The journey to becoming a saver is a difficult one. For many, it takes years. For me, it has been a personal evolution and a major lifestyle transformation. Three years ago, I was a person who purchased everything that I wanted to. The fact that I never had cash was not a problem for me… that’s what I had credit cards for. It all changed when I made a decision to start living a different kind of life, one that was full of love, passion, and meaning. I stopped buying things just because I wanted to. I stopped lusting after material possessions. I learned to purchase only what I truly needed. Later, I got rid of much of the junk I had collected over a lifetime. Finally, I began to practice a truly minimalist lifestyle.
This month marked an important milestone for me. For the first time in my life, my savings account reached $10,000. Here’s how I did it & how you can do it, too.
1. Set goals & practice visualization. At the beginning of the year I set goals, including—for the first time in my life—some very specific financial goals. In addition to goal-setting, I also practiced visualization. I imagined myself living a lifestyle that would allow me to reach my goals with ease.
Visualization is imagining yourself once you have reached your goals. When we practice visualization, we must be extremely specific about details. Detail is the most important part of visualization. For example, it is not enough to imagine yourself, this time next year with $10,000 in the bank. Rather, you must get specific. What will you be doing exactly? What will your lifestyle look like when you reach that goal? What will you wear? What will you eat? What will you do with your free time? Who will you be surrounded by? These are just some examples of the sort of questions that will help you to get specific & imagine detail as you visualize reaching your goals. There are many more questions that you can ask yourself. Be creative. The more specific you get, the better.
The act of setting goals and visualizing your success will be a critical step in your journey. Your goals and your visualization will serve as your guide map as you journey forward.
2. Have an abundance mindset. Everyday I speak the following affirmations to myself: a. Money is flying at me from all directions. b. I always have more than enough money to live happily, comfortably, and passionately.
Believe me, if you are thinking that this sounds crazy, I understand. When I graduated college with nearly $50,000 in student loan debt and another $10,000 in credit card debt, telling myself that “money was flying at me from all directions” seemed like a certifiably insane sentiment. But I knew in my heart that I have always moved in the direction of my most dominant thoughts. When my thoughts consisted of scarcity (I don’t have enough money, I will never get out of debt, I am broke, and so on) that became my reality. But, when my thoughts became full of abundance, prosperity, and confidence, that became my reality.
3. Stop lying to yourself & making excuses. Excuses are the arch enemy of success. Every time you make a statement that starts with, “I need…”, you are making an excuse and lying to yourself. I need new jewelry to wear to my cousin’s wedding. I need a new suit to wear to the conference next month. I need a new grill because it’s a pain to start the one we have now. Instead of using “I need…” as an excuse, try telling yourself the truth: It would be nice to have this, that, or the other thing, but it would be nicer to pay off my debt. Practice saying, “It would be nice to have… but it would be nicer to pay off my debt” as often as you can. The more you practice saying this, the more easily it will come to you the next time you start to make an excuse or lie to yourself.
4. Cut out the excess. I never imagined what an enormous difference cutting out the excess would make to my monthly budget. We have no idea how much all of the “little things” add up until we stop spending on them. Before I started saving, impromptu shopping trips, dining out, and trips to the salon, were regular activities for me. If I went to the shopping mall to buy my nephew’s birthday gift and happened to spot a cute pair of shoes, I would purchase them. If I was flipping through a catalog and spotted a gorgeous pair of Gucci sunglasses, I would go online and order them. If I was having a craving for coconut shrimp, I would drive down to the Outback & spend $50.00 on takeout for me and Matthew.
The list goes on and on. I never stopped to consider the impact that my actions had on my finances. If I wanted something I bought it. It was so easy for me to justify my actions. “I work hard. I am a good person. I deserve to have what I want.” The problem with this was simple. In acquiring all of this crap that I “wanted”, I forgot to account for something else that I wanted even more: financial independence, the ability to live without debt hanging around my throat, the ability to travel, to live passionately, to be in touch with my true self.
When I cut out my excess spending, the rest began to fall into a place.
5. Make automatic deposits. When I first started researching debt-free lifestyles, I kept coming across information about automatic depositing. I read somewhere that “after awhile you will stop missing the automatic deposits from your paycheck into your savings account”. The idea was that because the debits happen automatically each month, eventually you will adjust your budget and stop “missing” the specified amount of money. I thought the idea was ridiculous! I thought that there was no way I could stop missing any amount of money, no matter how small!
But, six months later, here I am eating my words. I started out by depositing $500 a month into my ING Direct savings account. After a couple of months, I honestly stopped missing that money. It was particularly easy to adjust to the change in my budget because that was the same time that I started to cut the excess. The money that I saved by eliminating the excess crap flowed into my savings account seamlessly.
I also started to seek out other ways to lower my monthly expenses. I started packing my own lunches and we got rid of cable. (Side note: Netflix is a cheaper, excellent alternative without all the bullshit marketing!) As I found additional ways to cut spending, I was able to increase my savings deposit from $500 to $1,000 each month. Yes, currently I am putting $1,000 a month into savings. Yes, this is a huge chunk of my monthly income, but I know that this is the right thing for me to do at this time.
6. Use Mint. I absolutely adore Mint.com. I have been using Mint since last September to track my spending. It is so easy to use. All of my accounts are hooked up to Mint including my debit card & checking account, my credit card, my ING savings account, my car loan account, and all of my student loan accounts. Mint allows me to see the “big picture” at anytime. It also conveniently organizes my spending & savings in real-time. Because I use my debit card for almost everything (including utilities, loan payments, and day-to-day purchases) Mint allows me to monitor every purchase/payment that I make. Being able to visibly “see” where my money goes in graphs, pie charts, and bar charts (Mint puts these together) really allows me to understand how & where my money goes. It enables me to monitor my spending and locate additional areas where I can save.
7. Invest in long-term happiness. While I have saved $10,000 in six months by practicing the tips above, I’ve also made substantial purchases during this time. Getting out of debt does not mean that you have to make insane sacrifices, live like a pauper (though that helps), or even give up on your dreams. It simply means that you should spend responsibly and spend when it leads to long-term happiness instead of instant gratification. It’s alright to spend money if it leads to success and enables you to accomplish your dreams.
A couple of my recent substantial purchases were my Macbook (purchased in April) and my upcoming trip to Paris (booked earlier this month). Over the past six months, I have also spent money trading cash for experience.
8. Use extra money as extra savings, not extra spending. Around the time that I started saving, I also started to practice minimalism. I sold much of my jewelry & clothing on Etsy and to local thrift stores. Around that same time, I also started life coaching. All of the money that I made from selling my possessions and life coaching has gone into my savings account.
Often times, when we come into extra income, we think it’s a great time to celebrate and increase our spending. This is a grave mistake. If you continually increase your spending as your income increases, you will never get ahead. By taking my extra income and depositing into my savings account, I have been able to meet many of my financial goals for the year ahead of schedule. When I got my annual bonus in June, I separated out one quarter to buy my mom a birthday gift and to give Matthew money for our home improvements. I put the rest of the money right into my savings account.
I am no longer a fan of money or a slave to my debt. I once read that seeking happiness & fulfillment outside of yourself is insanity. In the end, all that we need exists within ourselves. The true wealth of the world lies within the vast, beautiful depths of our souls. Of course we need the basics—food, water, shelter—but beyond that, we need a lot less than we think.
I hope that these tips are helpful to you. I hope that at least one of these ideas will resonate with you and allow you to take the next steps in your journey toward financial freedom, passionate living, and creating the life of your dreams. If you have questions, ask away!
Wishing you prosperity, love, & light,