Saving money is no easy feat, here in "These United States" or your projected life abroad. But if you want this . . . I mean . . . YOU REALLY, REALLY WANT THIS (in my awe-inspiring Oprah Winfrey voice), then you will want to start [and continue] saving some serious coin-age (and yes, I meant to spell it that way).
Not only are these methods that I have used along my financial journey, there are some here that I find to be interesting as they are practical.
Your financial journey starts with "3", and since we're internet friends, I won't let you tackle math all by your lonesome (and yes, I meant to say it that way).
1. TRACK YOUR EXPENSES
The first one is the hardest one because it's going to look and feel overwhelming. But for-really-real-though (in my Pam from Martin TV Show voice), a lot of you don't want to know how much you spend on . . . your special mocha-toffee-frappe-fluffy coffee . . . your entertainment brought to you by Comcast, AT&T, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Prime, and other subscriptions that I haven't even heard of . . . and even your shopping habits through Amazon, Target, Etsy, Victoria Secret, DSW, and other retail merchants that are beyond my adulting interests.
But not to worry (in my calmingly-zen-therapeutic psychologist voice) . . .
If you are not a fan of writing things down, itemizing the types of things you spend your money on, or even a tiny-bit interested in stock-piling receipts or bank statements, then the best way to do this is with some digital assistance.
If you are privileged enough to have internet access and a computer at home (especially during these financially stressing #COVID times), then you have the freedom to explore budgeting apps that can help you achieve your financial goals. For me, mint.com is my jam, but there are others listed here that may fit your financial fancy.
2. DETERMINE WHAT'S NECESSARY AND WHAT'S ACCESSORIES
Yeah, you're not gonna like this one either, and worse, you can't determine what is a necessary expense and what is an accessory expense if you don't track your expenses in the first place. After 2 to 3 months of tracking your expenses and being honest with just yourself and your financial app of choice, you'll have the tools to create your side-by-side list of what's necessary and what's accessories.
3. MAKE [AND STICK TO] A BUDGET
After 2 to 3 months of tracking your expenses and determining your necessary and accessory expenses, you can now create a budget that is based on your actual habits. What's better is that the same apps that track your expenses can also help you create a budget. For those of you who need "gentle reminders" of getting too close to your budget limit or even going over budget in any category by $1 measly dollar, these apps are a Godsend; but for those of you who hate being reminded about your budget limitations, this feature may annoy you.
If you're easily annoyed, just realize that it may be a pain, but it's for a purpose.
If you're feeling frustrated - GOOD . . . that means (like me) your process to finding financial wellness has begun (in my King Jaffe Joffer from Coming To America voice).
SO . . . NOW WHAT???
Now, you take action!
Once you have done 1, 2, and 3, you now must divide and conquer - literally! I have begun my financial journey for my life abroad by evaluating, organizing, and minimizing services and things that no longer serve me or my happiness journey.
4. FRUGAL + SIMPLE + MINIMAL = THE THINGS I NO LONGER WASTE :: SPACE
According to a UCLA anthropology study of current day Americans, "A Cluttered Life: Middle-Class Abundance," they not only explored how much stuff we buy, but how much space we use. Most of my time is spent in the same space as the data points in this image above. I mean, how many of you remember going to relative's or friend's house and you were told that you bet-not (and yes, that's how I meant to spell it) go in that never-seen-anyone-use living room or dining room?
Since I grew up in a low-income household, I didn't "live large," however, as I grew into adulthood, I was socialized to value things . . . and I don't feel bad because many of us were taught this "value" through advertising and our social circles. So when I was financially able, I lived in a 1600 square foot apartment. I furnished it, which costs me money. I heated and cooled it, which cost me money. I cleaned it, which cost me time and money.
And during that time, I really enjoyed it.
But once I grew into the person that I am now, my moral compass changed to value work-life balance and experiences, and not things, their size, their shine, or the amount of them. If you're unsure of what your financial values are, feel free to take the free Smart About Money LifeValues Quiz, and in 20 questions, you can gain a little more insight to what's important to you.
As I began to sell and donate things that no longer served my life's purpose, I made some serious changes.
• I went from a family size of 2 in1600 square feet to 800 square feet in 2016, which changed my rent as a single parent (I wasn't married at this time) from $1,100 to $750.
• I went from a family size of 2 in 800 square feet to 700 square feet in 2018, which change our shared rent as a couple (now married) from $750 to $500 (this is where we paid off our cars early and all of our outstanding bills). While we appreciated the rent being so low and somewhat livable, the location, and worse, the neighbors, were not ideal.
• I went from a family size of 2 in 700 square feet to a family size of 3 in 900 square feet in 2020, which changed our shared rent from $500 to $1,395 (our adult daughter pays for all the shared streaming services, her food, laundry and personal care expenses only because we want her to save towards her down payment of her own home in the near future). Also, we moved to be closer to our new jobs (that translates into less time in traffic and less money spend on gasoline) and to have many more conveniences and amenities, like an in-unit washer-dryer, a much more up-to-date and modern apartment, walking distance to stores, right outside our door public transportation, being closer to medical providers, walking distance to the lakefront, and a real non-smoking compliant building.
I didn't downsize, I right-sized and I've never felt more fulfilled.
5. FRUGAL + SIMPLE + MINIMAL = THE THINGS I NO LONGER WASTE :: HOME GOODS
How many of you have gone to the store to buy that thing you thought that you were out of and then when you did a "spring cleaning" and found that you had 8 of that thing? I would spend money on things that I already had but they were hiding behind this thing or that thing. This was particularly a problem for me in my kitchen cabinets. But once I took tiny bits of time to minimize and organize, I buy less than I have before.
According to our mint.com we spent $726.41 in March of 2020 for groceries (yeah, that COVID-19 shutdown had us trippin' . . . in my Martin from Martin voice), but after much minimization and organization, as of August of 2020, our grocery expense is now down to $492.08. That's $234.33 worth of savings!
6. FRUGAL + SIMPLE + MINIMAL = THE THINGS I NO LONGER WASTE :: PRODUCTS