I'm seeing a lot of money talk right now as military members face the fact that their pay has been frozen, and regardless of how long it takes for them to get paid, regardless of any of that... (this post has little to nothing to do with that situation, just the money thing) I have to say, saving money is NOT hard. What does it take to save money? Planning. Budgeting. Being mindful of your future instead of what is currently your situation. How can I say that?
I'm 33 years old, I've been married 10.5 years, my husband is AMAZING when it comes to saving money... I however am NOT... but I'm learning and our partnership has been amazing in this area.
Did I learn to save money from my parents? No, they have always been in a tight spot, and it has a lot to do with planning.. they are not planners, and they run into situations before adequately planning for them. (This is not to say my family has ever been in need and not able to provide, they just don't 'save money' well.) So no I didn't learn it from my mom or dad.
Did my husband learn it from his mother and father? No, he didn't know his dad, and his mom was a single mother putting herself through college during his growing up years. He was not in need of anything she couldn't provide either, but she wasn't able to put away for the future either.
Maybe this left us both prone to want to provide what our parents couldn't... maybe. But we taught ourselves to save... he more than I.
When we got married Patrick was in the military, he received a sign up bonus, did he immediately spend it? NO. This incredible guy knew one day he was going to have a family and dreamed that in his 30's he would own his house free and clear and have a boat. Neither of those things is currently true and yes we are in our 30's, but what is true is that he actually has money in his savings account.
I feel it is stupid to write numbers on the internet about how much money people have, so I'm not sharing that. Instead I want to tell you what I was doing during that time when my husband started saving his money.
I was babysitting, taking odd jobs where I could find them, dressed as the Easter Bunny at the Mall, and a photo taking elf who also managed the booth for your children to sit on Santa's lap. I also worked part time at a daycare where I was on-call for the people who got sick or for other reasons couldn't come to work. I was paid so little with all these jobs combined that when my best friend moved from Michigan to Oklahoma I packed myself up and moved too. I found an apartment, a job with steady hours and someone to co-sign a loan on my apartment so that I could achieve this. I HATE debt, so instead of saving money I put EVERYTHING I had into paying off that loan so my co-signer and myself wouldn't have to worry about me screwing up anyone's credit. I was young, ambitious and determined. I lived off from take out mostly bought by my now husband when he took me out to eat, and simple foods I could afford and cook in my apartment that was by the way furnished with a twin sized mattress on the floor, a plastic table someone was getting rid of, and some chairs also pulled out of that person's garage. A sewing machine someone bought for me so that I could make bean bags, ONE bean bag that I filled with packing peanuts because they were cheaper than bean bag filling, and dishes and pots and pans that I found at garage sales. I had NOTHING special. my future mother in law actually bought me a futon when she visited and saw I only had a single chair for my living room and a beanbag.
I was not uncomfortable, or embarrassed to invite people over, I actually had lots of people over, as often as possible, I was proud of my little mismatched space and what I had done to make it my own and comfortable with the little bit of money I had.
I had no savings, I was barely paying my bills, BUT then once that loan was paid off I started saving, my account started looking better and better, I learned to stay cheap, not to buy the couch I really wanted, or even the pictures or curtains I would have liked to have had, but to put money in the bank and not buy until I had no choice but to do that.
Then I got married and I quit my job to be a stay at home wife. We had some medical bills to pay off and saving was put on hold again, we simply couldn't afford to save, but Patrick had his money already sitting in an account he hadn't touched... so we did have a savings, and it was earning interest. Slowly I learned how to pay things off and budget for the next week. It doesn't take much to spend less than you make. even if it is only $1 at a time... you CAN do it! don't go over on your grocery budget, put something back if you must.
Saying you are not able to save money and then going on to buy Starbucks coffee or hot chocolate is lying. Regardless of the fact that the person you are lying to most is yourself, you are lying if you say you can't afford to save money, but you can afford that coffee. I'm guilty of it, I don't want you all to think I'm picking on anyone in particular, I just think it is ridiculous we American's get into this mood where we say "whoa is me, I can't save money, I'll never get ahead!" and we live in this state of fear where we can't get ahead, and we can't be happy where we are... that is CRAP.
check yourself. Create a budget, and don't go over it. saving money is SO POSSIBLE!
There was a time when my husband was so into saving money that he would cut my generosity and constantly tell me 'no, we can't afford that'... but then he'd go buy the kids stupid $5 toys that would be broken in a week, and it was his way of telling them he loved them and I love that he loves them, but when I pointed this out to him, that he could show love through his money but he wasn't allowing me to do the same, things suddenly changed.
We now have TWO, not just one, but TWO kids that we sponsor through Compassion International, not because I wanted to, but because HE wanted to, and he asked me to find the children we should sponsor, he didn't even know the name of the companies that do this at the time.
