How do you save money?

Money

Money (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)

I’m probably the last person you’d go to for financial advice, but I’ve learned some hard lessons over the years,and isn’t that what life is all about?  We learn from our experiences (hopefully, anyhow) and then move on to the next lesson.  I’ve gone from really struggling financially to being comfortable.  I’ve learned that I don’t have to  have everything that everyone else has and that I can actually be happier with less stuff taking up space in my home and my life.I have a 401K, put in a certain percentage from each pay check, company match is okay…not the best I’ve ever seen, but it’s still free money, right?  And I don’t borrow from it…ever…I know I’m going to need this money when I’m finally able to retire.  I try to encourage the younger folks I work with to get started with planning for their retirement now, but I might as well be talking to a tree.  You know, it’s a long way off…I’ll think about it when I’m over 30 (or married, or have a better job).  I try to explain to them how much more money they’ll have if they start in their early 20s, but hey, I’m not their mom…not that they’d listen to her either.  Remember how much you knew when you were 21 or 22?

I also have an emergency fund that I’m continuing to fund.  I’ve been very fortunate and haven’t had an emergency lately so haven’t had to dip into that one either.  For years I didn’t have any kind of emergency fund…gotta say it’s much less stressful to have one.

I also save a little out of  every paycheck just for whatever…no big plans for it, but I have a little extra cash on hand if something fun comes up.

So…having said all of that…I saw something on Facebook the other day that I thought sounded kind of interesting…each week this year you save some money…the first week you save $1, second week $2 and so on until you’re saving $52 the final week of the year…I can’t remember how much money you would save over the course of the year and I’m too lazy to go look it up (or figure it out), but it sure seems like a pretty easy way to save up a nice chunk of change.  So I decided to go ahead and do this in addition to my other savings efforts…got no real plans for the money.  I honestly don’t need anything and have been making a concerted effort to not buy things just to be buying things.  I’ve been asking myself if this is something I need…if not, I’m waiting.  I’ve found that the impulse usually passes if I don’t buy it right away.  It sure has helped me save money and reduce clutter…now to do something about the clutter already in my house…hmm…maybe I should sell some of my “stuff” and save that money too.

So how do you save money?  Any tips to share with the rest of us?

Added note:  I figured out the total you’d save over the course of a year on the above plan, not figuring any kind of interest…you’d have $1378 saved relatively painlessly.

Money management

Credit Cards

Credit Cards (Photo credit: 401K)

I’ve got Suze Orman’s show on in the background, halfway listening to her scolding people for their lack of money management skills.  To give her credit, she also tells them what they need to do to work their way out of whatever mess they’ve made for themselves.   Anyhow, it reminded me of my money mismanagement (lack of) skills when I was younger.

I was on my own, had decent credit, credit cards, my own small business…for someone without knowledge of how to manage your money this was a recipe for disaster.  I bought whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it.  Ended up with some serious credit card debt…yikes!

Over the past decade or so, I’ve paid off bills, managed to save money for emergencies as well as retirement, and most importantly, learned to question myself before making purchases.  Do I really need this?  Is this something that I love?  Will I use this?  Most of the time, the answer to all of those questions is “no”. Oh yeah, and one of the most important questions I now ask myself is, “Can I afford this?”.

I think one of the things that really helped me find my way out of recreational shopping was when I finally realized that I often bought things that I never used, that I ended up giving away a few months later.  Wow…what an eye-opener.  I bought things because they were on sale, I got a good deal, or whatever other excuse there was.  Once I stopped doing that, I was able to easily save money.

You know what?  It feels good to have my finances under control, to watch my savings grow, and to realize that I’m not a slave to consumerism.  Does this mean I’ve finally grown up?

Spending $50 A Week On Groceries

When I looked back over what I’d spent last year, I realized I’d been really wasting a lot of money on groceries…and throwing a lot of food out.  So one of my goals for this year is to spend no more than $50 a week on groceries…and that’s probably about half of what I was spending.  And the really sad thing is that I live by myself, so $50 is plenty. 

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs by people who have several kids at home and still don’t spend as much on groceries as I have been spending.  So… time to get a handle on this…save some money…stop wasting food.  When reading a lot of these blogs, I get kind of excited about how much money it’s possible to save by following sales, using coupons and stocking up on good deals.  I’m just starting the whole couponing thing (like yesterday!!), so I’ll blog about that in a future blog.

Right now I’m keeping a grocery list, planning my meals and snacks for home and work, cooking real food and actually taking my grocery list to the store with me…well, except when I stopped after work Friday and my list was at home on the kitchen counter.  And that kind of proved something to me…I ended up spending $63.  The week before (when I took my list with me), I only spent $48.  So…that list will accompany me to the store from now on.

$48 worth of groceries

I think this is a decent haul for the amount of money…but I’m anxious to see how much I can save with coupons.  I think this is going to be a super fun, year long experiment!!

Oh, I made a delicious turkey chili in my pressure cooker…could also do it vegetarian and it’d be just as good.  I’ll be better about taking and posting more pictures for future blogs. 

And I’ll take any advice  on couponing, blogs about living more frugally, etc.  A little side note, I’ve never really had much money, sure haven’t ever been rich, but I did manage to save $12,000 last year…looking to do better this year…I think this is one more way to help me with that goal!  I want to be one of those people who gets more excited about saving money than about spending it!!