As you guys likely know, Amon and I are BIG savers. On our F.I.R.E. journey, we were able to save (and invest!) an insane amount of money because we dedicated around 70% of our income to saving.
Now, I know 70% might seem ridiculously ambitious for many, but we’re proof that it’s definitely possible if you follow a few basic tips.
1. Join a “Buy Nothing” Group
These groups are more of a movement than anything else. The Buy-Nothing Community is composed of people who are passionate about breaking the cycle of consumerism by encouraging people to share, recycle, and give away goods for free. A by-product of the movement, which itself is focused on limiting the amount of waste that people produce, is that you can end up saving A LOT of money by limiting the amount of new items you purchase. By promoting a shared-economy attitude, it's possible to go a really long time without needing to buy a lot of things.
Looking to join a Buy Nothing Group? Check out the Buy Nothing Project website, linked here. This website provides links to numerous different community-based groups that are part of the Buy Nothing Network. We’ve also found that joining Facebook groups make it really easy to participate in this waste-free lifestyle, but if Facebook is not your thing, there are other options as well. 2. The 72-hour Rule
The 72-hour Rule is something that we practice with our kids all the time - and it's REALLY effective! This is how it works: If there is something that you want, wait a full 72 hours before you purchase it, after which point you re-evaluate whether or not you still want it. If the answer is ”yes,” then go ahead and buy it. But oftentimes you’ll realize that you don’t really need the item and choose not to buy it. Or, like our girls, you just forget about it altogether!
This is an incredibly effective way to identify the things that you really want while at the same time avoiding frivolous, wasteful spending. You’ll have the opportunity to think about whether the item will actually bring any real value to your life or if wanting it was just a spur of the moment impulse.
3. Skip Name Brand Goods and Buy Generic
Buying generic brand items when grocery shopping can save you a HUGE amount of money, without really sacrificing too much in terms of taste. Many of the items are located right next to their name brand counterparts, and can save you up to 50%! Translate this to all of your cooking and the savings are impressive!
To illustrate this point let’s look at a few recipe examples. When making spaghetti with onion, ground beef and tomato sauce, using the generic brand brings the total price of groceries down from $9.41 to $6.72. Similarly, when cooking creamy chicken and rice casserole, generic brand ingredients bring the price down from $17.56 to $9.62! And the same holds true for loaded tacos, where the price goes from $22.95 to $14.14!
So, these recipes are just an example of how on average, you can save around $6.67 per dinner. Over a month, that is $210. And over a year, that’s almost $2,500 saved - just on dinner!
4. Pay Yourself First
Though we all know the value of saving, not everyone knows the best way to keep on track with our monthly savings goals. And while most of us view savings as a priority, this is not always reflected in our actions, despite our best intentions. What I mean by this is that most of us make the mistake of paying ourselves last. For example, when our paychecks are deposited we typically pay one expense, and then the next, and the next, and whatever is left over at the end of the month is what goes into savings. In other words, savings ultimately ends up being the last priority.
The problem with this, however, is that it is notoriously easy to overspend in other areas (especially if you don’t have a budget) and this leads to us saving less than we really should be. By paying yourself first, what you should be doing is taking a portion of your income and directly depositing that into your savings account. Instead of treating savings as a discretionary expense, treat it as you would any other bill that NEEDS to be paid. This way, you’re ensuring that you're automatically saving a set amount, consistently, each and every month, giving you no reason not to meet your savings goals.
5. Evaluate Your Expenses
Most people have a lot of expenses that need to be met every month. So the idea of going through them all can be kind of overwhelming. I get that, it makes perfect sense. But despite that, evaluating your expenses is still a crucial step in your road to greater savings.
The strategy we found that works best is to tackle one expense at a time. Start off by looking at, for instance, your car insurance. Analyze and evaluate your current car insurance plan and see if you can find a plan that is cheaper or one that offers more bang for your buck. Then, once you're done with that, move on to look at your cell phone plan, and then your life insurance, and then your cable package, and so on. The key is to focus on each expense one at a time. This way you won’t feel so overwhelmed!
It might at first seem tedious for just a few bucks here and there, but remember: It’s not the savings from each individual expense that matters - it's the total amount that you’ll be saving overall. All the little things add up to a lot of wasted money. And this money can better serve you by contributing to your savings or investments.
6. Develop a Budget and Track Your Spending
Now I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: budgeting is IMPORTANT.
Seriously. There are significant benefits to tracking your spending and budgeting properly. Specifically, by tracking your expenses you are able to (1) see where your money is going, (2) identify bad spending habits, (3) set financial goals, and (4) prioritize expenses.
When you don't track where your money goes, it is so easy to overspend and not even realize that you’re doing it! Even Amon and I fell victim to overspending before we started doing this! In fact, when we started tracking our spending, Amon and I found that we were spending way too much money on eating out at lunch! Once we started tracking our spending, we realized how much we could save just by altering our behaviour a little. We started doing simple things like making coffee at home or buying snacks at the grocery store and bringing them into work instead of buying more expensive convenience snacks on the road. And by making these changes, we were able to save significantly more.
7. Find Free Options
This is probably Amon’s favourite tip! Why? Because if you change your mindset a little, and view it as a game, trying to find things for free can actually be a lot of fun! There are a ton of places that offer free options that people just don’t know about.
And this tip is different from the “Buy Nothing” groups because it refers to finding places to frequent that can reliably and consistently give you things for free. We’ve been able to take advantage of these free options so that now there are certain items that we just never pay for, like books, museum tickets, credit reports, tax prep, etc.
There are a lot of places that don’t necessarily have to stick to their target prices, places where it is acceptable to negotiate and bargain. If you’re able to find people who do actually have the discretion to lower the price, then you should definitely be asking for discounts. After all, the worst that can happen is they say no, right? It never hurts to ask!
As you guys might know already, Amon and I lived rent free for most of our F.I.R.E. journey, and because of that we were able to save a ton of money. I’m not going to get too into this tip in this post, other than to say: if you’re interested, check out my “house hacking” blog post where I explain how to live rent free!
9. Educate yourself
Read books and articles, listen to podcasts, watch YouTube videos - do whatever you can to become more familiar with what other people are doing. By exposing yourself to different ideas and opening yourself up to other peoples’ experiences, you might stumble onto some great ideas that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own. And by surrounding yourself with people who are looking to optimize their spending or with resources that help broaden your knowledge, you start to live a more intentional life.
No one knows everything. We certainly don’t claim to know everything! The world is a big place and there are so many super smart people and resources that you can tap into to better understand how to save money. And by reading this blog you’re already off to an amazing start!
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