Friday, May 14, 2010

A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned

If you were at dinner with my parents, they would inevitably tell you stories about me and one of my most amusing (to them anyways) traits - my frugality. Apparently, when I was a toddler I began to squirrel away any money I was given (quarters, dimes, dollars, you name it) in the most unlikely of places. My mom used to dig through sock drawers, hidden compartments in toys, clothing pockets, and so on before donating anything because chances were that I had hidden money there. What can I say? I started saving young :)

My attention to money and budgeting only continued as I grew up. I loved to save money I received for birthdays and my Bat Mitzvah, and usually contemplated long and hard before spending my money. I will admit, when it comes to spending other people's money it's quite less painful for me O:-)  This has changed though too now that I'm a working professional responsible managing my own finances.

One of the biggest changes for me after graduating from college was spending my own money on things like groceries and doctors visits. I was lucky to have my parents cover these expenses while I was at school. It was definitely a huge perk of choosing an affordable, state school for college!

There are a few things that helped me learn strong money skills in my life and I want to share some of what I've learned with you as a financial independent young adult. Hopefully we can compile a great list of money-saving tips to share with one another - especially since we as food bloggers (and allergy-specific bloggers) like high-quality, safe, and organic products which are a smart (but not cheap) investment!

  • Expose your kids to money at a young age. My parents gave my brother and me a weekly allowance which we could spend as we chose, as long as we finished our chores. If we didn't, we did not get paid. If we overspent our allowance on a treat (candy, video games, at the mall...) it was our fault - no bailouts in the GFG household... most of the time... This taught me the value of saving money, spending within my means, and spending wisely. 
  • Before creating a budget, take 2 weeks or a month and track your spending. Don't try to restrict, just keep track of money in and money out in an Excel spreadsheet or some other document. I did this for the last semester of my senior year and it helped me to see where an extra tea here or shopping trip there really added up. It's amazing what you can save (or re-allocate) when you are simply aware of what you're spending. 
  •  Create a budget! I was first exposed to the idea of budgeting for a middle school project and the concept stuck. Before going to college, my dad sat down with me and went over anticipated expenses for the year and what I was responsible for and what they were happy to cover. If you track your spending, then you can create a realistic budget that you are more likely to stick with.
    • I keep my budget in an Excel spreadsheet but,
    • is a great way to track your spending and earnings online!
  •  Save! Save! Save! While there is a lot of attention these days on the benefits of building your personal savings early, I think a lot of young professionals often hold off on saving until the make more money, are in a comfortable place, etc.  Just like when I squirreled away $1 bills as a toddler, even saving a small amount each month will build your savings over time. 
    • Challenge: try swapping one of your weekday meals out for a meal at home or packed lunch. That $10 can help cover something else or be saved! I have found that frequently eating out is a huge drain on your budget and can affect your health too!
  • Don't be afraid to spend your money. If you're too concerned about money, you might end up isolating yourself from friends or over-thinking purchases which can be stressful. 
    • Find ways to hang out that don't cost a lot - going for walks to catch up instead of coffee, relaxing in a park, taking advantage of things going on in your city. One of the great things about DC is the free museums and other happenings that take place each week.
    • Smart spending now can save you money in the long run. Whether it's clothing, electronics, or furniture, I am slowly realizing that paying a bit more upfront (whether for the item itself or a warranty) can save you money in the long-run by avoiding repairs and having the item last much longer than its cheaper cousin.
    • Look for coupons at the grocery store (even Whole Foods offers these! I saved $6 this week just by using coupons), take advantage of frequent shopper discounts, or special offerings on furniture and clothing. Food allergy shoppers, check out this site. It's full of ways to save on your grocery bill! If you need to make a purchase, try to get your money to work for you and save a little bit along the way!
    • Sometimes, you just deserve a treat! Enjoy it!
  • Don't be afraid to supplement your income. You can resell clothing to stores like Plato's Closet, sell furniture, books, and more on craigslist or ebay, or even babysit. All are great ways to earn a bit of extra cash so you can treat yourself to a nice meal, new sweater, or towards a larger purchase!
In the long run, don't let your finances consume your brain. Money comes and money goes and while we all have to be conscious of it, obsessing over it will make you stressed out which can affect your health. Saving is smart (it's how I was able to survive my 7 month unemployment without help from my parents) but being too restrictive may affect your life in other areas.  I'm still learning as I go and freak out when it feels like my spending is out of control. But, I know that in the long run, if I go back to focusing on the basics, I'll get back on track eventually :)

What are your favorite ways to save and spend $$ wisely?

    1 comment:

    1. I used to start tracking my budget it and it helped me see how out of control my banana republic addiction had become!
      When I started saving to buy a house, I decided to reign in all my little purchases. For example, you can go into CVS for shampoo and come out with mascara, gum, lotion, etc. Cutting back on those little "wants" (not needs) really adds up!