Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Confessions of a (former) Shopaholic

When my dear husband and I married, I was the spender. He was the saver. So when he brought out the dreaded budget spreadsheet, I cringed on the inside. I wasn't in tremendous debt (save a hundred bucks on a credit card), but I definitely wasn't saving, or even strategically getting through a month without squeaking by at the end. I also didn't have a healthy relationship with finances, and I needed to. So I grudgingly accepted the budget (after making my husband turn it into a pink excel sheet :) and began to understand how money REALLY works. And the effects it carries with it. Now that we are newly married, thinking about a family in the future, and paying off my student loans, it means buckling down to really hammer out the details of our budget. I've learned a few things in the last six months, and I'm slowly (dare I say it), becoming a...saver. So how did I do it? How'd my husband change me from "Becky Bloomwood", shop-a-holic with a closet full of unworn clothes, to a girl who actually enjoys saving money? You can do it too.

1) Step one: collect all your receipts and save them for a month. This will show you where you are blowing through your money and where you may be spending less than you think. I was spending way too much on coffee, and spending less than I thought on gas.

2) Set realistic goals: The truth is, some things happen, and it's best to allow room. And you have to budget every single category. We have categories for coffee, movies, clothes, and household. The first month we tried this, we set our food budget at a modest 250.00. Needless to say, we absolutely obliterated about 450.00 the first month. So we compromised. Our food budget is about 300-350 monthly now, and if I really use coupons, I can usually knock it under 300. 450 was overly generous, 250 wasn’t realistic. Find a middle ground. A lot of people don’t agree with buying coffee out. They want you to get an espresso machine and save a ton of money by “making it yourself”. Here’s the deal: Husband and I work M-F, leaving around 8 or 9 and coming home at 5 or 6. And when I wake up or come home, I don’t want to make my own coffee. I love Starbucks. It’s not realistic to cut it out of our budget so we make a reasonable amount and stick to it. When it’s gone, it’s gone.

3) When you fail, try again. Some months, we have utterly failed at our food our household budget. We eat out too much, or things crowd our schedule, making it hard to cook and bring lunches to work. It happens. Work with it. Get back on track and work harder.

4) Wait for deals. Use coupons. We wanted to book a flight for an upcoming vacation, but flights were absurd. We held out and today, we got TWO round trip tickets for the price of ONE! I also watch for special sales that I can combine coupons with. If you read the fine print, and it doesn’t say you can’t combine, then you can grab some amazing deals. Here’s some of the deals I’ve used recently:

-KFC: Meal deal was 14.99, I found a 10 dollar off coupon online, printed it off, and got an 8 piece meal for 4.99.

-Victoria’s Secret: I had a gift card for 25.00, used 2 VS rewards cards for 10 each and got sweatpants, two tops, and a tanktop for 5.00.

-Kohls: Kohl’s CASH is awesome. I saved up a bunch and found some 50.00 wedges for half off, which made them 25.00. With 20.00 of cash the cost was 5.00!

-Found a 40 percent Nike coupon online. Used it at Lady Foot Locker and was able to combine it with some clearance Nike wear and snagged a 50 dollar ensemble for 10.00!

-Walgreens and Target: I use manufacturer’s coupons to get some great deals on sale items like men’s razors for husband, pasta, tampons, lightbulbs, and toothpaste. I used an 8.00 off coupon for a men’s razor that was 9.99. It went on sale for 8.00 and it was FREE.

5) Change your standards: Learn that you can live somewhere that maybe isn't your "dream house", because it's financially responsible. We live in a teensy-weensy apartment that is dirt-cheap in costs. We save a TON, money thats being funneled to student loans, savings, and vacation. I love our home. I've made it really cute, cozy, and a place we love to come home to. Is it our "dream house"? No. It's clean, safe, and it's where we are at for now. We are moving to a larger place in November, but for now, its perfect. You may envision your mansion, or it may be a pride issue, but when you get down to it, a "dream house" when you're just starting out means you are racking up debt or spending more than you're saving. Let go of the dream, make your home a happy and healthy place to be, and enjoy the savings and the financial freedom. Also, don't play the martyr. If you are around your friends and family and all you can talk about is how "poor" you are, or how you can't go here or there because of finances, your likeability will plummet as fast as your bank balance. Make a budget, and learn to live happily within your means without depressing everyone around you.

6) Give generously: The best part of having a budget and sticking to it is that you can give generously, without being stressed and without getting yourself in trouble/debt. I’m able to take a short trip next week and pay for gas/gifts for my friend who is getting married. Make giving to other a priority and you will find yourself in better financial shape than ever.

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