My husband and I have always been a frugal couple. We plan our money carefully and we don’t spend what we don’t have (ahem, Congress). We are known as the “boring couple” to our friends and family because we will often turn down extravagant vacation opportunities or dinners out. We would much rather keep our money in our pockets and have a stay-cation or invite friends over for dinner.
Since we got married in 2010, my husband and I have been able to make some pretty hefty purchases-like a home with some large renovations and two new cars- as well as pay off $40,000 in his student loans. These accomplishments didn’t come without years of hard work, penny-pinching, and some generous gifts from family. We have always been mindful of where our money goes and how we spend. We have set goals for ourselves, and we have busted our butts to meet those goals by using some of our budgeting rules.
Don’t Spend Your Money like Congress, here’s how!
- Bulk up your savings: One of the “rules” that financial experts tout is to keep your savings account with 6 months worth of living expenses. This takes a very long time to do, and it takes some hard work in terms of curbing your spending but it is very do-able. Start by putting any extra money you have between your paychecks into your savings account. If you find that you are living paycheck to paycheck, you’ll have to start looking hard at your spending habits.
- Don’t spend money you don’t have: Credit cards are both a wonderful and dangerous thing. The biggest rule in our finances is that we don’t spend money we don’t have. If we can’t afford that new TV with the money that will be in our account including our regular expenses, we don’t get it. You can’t put money away when you’re in debt, so shove that card in your back pocket until you have a cushion in your account.
- Take advantage: As a military family, we have certain financial advantages available to us. One way was saving money during his deployments. Your spouse will get tax free pay while deployed, as well as hazard pay if applicable. Do not use this “extra money” as spending money. Continue to live on your spouse’s original paycheck and put that extra money into savings! We were able to pay off my husband’s college loans during his first deployment by doing this. Some banks also offer an increased interest rate on savings accounts during the time your spouse is deployed, so be sure to look into that when they go overseas. Also, be sure to look at the rewards of any credit cards your using. We get about $20 per month back simply by using one of our cards on groceries and gas!
- STOP: Stop spending money on impulse buys and frivolous items. Limit your restaurant visits to once a month, and meal plan to help you arrange dinners for your family at other times. Buy clothes for your kid’s at consignment shops and try to curb spending on items for yourself. However, we all like to have a little freedom to spend money here and there, so limit yourself to $20 or $30 per month that you can spend on Starbucks or whatever else you’d like to get for yourself.
- Sell your junk! One man’s junk is another’s treasure, right? Sell your junk at yard sales and save that extra dough! How about old cars? You can sell your junk cars and save up the cash!
- Research: When it comes to large purchases, do your research. This can save you a ton of time and money in the long run. Don’t be afraid to spend a little more on a product that has a longer shelf life or that works better, because it will probably save you money and headache in the long run.
- Don’t go cold turkey: It is hard to start saving when you haven’t really done it before, so to cut yourself off from the lifestyle you are used to having all at once can be traumatic. Slowly start to cut things out of your spending. Instead of buying coffee every day, try three times a week, and then two. Work yourself up to where you are comfortable otherwise your saving efforts won’t last long.
Sticking to these budgeting rules can be hard, and sometimes I slip up even after all these years. But building up your savings to reach goals for your family, whether its for material goods or to travel, is something that will make you feel amazing when you accomplish it.
In what ways have you been successful in saving money? Share with us and comment below!