I think I first heard the idea that saving money could be more fun than spending money from Suze Orman and immediately scoffed at it (with a sound effect and everything!). In the saver vs. spender debate, I had always thought of my self as a spender.
It isn’t so much that I love to shop but I do think it is fun. I also love to travel and, while you can make choices that keep your costs down, inevitably there are expenses involved with travel.
I think my attitude has changed, however. In 2017, I paid off over $43,000 in debt by cutting my expenses and throwing everything I could find at my debt. And during these months, I have very much enjoyed watching my net worth climb, so much so that all the things I am doing to cut back on daily splurges seem like small inconveniences.
I have become someone who enjoys saving more than I do spending.
Monitoring My Overall Net Worth Has Been Key
I like numbers—I have joked that if I had known any accountants growing up I would have majored in accounting instead of literature—so I think one of the reasons I have come to enjoy saving is because I have been closely tracking my net worth, not just my debt (although that has been fun too!).
I am a long-time Mint user (since March 2014) so that has been one of the ways I have monitored my progress. If you are not familiar with Mint, it is a website where you can track all of your accounts in one place. You have to enter your account information but once you do, they create an accounts list where you can see everything at once. They also have a budget feature, a goal setting feature, and allow you to monitor your credit score.
I tend to use Mint for showing me my current situation—a financial dashboard if you will—not my progress over time (it is possible to graph trends but not in a way that I find super useful).
As such, I created my own system using an Excel file to monitor trends. Here are the fields I track:
- Net Monthly Take Home Pay
- Monthly Expenses (this helps me calculate what I need in my emergency fund)
- Total Debt (from credit cards, mortgage, auto loan, and home equity loan)
- Total Savings (by retirement savings accounts, brokerage account, property, and cash).
I do this by account not just category so that I can compare exactly what was in my brokerage account at a specific point in the past, for example, with what is in it now, or how my estimated home value has changed (Mint pulls from Zillow so I just use their estimate). I also include a notes section to capture what was going on at the time (like if I had a big car or home repair I had to cash flow).
Using this system, I know that between December 28, 2016, and August 21, 2017, my net worth increased by $80,710. This includes investment growth of $31,204 and an increase of $13,388 in the value of my condo (as well as the decrease in debt of $36,578 noted above). You can see why I am having so much fun monitoring my progress!
What You Can Do To Start Loving Saving More Than Spending
People will often classify themselves as either a spender or a saver—sort of like how some people are morning people and the rest of us just tolerate them (I am in the latter group). As noted above, I had always thought of myself as a spender. What I have learned is it isn’t that simple. Someone who likes saving more than spending still gets to spend, they just make sure they do it in a way that doesn’t undermine their savings goals.
Someone who likes saving more than spending still gets to spend, they just make sure they do it in a way that doesn’t undermine their savings goals.
They pay themselves first. When you schedule a payment, the “To” line might say “American Express” but the entity you are really paying is yourself. That payment says “I am investing in my future because I know I will feel better and more confident when I am out of debt.”
This is also true when you set aside money for your retirement account. This money will be how you will continue to have income after you retire. And I don’t know about you, but one day I want to be in a position where I no longer have to work to support my lifestyle (I may still work but because I want to, not because I have to).
They allocate money for the things they like to do. This is sort of like budgeting but instead of saying “I can’t” you say “I can” and set a specific dollar amount aside for that thing. Me? I like to go to an expensive salon to get my hair cut so I set money aside for that. Color? I do it myself using a $7 bottle of root touch-up from Target (that my stylist says looks great!). Pedicures? Accounted for once every other pay period.
They spend intentionally. I was telling a younger work colleague about how much success I have had paying down my debt and she asked me how I am able to resist buying a new outfit or pair of shoes. I thought about it for a minute and said that I thought it came down to being really intentional with my spending.
If I see something I really like and I want to purchase it, I can do so. But before I get out my wallet, I think long and hard about it because I know that if I buy that item, it could mean prolonging being in debt by a few weeks. Just taking the time to think about a purchase that way, and to evaluate the trade-offs, has been really powerful (and has resulted in my not buying many new items since January!).
What Do You Think?
A few years ago, I would have told you that there was no way I would every enjoy saving more than spending so I find myself a little in awe of the person I have become.
I can honestly say that saving money this year has brought me immense amounts of joy and satisfaction, more than making up for cutting back on eating out. The best thing is that once my debt is gone, I can continue the habits above and really see my net worth sky rocket.
Are these habits you can adopt? Let me know in the comment section!
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