m  not in that bad of shape. I was able to save up a nice rainy day fund while I was living with my parents after graduation. The thing is, I haven’t added much to it since I got my own place.

But that’s about to change. Here are three ways I can start banking some more cash by making minor changes to my lifestyle:

1. Stop going out to lunch: I’m a sucker for a Panera bagel and smoothie combo, and ever since we got one 10 minutes from my office I’ve been struggling to stay away. The temptation to sleep in an extra 15 minutes by sacrificing packing a lunch is taking a toll on my wallet. If you don’t have time in the morning (I usually don’t), try packing your lunch the night before. Usually this starts with making sure the kitchen is stocked with lunch foods and snacks. I catch myself going out to lunch more often as a result of not going to the grocery store to buy what I need.

2. Start taking advantage of the community gym: One of the perks of moving into my apartment complex is that it came with a pretty nice gym. It has all the ellipticals, treadmills and free weights a girl could need. And how often do I go? I’ve probably only been a handful of times in the 9 months I’ve lived here. What’s more, is I recently started paying $80 a month to attend 3 yoga classes per week at a nearby studio when my free gym has two free yoga classes per week and the Lululemon at the mall has free classes on Sundays. My excuse was that the free classes didn’t mesh with my schedule, but if I can make it work, I could get the same amount of yoga time for free. Then, if I want to kick it up a notch, I could supplement with maybe one or two classes per week at the studio for just $40 or $60 per month. (It’s so logical it hurts my brain.)

3. Set a realistic shopping/entertainment budget and DON’T break it: When I first started using mint, I was living at home with my parents. I could afford to spend a little more on things I wanted, like clothes, going to the movies or having a few drinks with friends. But now that I have rent and bills to pay, I no longer have that luxury. And yet I still cling to it. I scaled back my shopping budget in Mint, but I still seem to get a notification each month that I’ve busted it. Maybe it’s OK to spend a little more than what I have scheduled, maybe not. Either way, I need to set a realistic goal and stick to it. If that means my shopping budget is killed three days into the month, so be it. Money never gets away from you faster than on a shopping spree that loses control, and it is SO easy to convince yourself going just a teensy bit over budget is OK. We’ve all been there. Being stricter with myself is a start, but staying out of temptation’s way is probably a good strategy too. That means less time spent at the mall, and more in the great outdoors or finding new places to go with friends. And instead of going out to the movies, I know there’s an overflowing queue of movies on my Netflix account just waiting to be watched. That’s not to say I’ll never treat myself with a new pair of shoes or tickets to see my favorite band when they come to town, just that once I hit that ceiling that’s it until next month.

In the meantime, I’ll be working on paying off my credit card. I already invested half my tax returns on that front, which felt very financially responsible of me.

I’ve always prided myself on being smart with my money, it’s just time to be smarter.

How do you save money? Feel free to leave your tips/advice in the comments. I’m sure we all could use some extra inspiration to keep us off the path of empty bank accounts (;

“I mean- Who Doesn’t Like Money?” print is by artist Chris Piascik.

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