And here is the kicker! We went through a period of 7 months, that is more than half the year y'all, that he was laid off... NOT GETTING PAID to work... during that time, here is what happened.
1. we DID receive Patrick's monthly allotment for disability granted from the military
2. we DID receive WIC
3. we DID receive benefits from Patrick's G.I. Bill
4. we rented out our 5th wheel to some transitioning friends for a few of these months (this is NOT a recreational vehicle for us, but was our home for 6 months, check back in my old posts you'll see how we lived. We actually are trying to sell this now so that we don't have the cost of it over our heads anymore, but the purchase wasn't just for fun, but rather necessity)
5. we found a local food bank to cut our grocery costs.
In the end we spent about $2000 in SEVEN months that we had previously saved for a rainy day. That's pretty incredible, because of a small amount of diligence we lived for seven months on an income that was less than desirable, and were able to pay for everything we needed, and we really were not living any differently than we had been before he was laid off. Had we really cut ourselves back, we could have made it without spending ANY of his savings.
Ok, you might be thinking 'yea but most people don't have disability payments and G.I. Bills to benefit from...' and YES that is true, but my point is that we live so much more luxuriously than we have to, as Americans in general. I do want to note here that people without savings might actually stand to receive more aid than those with a savings account, because while we could qualify for WIC we could not qualify for food stamps, or housing assistance.
What can you give up to save a few dollars a week?
Let's do a little math. say you save $10 a week for a year... that is $520 a year that you saved. I'm not even going to add in interest at this point because it is too meager to think about, however you'll notice that it quickly adds up the more money you get into that savings account. now at only $10 a week you'll have over a thousand dollars in two years.. and that is what most people are saying they can not maintain in their bank accounts. This is simply to ridiculous not to point out here.. but as you get better at saving money, stay with a job longer (i.e.get raises) or switch to a higher paying job with your gained experience you'll be bringing in more money and therefore should be SAVING more money.
When I began saving money it was only in $5 increments, but it was something. Then as our pay got better we began saving $20 at a time, then as things got even better instead of limiting ourselves on how much we could save we switched to limiting the amount we spent. Now as his pay increases so does our savings because we don't act richer, even if we are. We eat out the same number of times, pay for the same house, buy things used, (ESPECIALLY CARS!!!) take loans extremely cautiously, and keep our grocery and shopping budgets where they always have been. Just because his pay went up $5 an hour from the last job to this one doesn't mean i suddenly go from shopping at Wal-mart to shopping at American Eagle or wherever the cool kids get their clothes. (point in case I don't even know where to get cool clothes). My family is 'middle class', and someday I hope that we live 'middle class' with an upper class bank account... because that is all we need.... to be where we are, we don't need more, we don't need better, we can have what we have, make it last as long as possible and stop spending what we could be saving.
I'm not at home, but if I were I'd post some pictures of my couch along with this... I'm not preaching to anyone more than I am preaching to myself... my couch is seriously a MESS. It is a sectional that is over 30 years old, we got it used smelling of curry and slightly dated, I made it look more current by removing the skirt from the bottom, and making covers for the throw pillows that matched our decor a bit better, I also might have attacked it with a spray bottle of Febreeze. Perfect... until my husband sat down one day and busted out the bottom of the couch... ugh. we need a new couch right? nope. He fixed it, and then of course he had to fix it again, and when it was beyond fixing we put half (the broken half) in the kid's playroom and pretended the couch was a single normal couch instead of a sectional, even though one end has a high 'arm' and the other has a normal 'arm'. So things were going pretty well until one day the arm ripped, I mean beyond repair tore through wore down, I can't with all my magical sewing skills fix the dang thing, tore..... We need a new couch, right? Well yes, but Patrick just went back to work, we need to build up our funds before going out and spending them all, so instead we folded a blanket over the end to protect it from the children pulling all the stuffing out, then I sewed three large UGLY brown pieces of material someone had given us, together and made a make shift couch cover.
We are close to affording that new couch... but we also need a lawn mower, a necessity once the lawn starts to grow again this spring... so what will we spend the money on? I don't know... but in the mean time, we use a push mower (on almost 3 acres of rough and bumpy land), and make the couch work until it completely falls apart, and I suck up my pride as I invite people to come and share life with us while sitting on my incredibly UGLY breaking couch.
Saving is NOT impossible. Expenses will come, but saving is important and should be regarded as such. After all, that is your children's inheritance, if you spend it all while they are children I doubt they will care much for all the wonderful things you provided for them as much as they will love having a little nest egg of their own when you pass away and leave them a little something you worked hard to save for them.