Saving money isn't always easy, and it can be difficult to keep yourself on track. Especially in the world of the internet, where you are seeing pictures of all the highlights of your friend's lives. You see them going on vacation, buying a new car, or eating out at that place you've wanted to try for a few months now.
It isn't surprising that so many of us are struggling with impulse purchases. So what's a frugal friend to do? Here's three ways that you can keep yourself motivated, mentally and financially, on the path of fiscal responsibility.
Use a Spending Record
Sometimes shame is a massively powerful motivator. While it doesn't work well in kindergarten or the army, shedding light on past financial indiscretions may just be the kick in the pants you need to set your spending straight. Personally, there have been times where I've thought to myself, “Well, it is just a slice of pizza”, and “I've hardly eaten out this month”, only to be shocked to find that I've spent hundreds of dollars of food out in a single month. Each little transaction on their own seemed so small I hadn't realized it had added up so fast.
If you are nearly as lazy as I am, you'll find benefit in a program like Mint which will automatically track and categorize your financial transactions. If you're uncomfortable with the process of giving up your online bank login info to a computer, then you'll have the joy of manually recording each purchase somewhere. The added process of going through each purchase will, of course, offer more opportunity for you to realize that you went to the mall every single friday night for the past two months, which may help you recognize that your spending is out of control.
Find and Emulate a Role Model
Role models will always be a huge source of inspiration for people. Whether it is kids looking up to Superman or Police Officers, or if you have someone in your life that just seems to have everything under control, everyone has someone that they know of that they want to be like. When it comes to your finances – find someone that you can relate to and desire to emulate financially. Books like The Millionaire Next Door offer great insight into the lives of actual millionaires. Perhaps their frugal and low maintenance lifestyle, not to mention their financial security, is what you're looking for. Perhaps you want to be like your real estate agent, who has three or four income properties on the go, or you may want to be like your boss, who spends their weekends researching and investing in the stock market.
Whoever you find, try to spend time with them and learn how they handle their money and their life. Take the good, ignore the bad, and mold yourself into a better financial position by standing on the shoulders of someone who has gone before you.
Plan Short or Long Term Goals
When I was in high school we had a class all about our future. It required us to learn some basic skills like creating a resume and cover letter, it forced us to look through tons of potential job or education paths, and it made us answer questions about our future. When you are in high school, the answers that you come up with are useless – but the practice of looking into the future and finding steps to achieve that future isn't. Hardly anyone knows what they want to be when they grow up, but that shouldn't stop us from finding things that we want and planning on how to get there.
Short terms are very important financially. So much of our wealth disappears in the short term. You get paid, and two weeks later the vast majority of that paycheck is gone. Set yourself short term goals to curb spending and jump start your savings. Little things like putting aside $50 a month or avoiding fast food for two weeks are examples of great short term goals that can really affect your budget. Long term goals, however, are even more important. Where do you want to end up? What lifestyle does your role model have? What type of income does that lifestyle require, and what type of work do you need to get into in order to maintain that lifestyle?
Everyone's answers to these questions should be different. How it impacts your monthly budget is up to your willingness to see those dreams come true, and how patient you'll be in the meantime.