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Are you struggling to find a balance between saving your money and enjoying your life now?
Maybe you want to save up for a down payment on a house but you’re worried about sacrificing your weekly trip to the taco truck.
Or maybe you want to pay off your debt, but you’re concerned you’ll have to skip Thursday night happy hour with your friends.
Finding that balance between saving and spending is ridiculously hard.
We are constantly tempted to spend money by going out with friends and family, shopping the sales and checking out the new neighborhood restaurant. But to many of us sacrificing these things sounds like the destroyer of fun. So what do we do?
In my own experience, it took a lot of trial and error and self-reflection. And now that I found a good balance, I feel at ease. With savings and spending in harmony, I know I’m taking care of my future self while not throwing a wet blanket on current Mel’s life.
So you may not believe it, but it is possible to find a balance between saving and spending while not feeling deprived. It doesn’t have to be an either or.
Let’s see how we can do this.
How to start saving money and still enjoy your taco habit
Figuring out how to balance my savings goals with my spending habits while not feeling deprived didn’t happen overnight. It took some self reflection and some serious analysis of what was important to me to finally come up with something that worked.
My suggestion is to make gradual changes to your lifestyle until you feel satisfied with the balance that works for you.
But before we can start making changes we need to dive a bit deeper into our core values and identity.
1. Determine Who You Are and Who Do You Want to Become?
“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become” – James Clear Atomic Habits
Saving money is like any habit—it’s hard to start and it’s even more difficult to stick with it.
We live on autopilot making changing our default mode is no easy task. If you are used to going out to eat five nights a week, it’s going to be difficult to just flip a switch and start eating at home.
But why is that? Why, when we know it’s in our best interest, can’t we change our habits?
A lot of it has to do with how we see ourselves. Do we see ourselves as someone who is not a cook or someone who is in debt? If we do, then the choices we make are going to reflect that vision.
In order to change our habits, we need to first envision who we want to be.
James Clear says it perfectly in Atomic Habits with a simple two step process:
- Decide the type of person you want to be.
- Prove it to yourself with small wins.
It wasn’t until I had a clear picture of who I wanted to be that I was able to adopt a more mindful approach to spending money. Before my picture came into focus, I spent money with the sole purpose of satisfying an immediate desire. There was no thinking about how a purchase aligned with the vision I had for myself, mostly because I had no clue what the vision was.
Once I had my vision of who I wanted to be, I started taking baby steps to work towards that vision. And slowly my spending habits started to change. I found that I was less likely to succumb to those impulse buys at Target and my house was filled with fewer things.
Figuring out what’s important to me helped me allocate more of my spending to what I value and cut back on the things that I didn’t.
So if you want to balance saving and spending without feeling deprived, you must first take some time and think about who you are and who you want to become. Knowing this will allow you to making mindful decisions to help you save money without sacrificing your lifestyle.
If you are looking for some guidance on how to determine your values and who you want to become, check out a related post:
2. Get to know your expenses
Now that we have a basis for how we want to live our lives, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty of fully understanding where the hell our money is going each month.
I know, it sounds like the most boring thing in the world, but knowing where our money goes is absolutely necessary if we want to start realigning our money with our priorities.
It’s also not going to be easy and will take commitment, but believe me it will be worth every effort we put in.
The good news is that there are so many resources and methods to help us on our journey to know our expenses.
Here is a list of a few:
- Budgeting Apps
- Log expenses in a journal
- Look at past credit card and bank statements
I personally like budgeting apps like You Need a Budget (annual fee), Mint (free), and Every Dollar (free) to help understand where my money is going.
It will be up to you to try out a few methods and see what works for you. I gave several budgeting apps a try before I settled on YNAB. But find what works for you so that you can make a habit of tracking your expenses stick.
Once you have your method, commit to using it for at least a few months so that can capture your true expenses and the monthly variation.
3. Cut out the fluff
This is where shit starts getting real (and fun, if you ask me).
With our sense of who we want to be and knowledge of how we currently spend money in mind, we can start to cut out the fluff —the things we mindlessly spend money on that don’t give us much fulfillment.
These are things like impulse buys or subscriptions you no longer use. Take a good look at your expenses and think about whether or not each one is important to you.
Do you need that wine club membership? Maybe you surprise yourself and determine, “yes, I do.” If it’s something you truly look forward to and appreciate, then maybe this isn’t the right expense to cut. Keep looking.
Maybe you find a gym membership that you no longer use or that you are paying for a cellular plan with way more data than necessary.
Review your expenses and start cutting out the things that you truly don’t enjoy or need. Once you have your expenses cleaned up you’ll be amazed at how great it feels to know that your money is being well spent.
4. Find a way to still enjoy the things you love
In my opinion, this is the key to finding harmony between saving and spending.
When I started this journey, I knew I wanted to be more fiscally responsible as I envisioned future weekdays of lying in my hammock. But I was nervous about making big changes. I love travel, dining out, and a good glass of wine. I didn’t want to give all of that up.
Therefore, I needed to figure out a way to still enjoy the things that I love without breaking the bank. I needed to find my “enough”—the point at which I feel fulfilled without having excess.
So I started to ask myself how much do I need to spend on groceries, dining out, travel, and fun money to feel fulfilled? More often than not, I realized there were adjustments I could make to reduce the amount I was spending and not feel deprived.
For example, here are a few of the adjustments I made:
- Cutting back on clothes. Sure I value a good pair of yoga pants, but I didn’t need a new pair every few months. I also didn’t need a new shirt just because I found one sale. I worked to focus my clothing spending on buying only pieces that I really love and would get plenty of use out of.
- Quitting my Coffee Shop habit. I love coffee, but I didn’t need to buy it from a local coffee shop every day. So I committed to buying good coffee and purchasing quality brewing equipment to make my own at home. (Side note: If you like cold brew coffee, investing in a Filtron + Cafe Du Monde Coffee is a game changer. )
- Bringing my lunch to work. It was always nice to get out of the office during lunch, so if it is nice out I either sit outside or go for a walk during lunch time.
- Dining out only a few times a week. Finding food that I love and can cook at home in advance has been key to cutting back on dining out. If I love the food I have at home, I’m less tempted to grab some take out.
- Finding ways to cut travel expenses. There are so many ways to cut back on travel expenses: traveling to inexpensive places, travel hacking with credit cards and staying local to name a few. Travel is one of my favorite things to do so finding a way to continue to do it was absolutely necessary.
With these expenses, I found that all it took was a little creativity and self control to be able to save for my future while still doing and having the things that I love.
Today many of my adjustments have become habits – a way of life.
My challenge to you is to take a look at your expenses. Pick one category and gradually make adjustments to your spending until you find that balance that works for you.
You got this
Finding a balance between saving money for your future goals and enjoying your life now won’t happen overnight. It will take self-reflection and working towards small wins to finally discover that balance that works for you.
But it’s totally doable!
Start with thinking about yourself as a saver who enjoys the occasional plate of tacos and eventually the spending decisions you make will align with that vision.
When you finally find your balance, you will feel at ease knowing you are taking care of both future you and present you.
So get after it and enjoy that one precious life of yours.